Jonathan Gardner is director of communications at Turn.

It’s the corporate version of the founder’s dilemma: Rarely can a startup define an emerging market and also go on to lead in its space. Case in point: mobile advertising.

The space has been defined by companies like Adfonic and Jumptap, but their mobile-only (mobile-lonely) marketplace is growing obsolete. They and their compatriots have primed the mobile ad market, laying the foundation for a new mobile ecosystem and raising the visibility of mobile among marketers. And we’re grateful. But their world is one in which only niche-entrenched specialists can thrive, and it’s time for them to move over and make room for a less siloed, more integrated approach to mobile advertising.

Time spent on mobile is fast outpacing that spent on desktops, but mobile marketing spend still lags way behind. Most of the reason for this is pure logistics: We still don’t have the technology or the industry infrastructure that will make mobile advertising truly work to its potential for marketers or consumers.

We’ve seen a huge uptick in programmatic mobile buys and high-performing cross-channel campaigns at Turn, but there’s still work to be done across the ecosystem. Here’s what we need to achieve as an industry to get closer to realizing the promise of mobile advertising:

Make it work

Before we can see the full value of mobile advertising, we need to improve the overall mobile experience. In a TechCrunch interview earlier this month, Redpoint partner Chris Moore pointed out how often the primary navigational tool of our online lives, the hyperlink, fails us on our mobile devices (no kidding). He noted – as I have many times, and I’ll bet you have too – that a link to a simple LinkedIn profile from an email fails to launch the LinkedIn app and bring you to the relevant page. Why don’t deeplinks work on mobile? Because nobody’s taken the time to make them work or to develop a standard mobile equivalent.

Same thing goes for online store locators, which must be among the lowest-hanging fruit for brick-and-mortar-based retailers. According to research conducted by Nielsen, retail shoppers are highly likely to make decisions based on mobile searches. And yet, many store locators fail to take advantage of geo-location technology that can move customers from the sidewalk to the store.


As Josh Luger wrote in Business Insider last week, “The effectiveness of any advertising campaign rests on a brand’s ability to effectively deliver their message to a target audience,” and – if we’re honest about it – most of the industry remains a long way from being able to target effectively on mobile. I see this as a result of the highly segmented evolution of advertising. I’m not just talking about mobile advertising; I’m not even talking about digital advertising. Advertising – all of it – is way too segmented.

Mobile isn’t likely to take its rightful place in marketing budgets until CMOs see how campaigns work across multiple channels. This isn’t new, but it is important. In our fragmented media landscape, reaching consumers everywhere means you need to be able to serve them relevant ads everywhere. The industry is experimenting with OpenUDID, MAC addresses, and device fingerprints, but so far none works as well as cookies do online. Creating standards in mobile ad targeting that are respectful of consumer choice, interests, and privacy will have significant benefit to marketers, publishers, and users alike.

VentureBeat will be exploring the challenges in the mobile advertising landscape at our MobileBeat conference next month in San Francisco. Grab your tickets now! Also, VentureBeat is soliciting feedback from readers about what mobile advertising platforms they find the most useful. You’ll qualify for a free report.


This is the kicker for me. Despite the enormous potential of marrying local and social with mobile, and the unprecedented level of consumer engagement with smartphones, innovation in mobile advertising has been totally and utterly lacking. Mobile ads, as we know them, are really just smaller versions of online ads. We have the banner, the takeover, the postage stamp: These are all ad formats that have simply been ported onto smaller screens. The thing is, nobody’s created the definitive ad format for mobile yet. The field is wide open for innovation in design and functionality. Any takers?

Until there are, mobile will remain stunted as a channel for marketers. And we’ll be stuck hoping we can get mobile to work “just as well,” when we really should be aiming for “better.” There is a huge opportunity for brands, advertisers, and consumers to benefit from a cohesive, integrated media ecosystem where value, offers, and content complement and augment the experiences we all have across all the channels and devices we touch. Mobile doesn’t need to be at the center of marketing strategy, but brands and audiences must be, and they are clamoring for more exciting, seamless interaction. It’s time to break the silos, think audience first, and deliver on mobile’s true potential.

jonathan gardnerJonathan Gardner is director of communications at Turn, the cloud marketing platform. He has spent his career as an innovator at the nexus of media and technology, having worked in communications and as a journalist.

Image: Tumblr’s new mobile ads