@ pcAds: Still Waiting For The Mobile Ad Breakthrough?

Tablets and smart phones are everywhere you turn but companies have been slow to redirect their ad spending to these new platforms. For now, mobile advertising remains a tantalizing but still elusive opportunity. Three executives gathered at paidContent Advertising to share their thoughts on when and how the ad industry will make mobile mainstream.

Everyone agrees that mobile is here and poised for phenomenal growth. Here are some insights:

Apps or Mobile Web — An Ongoing Question

Moderator Tom Krazit of paidContent drolly noted that the question has become a conference fixture. But a lot rides on the answer: will consumers get their future content on apps or on websites optimized for mobile?

Colin Kinsella, President of Digitas North America, was the app skeptic on the panel. He argues that the common consumer app experience often starts and ends at downloading a dozen apps — and then ignoring all but one or two. For people on the go, a simple web browser is a more convenient choice than navigating a cascade of apps and this is still the case even if most companies have yet to create a mobile-optimized website. The tilt towards mobile will gain speed, said Kinsella, when HTML5 arrives — the format is “going to look and feel like an app.”

The other panelists were not so sure. EVP of Time Inc. (NYSE: TWX) Paul Caine, said that his company’s mobile sites have attracted more than 100 million page views but that, all the same, he believes magazine-related apps will remain a big play because of the special type of loyalty they create among consumers. Pandora’s Chief Revenue Officer, Tom Trimble, also noted that tablets are typically used as a home-based second screen — meaning that apps will remain an attractive ongoing concern.

What the Heck is Going on With iAds?

Apple’s premium advertising package arrived with a splash and is pretty as a button. So why does nobody use it? Kinsella said Apple (NSDQ: AAPL) needs to allow third party developers more control but adds there is a bigger problem: it’s too damn expensive. He expects that adaption rates will go up when the price goes down because the product offers a special “emotional connection” and “creative renaissance.”

What Are The Most Promising Forms of Mobile Advertising So Far?

Search, banners and “click to call”, especially on the iPad. Consumers love the “tap to..” feature. Trimble noted that the ads are sometimes too pretty for their own good and offered the blunt assessment that advertisers needed to “cut through the great creative and deliver a clear message.”

By “tablets”, do we mean iPads?

Yes.

Surprise: There are Actually Two Mobile Ad Markets

An astute audience member asked whether recent mobile ad numbers had been parsed to account for spending on smartphones versus tablets. The panel admitted that they weren’t sure how the numbers broke down — or even if the metrics brokers themselves knew — but that conceptually they approached the space as two distinct markets and that they expected it to stay this way.

So What Will be the Year Mobile Ads Break Out?

You guessed it — 2012.

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