Way back in April I posted about the potential for the iPhone to monetize the new web and the fact that the level of ad interaction within apps was much higher than mobile advertising. (50% of AdMob revenue comes from iPhone ads while iPhone ads only comprise 1/7th of their inventory.) I initially thought (and hoped) that these ads were contextual. An example of this would be ads for women’s makeup would show up on the iPhone mirror app: “Look tired? Use this!”. Once I figured out that the ads were not contextual I circled back around with AdMob and asked a rep why they thought the ad interaction was so much higher. They said:

I think there are several factors here. App usage far exceeds site usage on the iPhone, a platform that is central to us. Second, advertisers have responded well to the more robust adunits and experiences that iPhone apps provide. Particularly we have ad units in our iPhone sdk that aren’t available to run on mobile web or iPhone web.

This makes sense and with sites (mobile or not) there is a lot less commitment. Applications have been downloaded and potentially paid for. I’m unsure if this trend will last. I’m reminded of a study done on eye tracking for the Chinese culture. For those of you unfamiliar with eye tracking, it is the “study” of where users look when they interact with an application. In this case, the app was the web. At the time of the study the Chinese culture was not used to advertising of any type (other than communist propaganda) and when they tracked where their eyes went, they were looking all over the page. Top left (which is standard for western cultures) bottom right, top tight, etc. Everywhere. As Chinese become used to advertising I wonder if they will develop “ad eye” as people in the US have.

The other thing that’s interesting about this is that mobile sites are thought of as being transactional. “I’m looking for a restaurant” etc. Applications may not be like that. They may be more like the terrestrial web.

For now, if you’re thinking about where to spend your mobile ad dollars; think iPhone/AdMob.