Devil is in the details – typical mobile ad flaws

Tamás Lovas

Client Service Director

Sometimes we don’t notice things. Not because we are inattentive or have poor eyesight, but simply because we focus on something else. These videos illustrate perfectly what I mean in general.

It can happen intentionally by distracting the attention with other less important aspects. Also in today’s information flood it’s easy to lose focus, and overlook some details. I will discuss this last case in the online advertising world and more specifically the typical flaws in mobile advertising.

Digital media is an incredibly complex platform with different devices, formats, tools, measuring metrics or buying and targeting options. It may be utopian, but I hope one day there will be one beautiful homogeneous system that incorporates all this, and with a few clicks we could set up a campaign that reaches effectively the right person at the right time with the right message. So right after you sneeze you would have the best cold treatment campaign of your life in front of you, no matter what screen you are looking at. But unfortunately (or luckily…) for now it doesn’t work that way. Until that day comes it’s important to distinguish between the usage of the various digital platforms. Because what may look identical at first glance could cause surprises after scratching the surface.

With six years of experience in creating mobile ads at Madhouse, we are tailoring everything to the special features of the mobile device, and fitting the ads into the contents smoothly.

 As a result, we perceive the difference between desktop and mobile which at first may not be obvious, but it’s very important for a well-functioning digital campaign.

Whereas this list obviously cannot presume to be exhaustive, I have collected the most typical errors, deficiencies we’ve spotted regarding mobile ads.


  •             Attitude: unfortunately, many still don’t know what to do with mobile. If it happens to get into a media plan, it’s the last row. But if there’s a budget cut, it’s the first to be removed.
  •             Blurred banners: on the razor sharp screens of today’s mobiles it turns out quickly if standard banner sizes such as 320×50 or 300×250 are used. On mobile double resolution is suggested for the perfect appearance.


  •             Bad implementation: a mobile ad runs on myriad of device types, multiple operating systems and browsers, which combined with the different adservers eventuate a lot of variations. For this reason, one of our fundamental requirements is to test the campaign several times before it launches. At those agencies where this does not happen, there is unfortunately a much higher risk of errors.


  •             Overcrowded banners: putting the legal texts or too many messages onto a static banner makes it overcrowded and impossible to interpret. It also not suggested to narrow a 970×250 display banner into 320×50 size without any modification.


  •             Advertising an app offline: there may be viewpoints that suggest downloading could be increased on an OOH billboard efficiently, but we consider better to advertise on the platform where the product can be found.

Creative and/or strategy

  •             Simply bad creative: it’s a sin not to show the beauty of some special products (e.g. a Mercedes) or make it impossible for the user to find the product on the banner with a colour cavalcade.


  •             Could’ve been more…: sometimes, it’s not clearly a bad creative or implementation, but with the comprehensive knowledge of the possibilities of the mobile device it could be more and better. For example, use interactive banners (interscroller formats, or the gyro banner) instead of static ones, and if video ad, always go for the shorter, more engaging version.


  •             Strange placements: it’s crucial for us not to spoil the user experience on any site we advertise on, thus we don’t use formats like layers, interstitials or pop-up banners. In our opinion, these formats are more likely to achieve the contrary, and are harmful for the brand. We have more user-friendly solutions in our pocket than these.


  •             Static: in some cases a static banner may be a good solution, but the unlimited variations of animated and interactive formats available on mobile are driving deeper involvement and engagement.


  •             Several sizes: the several size mutations lead to unnecessary resource takeout. This wasted energy should rather be transferred into working on ideas and fine-tuning strategies. Thus, we urge to minimalize the number of different sizes.


  •             Google ads: the search monster still doesn’t recognise most of the above mentioned, and also some PPC guys don’t pay enough attention to the right displaying of creative and message either.


  •             Too much automation: besides automation takes a great part in our thinking, underestimating the importance of the human factor and the lack of coordination could result fundamental problems.

As mobile ad spending is skyrocketing, and taking up a great slice of the advertising pie mobile ads have their own reserved place in the media strategy. Nonetheless, the requirements of a mobile campaign are not so clear, and the above mentioned problems worsen the campaign results. With some attention thou these mistakes could be easily overcome, and the good performance would definitely validate the nr.1 digital advertising trend, namely it’s a mobile first world.

November 25, 2016
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