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Display ads are the most commonly used ad format on your phone, but they are really just another holdover from the desktop PC era.

Using ads that have an interactive look and feel that’s more like the mobile experience would be much better, but the advertising industry doesn’t seem to be in any hurry to get there.

“Mobile display ads is still a multibillion-dollar business,” pointed out Pandora Internet Radio‘s Michael Branch at the Ad:tech conference in New York City Wednesday. Something that big isn’t going to turn on a dime — there’s just too much money in the current practiced method of buying, selling, and placing mobile display ads.

“Our industry is very focused on tonnage,” Branch said, meaning that the industry is better at putting lots of ads in front of lots of eyeballs, without personalizing or customizing the content.

However, Branch said the industry is now moving toward a native ads approach. He believes that mobile ads will eventually take on qualities that look native to mobile — that is, they may respond to gestures other than just clicks.

“I think click will go away and you’ll use gestures like swipe,” he said.

“It needs to be a much more native experience,” said Chi Shah, head of partnerships at Quixey. “It’s not going to go away overnight — there will have to be a way to connect with consumers.”

App search player Quixey jumped into the advertising space in September with a display ad alternative called Deep View Cards. The cards use data from mobile apps to deliver a specific function to the user at the moment they need it. That might mean booking a restaurant or making a purchase.

“I think it’s a multibillion-dollar industry mainly because advertisers have been willing to pay that much,” said Will Flaherty, director of growth at ticket aggregator SeatGeek, about traditional display ads. “If advertisers cease to pay for it, it will cease to be the most common format.”

But the reason they are willing to pay for it might be that the workflows are already in place, so that it’s easy to buy and place display ads, said Will Phung, VP of media at marketing agency M&C Saatchi Mobile.

“If you do have strong buying efficiencies — let’s say you are paying a penny a click, then you have to pay a penny to create a dynamic ad, you’ve just doubled your cost,” Phung said.

“You can buy tonnage so cheap, quality often takes a back seat to quality these days,” he added.

Phung said ad tech developers need to work on new ad formats that use gestures and design paradigms mobile users are already accustomed to.

One ad format that works well is the carousel, where users can swipe from side to side to see new ad content.

“The reason the carousel works so well is that it is leveraging a natural action,” Phung said. “Don’t try to change user behavior, try to adapt … to actions users already do.”


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