Mobile Advertising: Personalized Ads, Coupons Score With Users

The controversy about location-tracking on mobile devices, and the subsequent emphasis on location-based services in mobile advertising, may not be as important longer-term as previously thought. According to a new survey, it’s not location-relevant advertising that is most valued by mobile consumers; it’s mobile ads that are personalized to a users’ tastes.

The survey, conducted by Luth Research on behalf of mobile marketing company Upstream, crunches the responses from 2,000 adults in the U.S.. Mobile ads, and specifically offers, that catered to a person’s tastes were viewed by those people as far more effective than any other services. Some 59 percent of feature phone users, and 60 percent of smartphone users, said they preferred personalized ads over those based on timing (between 17-19 percent); lifestyle (between 10-16 percent); or location (between 8-14 percent).

This doesn’t mean that ad plays from location-aware companies like Foursquare, Facebook, Gowalla, and the many others looking to monetize nifty check-in services are dead in the water. But it does seem to say that these companies may end up with a much better chance of conversions (and content subscribers) if they try to match those ads up to individual users more closely.

But there is another big challenge: if location data was a can of worms, the way that an advertiser or an ad network gets details about your likes and dislikes may prove to be even more of an issue. That subject, unfortunately, didn’t get included in the questions Luth asked consumers.

The medium for the message. The Luth survey also took a stab at looking at what kinds of goods might make for the most engaging mobile ads. It turned out that smartphone users were most interested in mobile content offers, followed by tickets/entertainment; mobile operator offers and consumer goods in the list of most-wanted items. Feature phone users, meanwhile, were most interested in operator offers, with entertainment/tickets; mobile content; and consumer goods less appealing.

And it seems that rich-media ads need not apply (sorry, Yahoo). Mobile coupons (pictured) scored as the highest promotional format with smartphone users; while feature phone users said they preferred opt-in text messages.