Mobile vs. Desktop Advertising: The Future of Ads and Learning from Facebook’s Success

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Over the past five years, mobile Internet usage has surged. With the advent of smartphones and their easy access to the internet, people have completely altered the way they interact online. A report published by investment firm KPCB in 2008 showed that mobile devices accounted for less than one percent of overall internet traffic. As of May 2013, these electronic gadgets accounted for fifteen percent of total traffic, and steadily rising. But where should marketers allocate their advertising budgets moving forward?

The latest quarterly earnings report from Facebook was most noticeable for the company’s success to sell mobile ads seen by people who use Facebook on tablets and smartphones. That group of Facebook mobile users has now exceeded the ones who look at Facebook on desktops each day. Facebook’s monthly active mobile users rose 51 percent from a year ago to 819 million by June 30. Facebook mobile ads generated $655.6 million, or 41 percent of Facebook’s advertising revenue, a 30 percent increase from the last quarter, far exceeding analysts’ predictions. David Ebersman, Facebook’s Chief Financial Officer, has also stated that due to the increase in mobile use, the average price per ad is up 13 percent from a year ago. A study done by AdParlor showed that Facebook mobile ads have a CTR of 0.821 percent, while traditional Facebook ad campaigns that show up in the web sidebar, with some presence in the web and mobile news feeds, had a CTR of just 0.032 percent.

Facebook’s ad model is prevailing. Roger Katz, CEO of social marketing platform Friend2Friend, recently praised Facebook’s mobile efforts:

Mobile is absolutely pivotal to Facebook’s future, and to the future of brand advertising — it’s now 41 % of ad revenue, up from 30%. The healthy rise in ARPU (23% over Q1), paralleling increasing in mobile usage, can undoubtedly be attributed to the excellent results the company is seeing in sponsored mobile in-Newsfeed units, which are showing killer click-throughs.

Tailored specifically for mobile devices, Facebook News Feed ads insert marketing messages into a user’s content steam. These marketing messages are intended to blend with a user’s personal content and not stand out as an advertisement. As we’ve heard numerous times before, content is key. Companies must ensure that the feeds on their sites are engaging and interactive.

facebook ads

Examples of Facebook ads on the iPhone.

Hussein Fazal, the CEO of AdParlor, thinks Facebook has hit on the right formula to mix engaging content with ads. Facebook Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg has said that on average, ads now account for one in 20 stories in the Facebook newsfeed, although Fazal also does warn that a newsfeed that’s not so engaging, and has a couple of ads, will not work. As a marketer, you must have an active feed of friends and groups to ensure that your advertisements, when you do place them, are not perceived as spam. The more ads in the stream, the less likely a user will be to click on them.

Facebook’s mobile advertising has grown more than four times its desktop advertising income in the most recent quarter. With the smartphone and tablet explosion in popularity, it’s no surprise that mobile advertising has become a focus of Facebook’s advertising strategy.  Tapping into a market where the end user is constantly attached to their mobile device means that there is more of a chance of gaining impressions and click-throughs in a quickly growing space. Facebook is gaining ground because they are going to the main source of where people are consuming content. In addition, easy access to the site through well-supported apps for smartphones and tablets means that they will be checking into the site even more because it is readily available.  Facebook recently introduced hashtags and embedded posts as another way to promote activity through smartphones and tablets in order to help people easily connect with others through their mobile app as easily as texting someone.

FB mobile sponsored ad

Example of a sponsored ad in the Facebook News Feed on a mobile device.

However, as smartphone and tablet users continue to rise, Facebook must continue to innovate new ad products and manage how frequently it posts these items without impacting user experience. This constant reinvention of the way they attract viewers’ attention will ensure users aren’t put off by sponsored posts in their mobile content streams. If marketers choose to advertise through Facebook, the app “Facebook For Every Phone” has reached over 100 million people that are using the not-so-smart phones, opening advertising to a whole new market of mobile users that were previously unreachable.

The mobile market is young and growing quickly, giving companies a chance to infiltrate the marketplace before the cost of advertisements rise. The plus side for marketers is that they can leverage the mobile marketing platform that Facebook has developed as an easy and more affordable way to reach their audience.  Desktop advertising is dying. Advertising through mobile is the way of the future, but the window to truly make an advertising mark before an oversaturation of branding takes place is short, so jump on it now while it’s still relatively inexpensive.


Guest author Elizabeth Horodnyk is a Social Media & Online Marketing Specialist for Geekaphone’s Mobile Speed Test. She loves heavy metal, anything technology related and comic collecting. Follow her at


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