Mobile Advertising: Intent 2.0

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I have been a skeptic of the mobile platform for quite some time — specifically, mobile advertising and how effective it really is. But recently after watching Robert Scoble’s interview with Omar Hamoui, founder and CEO of AdMob, I’m convinced the platform will be a significant contender of ad dollars and perhaps the most effective/helpful/useful advertising platform in the future. There’s something huge happening here — and I’ve only just caught on to it.

Why Search Advertising Works

First, let’s back up a few steps and see why Google’s bread and butter — contextual search ads — is so effective. In one word, the reason is intent. When people search for something, they are essentially looking for something. More specifically, amidst their quest, they’re granting their search engine to guide them there. Notice that this is much, much different from “Just put Lost back already!” or “Oh, that’s nice. Nike has a new pair of shoes out and it syncs with iPod” or worse still, “Ok, random and annoying Win iPods Instantly site, I just want to Super Wall my friend“.

The intent is most of the times connected to monetary potential, in that the searcher is looking to buy something, or for a service they need, or a guide to something. Connect that with an online shoe store or a digital camera repair service that gives upto a 30% discount — and bingo. You have a clickthrough 5% of the time, you have a purchase 5% of the time, and the advertiser is happy, giving Google another 5 months more access into their knee-deep pockets. And that’s why Sergey Brin can afford to have a marriage in the Bahamas.

Why Mobile Advertising Could Work Better

So, what do you get when you take intent — the core of search advertising

— a step further? Need. And in one word, that is why mobile advertising may prove to be more valuable, effective, useful, and helpful than search advertising.

When I’m visiting San Francisco next time, and I’m in town, hungry for some Pizza, finding a good Pizza place is not going to be my intent, it’s going to be my need. And when I’m doing some hunting on the iPhone and come across an ad that says “Best Pizza in San Francisco — 3 Blocks Away! Click here to pinpoint location,” you can assume a happy $30 customer in the next 15 minutes at that very moment.

Similarly, one of the AdMob ad demos that is shown in the Scoble interview is that of Starbucks on the iPhone (embedded below). Arguably, this is better than my example above. In an ordinary mobile portal page, an ad on the top says “I see Starbucks in your future.” The user clicks the ad, which drops down to a textbox asking for a zipcode. The user enters one (in the future, GPS could very well replace this), and up pops the iPhone Google Maps application showing all Starbucks locations in the entered zip code. BINGO! Advertising, usefulness, and intuitiveness to its best — Starbucks has a new customer.


Certainly I’m no genius, and the possibilities here seem very clear even to me. If not clear, certain. Advertising works best where there is intent, desire, and need — and all three are more than present here. Obviously, not everywhere, and not on every single impression delivered, but watching the Scoble interview where CEO Omar Hamoui sets up a simple ad for a photo sharing website and gets 100 clicks and thousands of impressions within a couple of minutes time, it certainly seems more effective that what we’ve seen on the web.

To sum up, keep your eyes out for players like AdMob and the mobile landscape in general, because the emergence of local, mobile, and advertising is going to bring together a wholly new, different, and effective platform for advertising — and shake up some markets no doubt — to create the most effective advertising platform ever. The question is, when?

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