Ads in mobile apps: Half are clicked accidentally

Ads in mobile apps: Half are clicked accidentally

Summary: Ads in apps are nothing new, and a recent survey found that about half of them that get clicked by users are clicked by accident. Not very many sales can be happening that way.

TOPICS: Mobility

Ads in apps are nothing new, and a recent survey found that about half of them that get clicked by users are clicked by accident. That bears repeating for those whose business plans rely on revenue generated by ad-supported free apps: almost half of ads clicked in apps are done by accident. I am not an advertising expert, but it's pretty clear to me that ads clicked by accident don't end up in sales.

The problem is due to small phone screens that don't leave much room for error. My clumsy fingers can attest to how easy it is to tap something on the phone screen, only to have the dreaded ad get clicked. The feeling of stupidity for the error is quickly replaced by anger at the app developer for putting the ad there in the first place. That anger turns to fury if the ad inside the app I am using takes me out of the app. The browser opens and takes over the phone, so the company behind the ad can try to sell me something.

With half of the clicks done in error, many of you have probably made the same mistake. You are particularly exposed to the "bad ad tap" syndrome if you're one of the millions who use an Android phone. Many app developers offer their Android apps for free, with ads tucked away to make the developer some money. The truth is that if so many ad taps are spurious, then in-app ad revenue is in essence a house of cards. Someone has to ultimately buy something to make the money paid for ads worth something, and it sounds like that's not what's happening. The mobile ad industry may be in for a rude awakening as advertisers figure this out.

Image credit: Flickr User Steve Snodgrass

Topic: Mobility

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  • RE: Ads in mobile apps: Half are clicked accidentally

    And the "floating" ads on workstations fall victim to this also...trying to click it close MOSTLY opens it and only turns folks away form buying out of anger !
    • You mean


      The fancy animated ads that take over half your screen with the itty bitty "x" somewhere of to the side almost invisible so that by the time you find it the ads over or worse yet the animated ad closes and you are actually clicking on the ad? Yes, love those ;)
  • I do it just to drive up the cost

    I click the ads knowing that the advertizers are paying for the clicks. If more people do it and don't end up buying they will figure out the ads are useless and stop doing it.
    • RE: Ads in mobile apps: Half are clicked accidentally

      I block all ads with Firefox...
  • I find ads useless

    I hit the mute button on the radio in the car or just listen to my iPod most of the time. I purposely avoid watching live TV and watch shows off the DVR so I can skip the ads and find ads (especially the overly intrusive ones that pop up or slide out) more annoying and makes me want to boycott that company just because of their annoying ad. This site is just as bad with their ads that scroll down the screen and the side bar ads that I find I accidentally click on. In my opinion more money is wasted on advertising than is actually needed because most people that I know find them annoying and unnecessary. Just like telemarketing calls.
  • RE: Ads in mobile apps: Half are clicked accidentally

    NT duplicate comment
  • Not surprised

    Totally not surprised. Got an iPod touch recently, and played around with some "free" apps (most of which I threw away). Definitely got advertising, definitely got mis-clicked ads.
  • RE: Ads in mobile apps: Half are clicked accidentally

    Kind of like those ginormous side-bar ads that ZDNET uses which, by the time you get down into the article no longer look like ads but just I side bar that you could click on the resume scrolling the page?

    ZDNET alone is probably responsible for half of my lifetime accidental clicks.
  • Ads benefit users

    As a mobile app developer myself, I definitely believe that in app ads benefit users. Nobody likes advertising, not on TV, radio, websites, and yes, mobile apps, but without them we would either have to pay for subscription services to access this content or go without it altogether. The same goes for advertising in mobile applications. And as a developer I would much rather give users free access to my application if I can monetize it rather than forcing them to pay. I believe most users feel the same way.

    From an advertiser's perspective, mobile ads are no different from TV, radio, or web ads. The truth is, most people change the channel during the commercials, ignore the web ads and hope they go away as quickly as possible, just as they ignore mobile ads. This is the same game just using a new delivery method.

    Mobile ads are here to stay for one simple reason. More and more people are spending time on mobile devices that used to be spent on the non-mobile web, watching TV, or listening to radio. There is no way advertisers are going to give up on targeting this growing market.
    • RE: Ads in mobile apps: Half are clicked accidentally

      @Tiggster Look at what Pandora does. Good Example of well placed ads. Look at what every other app I've ever seen does. They are horrible. They all seem to put the ad half a millimeter from some critically important function and it stays there until the end of time. Also, Pandora lets you pay to remove the ads completely.

      Edit: that said, even Pandora puts the ad half a millimeter from ALL of the functions of the program. So they are still inviting accidental clicks.
    • RE: Ads in mobile apps: Half are clicked accidentally


      That is fine but when the Ad basically forces itself on you by popping up or sliding down, has annoying audio, or is so huge that it is near impossible to navigate the page without hovering over it or clicking on it that causes some other intrusive act then it is not advertising at all. It is more like harassment. I find that these types of ads are way too common and need to stop. I understand that they generate revenue and I appreciate that but there is no excuse for how some of the ads are presented to people.
      • RE: Ads in mobile apps: Half are clicked accidentally

        @bobiroc I don't disagree. It is up to developers to find the right balance between generating revenue to compensate them for their work and ensuring that the user experience is not negatively impacted.
    • RE: Ads in mobile apps: Half are clicked accidentally

      It's not the ads themselves that most people object to; it's the sneaky tactics employed to get us to click on them.

      Let's be honest--If an ad moves out of the way, hides the "X" to close it, or otherwise employs trickery to sell something, how honest does the seller seem?

      Ads are fine, in reasonable numbers and if done properly. Dirty tricks are not fine, and a merchant who employs those tricks will never get my money.
      • RE: Ads in mobile apps: Half are clicked accidentally

        @clfitz This is why, as a developer, I prefer to use an ad network that pays per banner displayed, not banner clicked, even though they will obviously pay out much less per view than click. This prevents developers from being tempted to layout their UI in such a way that would cause users to accidentally click on an ad. My philosophy is, you have to strike a balance between monetizing your apps and the user experience. Neither should compromise the other.
    • RE: Ads in mobile apps: Half are clicked accidentally

      Doesn't bother me at all...I keep my hosts file reasonably up-to-date and forward all of the annoying ads to the loopback. Easier on and Android device than IOS, but it solves the problems nicely. Full disclosure: I am a developer, albeit not a mobile one.