Mobile Ads Don't Just Annoy, They Betray

We Love Our Smartphones Intimately, and Uninvited Pitches Feel Like a Violation

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A smartphone is not just a device, an appliance or the "third screen." It's an intimate relationship. It is yours, in a way that no other object you own is ever likely to be. We don't just love our smartphones. They love us back.

Feeling lonely? Your smartphone will get you to a dating site. Hungry? It will order take-out. Thirsty? It will buy you a coffee at Starbucks. Need a ride? It will call you a cab. Your smartphone seems to care about you in a way that almost nobody but your mother ever has: it will tell you whether you need to wear a sweater or sunscreen.

Your smartphone is in your pocket, often near your heart. There's a good chance it's the last thing you see before you close your eyes at night and the first thing you see when you wake up. You twitch when it's not with you; the idea of losing it is unbearable.

And then comes … advertising. The uninvited guest.

Suddenly, your smartphone -- which belonged to you, responded to your gentle touch, obeyed your desires -- is an agent of someone else. Someone with an agenda. Someone who wants your attention, and your money. This isn't just an annoyance; it's betrayal! Et tu, smartphone?

Your fingers turn fat and clumsy; they no longer cooperate. You find yourself clicking things you didn't mean to click, opening web pages you didn't mean to open. You squint and curse, trying to X out of videos and come-ons and blandishments so you can make your phone yours again.

"We know where you are at every second," argues mobile advertising, "but we're not stalking you. We only want to give you what you want. Let us do things for you. Let us offer you deal after deal. We will follow you everywhere. We want to really know you you, even if you don't want anything to do with us."

Sorry, but NO -- you can't have a relationship with me if you don't create real value. We can't have a relationship if you're going to put your needs ahead of mine by bombarding me with tiny banners I didn't ask for. If you really want to be part of the intimate relationship I have with my smartphone, you need to honestly care about me the way my smartphones does: you have to make my life easier, my experiences better.

Can you do that, mobile advertising?

How? With ads that are native to the mobile experience. Ads that work just as well on any screen size, and aren't clicked accidentally. Ads that provide a clear value exchange, so that when a person interacts they get something they want in return.

In the future mobile advertising won't just exploit the intimate relationship people have with their smartphones. It will have to respect it, and build on what works. There has to be a better way. And my guess is it's coming soon.

Ari Jacoby is CEO at Solve Media.
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