Advertising on the fly

As more of us have access to the internet and apps through our cell phones and tablets, advertisers are looking for new ways to reach us there.

A New York Times article by Claire Cain Miller plots the rise and rise of mobile advertising.

Say you are in a strange city and need a hotel for the night. You pull out your phone, search for hotels on Google and see a nearby one listed at the top of the rankings, with a little phone icon that says, “Call.” You tap it, reach the hotel and ask for a room.

And just like that, Google made money. That icon was a so-called click-to-call ad, and the hotel paid Google for it when you called.

Think of it as a floating telephone directory where the only numbers you see are those that belong to the highest bidders. Your spending is determined by what makes Google the most money.

The stakes are significant for an industry that is still finding its way in the mobile world. Advertisers will spend a relatively small amount of money on ads on phones and tablets this year — $2.6 billion, according to eMarketer, less than 2 percent of the amount they will spend over all. Yet that is more than triple what they spent in 2010.

‘An ever-growing percentage of our ad buy is mobile because that’s where the consumer is,’ says Chris McCann, president of, which has run mobile ads urging people to call or walk into a nearby store. ‘It’s the future for us.’

Mobile ad networks, which show ads across mobile apps and Web sites, have created new and thriving businesses. The biggest are Millennial Media, Google’s AdMob and Apple’s iAd.

Mobile advertising is all good and well for harvesting demand. Like Seth Godin says, it’s far easier to wait until someone is ready to buy than it is to persuade them to buy.

The fact is, advertising to build brand and recognition and demand is a very long-term proposition, not something you measure with clicks.

A last-minute swipe of purchase intent is a tactical win. It’s not, however, a long-term way to build your organization.

It’s no way to build the future.

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