In my piece about the exit of InMobi from the African market, I expressed the opinion that mobile ads in their current formats and models

Mobile and Digital Ads: A New Approach Needed

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Mobile Ads

In my piece about the exit of InMobi from the African market, I expressed the opinion that mobile ads in their current formats and models are not quite viable in this environment. What we have is the wholesale importation of what has worked in the Western world with the expectations that they will work just as well here. In this article, I present my detailed thoughts and ideas on the subject.

No To Intrusions And Distractions

The present ad formats are mostly intrusive and distracting – text and or banner ads that intrude and distract the reader (app user or game player) from what they are interested in. That’s a No. That has to change. I do not know for sure, but it may be that when the average person in emerging markets come online, they are on limited time and resources and are thus more fixated on what they came for. Many others turn off images to conserve bandwidth and so never see those banner ads, however catchy and beautiful they are.

Whatever is the reason behind it, ads that attempt to draw people away from their interests simply fail. Users are not clicking on those ads as much as advertisers and publishers would love.

In-Context Or Social Ads

Because of the issue raised in the section above, I believe that the future of ads is mostly “in-context”. By this, I mean that readers are presented with ads embedded in the very activities that they are engaged in, be it reading, game play, or socialising, but in ways that do not intrude or distract. Ads need to be embedded in the content in creative ways such that they are part of the flow of the content.

For example, Nigeria (and Africa as a whole) has a rich heritage of story telling. We love stories. Good stories. Entertaining stories. Our traditional learning and upbringing was built around entertaining stories that also passed across messages. Hopefully, we shall see the rise of advertising via story telling. That would be killing two birds with one stone. This sort of advertising won’t take readers away from the content that they have come for, but have the ads embedded in the storyline.

We are a “social” continent. We love our parties, and our entertainment. Weaving ads into these is the way to go.

Call them social ads – ads that the reader or user interacts with. Or call them in-context. The point is that ads need to be integrated into users’ desired activities.

Say No To Clicks

The prevalent ad model at the moment appears to be pay-per-click. I believe that this is a huge injustice to publishers. Many readers and users actually see digital ads and just go on with their intended tasks, but the imprint was made in their minds, and at a later date some do search out and patronize the brand. So a specific ad may yield revenue, but not for the publisher/platform on which it was displayed.

As a rule, people respond to ads when they are ready and at the time that they need the service, not at the time that they get to hear of it or see it. I have never been a fan of the pay-per-click model. I will never be. In print media, no-one pays for actual conversions from each publication. It is understood that an ad may not yield immediate action, yet can be effective because people do act on it at a later date.

The Pay-per-click model is almost always not profitable for the publisher. Where an ad model isn’t profitable for the publisher, it cannot be viable. Over time, publishers will get discouraged and discontinue the service. Ad networks must understand this. A switch over to pay per impression model or traffic-based model is more viable, as far as things stand.


The way to see a clear picture of the situation is not to take the issues raised above in isolation but to see how all those points put together paint a picture. The big picture that I see tells me that if mobile ads, and digital ads in general, will be effective in these parts, advertisers need to get creative.

I do not believe that the ideas and thoughts that I have expressed here are exhaustive, but I am clear that the approach to mobile advertising must change if the industry must blossom here. Change isnt always an easy thing to make happen. Still, these changes are inevitable. The mobile/digital ads industry certainly needs to do things differently.


  1. On point with the “in-context” and “social ads”. Both have actual names in internet marketing lingo, they’re known as content marketing and native ads.

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