Tapped-Out: Swipe-to-Engage Ads Will Save Mobile Advertising

Despite frequent headlines claiming that mobile ads are the future and the future is here, advertisers, audiences and publishers are secretly rolling their eyes. Mobile advertising is a huge nuisance to everyone: It’s incorrectly valued, and the user experience sucks.

The problem isn’t that ads don’t work on mobile; it’s that the desktop model of “click or hover-to-engage” doesn’t translate to mobile. A mobile tap is not the same as a desktop click, and there’s no such thing as a touchscreen hover. It’s the classic round-hole, square-peg problem — the desktop schema doesn’t work for touchscreens.


With gross rating points (GRPs) moving to the “third screen,” now is the time to think about mobile display differently — because it is different. Swiping is how audiences interact with their mobile devices — they should interact with their ads on mobile in the same way. Swipe is here — let’s use it!

Image Courtesy of Vantage Local

Image Courtesy of Vantage Local


In December 2012, Google added a prompt to “Visit Site” for mobile ads that were clicked on the periphery of the ad unit. This move was made to reduce the number of accidental clicks on mobile devices.

The feature highlighted growing concerns over alarming statistics from numerous sources, such as the TradeMob Report, which documented that 40% of mobile clicks are either fraudulent or accidental. A growing number of reports confirming the high percentage of fraudulent and accidental clicks highlights significant problems for audiences, advertisers and publishers.


Advertisers: The advertiser is severely disadvantaged in the world of mobile banner advertising as it currently exists. Approximately half of the click engagements by which an advertiser may judge campaign efficacy are fraudulent or accidental. The high frequency of false clicks — combined with the fact that (absent mouse/cursor functionality) hover-over and other engagement metrics are unavailable on mobile devices — leaves advertisers with an incomplete measure of performance.

Audiences: The accidental click (aka “fat-finger” tap) phenomenon creates a user experience riddled with inconvenience and frustration. Specifically, in the event of an accidental tap, the user’s viewing experience is hijacked and they are directed to another Web page that they had no intention of visiting.

Publishers: Publishers’ lifeblood is readership. If fat-finger taps take audiences away to unwanted landing pages (much like pop-up ads did on the desktop in the late 90’s), audiences will invariably associate the publishers’ sites with a poor user experience.

By simply employing swipe-to-engage mobile ads, the concerns of advertisers, audiences and publishers can all be addressed:

  • Elimination of Accidental Clicks: Unlike standard mobile banner ads, the initial frame of swipe-to-engage ads is not tappable; rather, the initial frame is swipeable, allowing the audience to access more content. Ultimately, only deliberate engagements are tracked.

  • Enabled Engagement Tracking: Currently, engagement statistics such as hover-overs depend on mouse/cursor functionality. With swipe-to-engage, ad interactions can be tracked on mobile devices.

  • Improved User Experience: Mobile audiences are typically in a hurry on a small-screen device that’s harder to navigate compared to a desktop. As such, it’s more difficult on a mobile device to get the audience to navigate away from the task at hand. As audiences become exposed to swipeable in-page or in-app mobile ads, they realize that the commitment to engage with a swipeable ad is much lower, as they can quickly and easily swipe to see additional content without straying from their main purpose for being on the site/app.

Proper Valuation

A subtle, but absolutely critical, element to the mobile advertising landscape is the accurate valuation of impressions. In an inefficient market with rampant mispricing, buyers and sellers are reluctant to participate, introducing volatility and waste. In order to build a healthy mobile ad marketplace, pricing must be accurate and market players must be confident in that pricing.


An integral component to valuing impressions properly is connecting the impression to an engagement, and subsequently connecting that engagement to a conversion.

Tappable mobile ads make it impossible to make the interest-engagement connection for two main reasons:

  1. Fat-Finger Tap Errors Cause Impressions To Be Overvalued: Less-interested audiences should be expected to engage less with irrelevant ads. Impression prices to these audiences should be bid down to reflect their lower value. However, the reality is: as uninterested audiences accidentally tap mobile ads, click-centric marketers over-buy these impressions. The net result is that less valuable audiences are force-fed irrelevant ads.
  2. Audience Reluctance To Tap-to-Redirect Cause Impressions To Be Undervalued: For interested audiences, their interest is hidden by a desire not to be redirected from their app or page on their mobile device. As a result, marketers will undervalue these impressions and bid them down, resulting in high-value audiences remaining hidden from relevant marketing messages.

Image Courtesy of Vantage Local

Image Courtesy of Vantage Local

Swipe-to-Engage mobile ads remove the roadblocks to making the connection from impression to engagement to conversion, and thus, enable marketers to value mobile impressions more accurately.

Because engagement can only be registered with a deliberate touch-screen swipe, uninterested, low-value audiences won’t engage, and their impressions can be appropriately bid down. Additionally, as audiences become trained on the new technology — they’ll realize that Swipe-to-Engage is noninvasive and easy.

High value audiences will be more inclined to engage and convert within the ad on-page or in-app; this will result in the proper (higher) valuation of these impressions. The net effect is a better experience for everyone: marketers have access to interested audiences, and audiences are shown relevant ads.


Banner advertisements on desktop computers have been present since the beginning of the Internet. As such, the first attempt at showing ads on mobile was to simply translate the tap as a click. However, given the inherently different means of engaging with mobile devices, this has proven to be destructive.

The introduction and standardization of Swipe-to-Engage ad units will benefit all participants in the mobile ecosystem. By improving the user experience and eliminating accidental clicks, marketers, audiences and publishers will finally be able to embrace mobile ads wholeheartedly.

Co-Authored by Oliver Jacob, CEO and Co-Founder at Vantage Local.

Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land.

Related Topics: Channel: Mobile Marketing | Mobile Marketing Column


About The Author: is VP, Product Management for Vantage Local. He is responsible for the Vantage Local product roadmap, including feature releases and extracting actionable insights from advertisers, agency partners and other stakeholders.

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