Google talks mobile ads: lots of show, little substance


As more readers migrate to mobile devices, nervous publishers are wondering if ad dollars will follow. On Monday, Google (s goog) offered a flashy but unsatisfying response to this dilemma about small screens.

The response came at an Advertising Week event in New York where Google’s head of mobile, Tim Reis, and other execs pranced on a Broadway stage adorned with marketing messages.

The event was fluff which is a shame because publishers face a real pickle: how can they reclaim lost desktop dollars as readers move to mobile? For now, the problem is that many ad buyers think that mobile screens are too small for effective advertising while, at the same time, consumers find mobile ads invasive.

If any these publishers came to hear Reis and other Googlers explain “how should I invest in mobile” (as the program promised), they were likely disappointed.

Reis did little more than recite familiar facts about consumers using “multi-screen touchpoints” for shopping, and spout platitudes like “a sociological shift” and “small screen, big opportunities.”

Reis’ nostrums, however, sounded like the Book of Proverbs compared to what came next.

The rest of the presentation featured over-caffeinated marketing cheerleaders who explained that Google had consulted honest-to-goodness anthropologists (with PhD’s!) who believe in the “power symbolism of small.” Just look, they said, at Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker or little toy trucks – they’re small portals into worlds of imagination!

It descended from there. Background screens flashed images of swimming fish and tribal drummers while one of the amped-up Googlers cited the movie Grease to explain how “we want to be this quicksilver, protean self.”

What any of this has to do with the small screen marketing dilemma is anyone’s guess. I suspect the audience member who had asked how ad buyers should respond to 7-inch tablets didn’t give a fig about quicksilver, protean anything.

The only interesting part of the whole episode is why Google gave such a clunker in the first place. Perhaps the company read Peter Kafka’s story about how its search advertising business is becoming less dominant in the age of mobile. Or, maybe like the rest of us, Google is still figuring out the mobile riddle too.

(Image by Chepko Danil Vitalevich via Shutterstock)


Cy Caine

One sign of how engaged the audience was in the presentation by the “over-caffeinated marketing cheerleaders” is that when they finished and asked “any questions?” there was not a single one. The power of mobile was demonstrated by virtually the entire audience having tuned them out and focusing on, you guessed it, their mobile devices.

Alisa Cromer

You are so right. Brand advertising was destroyed by itzy bitzy banners on the desktop, will never have a real shot on phones, but, I predict, a huge resurgence on the tablet. From there, the “big” picture will filter back… mobile will have more interstitials rather than banners, and the large formats will slowly be adopted by media sites. Until then, just keep checking your email, Facebook, news, etc. on your mobile device…

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