Mobile Ads Get Two Thumbs Up (for accidental clicks)

No, I’m not interested in switching car insurance, I just have fat thumbs. Chances are, as a smartphone user, you have accidentally clicked on a mobile ad. This scenario was the subject of a recent Ad Age study, which found that most mobile ad clicks are indeed false positives. Take a look:

Consumers don’t appear to be turned off by mobile ads, according to a survey of nearly 10,000 people by Pew Research Center and The Economist Group. Half of tablet and smartphone users notice ads when they’re getting news on their mobile device. Of that amount, roughly 15% click on ads. “People notice ads on mobile devices and may be even more likely to click on them than they are to click on other digital ads,” the report states. A recent Ad Age study, in stark contrast, found that less than 1% of people click on digital ads regardless of the viewing platform.

But tech pros say the result may be less a measure of the quality of the ads than the size of users’ thumbs.“False positives, namely clumsy digits, are the real culprits here,” says Jonathan Rick, a digital communications consultant based in Washington, D.C. This will become less of a problem for frustrated smartphone owners as screen sizes continue to get bigger, he says. Others say the digital ad world doesn’t make it easy to avoid ads either. Mark Spoonauer, editor-in-chief at LaptopMag.com, says many mobile ads are designed so that the window-shuttering “X” button is so small, it makes the ad more difficult to vanquish. “I’ve seen many people accidentally click on ads in an effort to get rid of them,” he says.

Plus, the line between mobile marketing and entertainment is becoming blurred, experts say. “It’s difficult for users to tell the difference between ads and content on small devices,” says technology analyst Jeff Kagan. Facebook and Twitter both have personalized “sponsored” stories, which are effectively advertising by another name. Zynga, which makes apps like Angry Birds and Words with Friends, also has sponsored stories. Mobile advertising is expected to reach hit $20 billion by 2015 from $2 billion currently, says Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, a venture capital firm, making up 40% of all online ads.

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