Amsterdam Center for Social Media

Is mobile advertising “spray-and pray” or is it “spray-and pay”?

Figure 1 iBeacon technoloy in a shopBy Charles Vaneker

Mobile advertisement is a growing market. In 2013 almost $17 billion was globally spend and is expected to rise to $63 billion in 2017 (Yakov, Stephen & Sarvary, 2014). Many companies approach mobile advertising with a “spray-and pray” mentality. Advertisers start  mobile ad campaigns without knowing the effects. In 2012 the Chief Marketing Officer Council commissioned a survey to gather information from global marketing executives about mobile ad campaigns. Results revealed that only 14% of the marketers were satisfied about the effectiveness of mobile advertising. But how effective is mobile marketing and which products are best suited to mobile advertising?

This blog discusses findings in current research focusing on two forms of mobile marketing: mobile display advertising and location based ads. Mobile display ads resemble online display ads used at regular websites, and location based mobile marketing is based on the GPS, iBeacon and NFC (Near Field Communications) technology. iBeacon and NFC technology (incorporated in I-Phones and Android phones) use blue tooth signals and can send a consumer – entering a shop – a push message with e.g. a coupon or information about a rebate (see: http://vimeo.com/75402307).

Recent research by Yakov, Stephen and Sarvary (2014) involving almost 40.000 consumers (based at 54 campaigns from 10 broad industries) showed that only one third of all measured display ad campaigns had positive effects  on brand attitude or purchase intention. Almost 17% of the campaigns effected both brand attitude and purchase intention and almost 17% effected brand attitude or purchase intention. Another interesting fact of this study was that it found a product involvement (high versus low involvement) x product type (utilitarian versus hedonic products) interaction effect. Especially campaigns for low involvement, utilitarian products were able to achieve positive results in consumer’s brand attitude and purchase intention. So not all  products are suited for mobile display advertisement. And most important is that most of the measured mobile display advertisement fail to influence attitudes and intentions of consumers. But the findings are similar to research investigating the effectiveness of television and online display advertisement campaigns.

Figure 2 Location based adWhat about the effectiveness of location based ads? Research in this field is scarce. An interesting study in the field is the research of Kim and Han (2014). They show that flow experience and information value are the key determinants of a successful location based advertisement campaign in terms of purchase intention. Flow refers to an experience of total involvement with a device like a smart phone. Consumers become absorbed and have more concentration when they have screen contact. So it eases information processing. Advertisement value refers to the usefulness and value of the information. The research also indicates that personalized ads on smart phones decrease irritation and increase credibility, informativeness  and entertainment experience of de ad.  These 3 variables are also positively related with information value and flow experience.

The lessons from these studies for mobile advertisers: be very carefully about the type of products that are advertised in mobile campaigns and personalization may contribute to the effectiveness of mobile advertisement campaigns. And yes, mobile advertising can “spray and pay” but further research is needed especially under which circumstances it works. In 2015 I will start doing research into the effectiveness of location based advertisements in a Dutch mobile news app (NU.nl) in collaboration with research company Memo2.


Charles Vaneker



Kim, Y. J., & Han, J. Y. (2014). Why smartphone advertising attracts customers: A model of web advertising, flow, and personalization. Computers in Human Behavior, 33(1), 256-269. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.chb.2014.01.015.

Yakov, B., Stephen, A. T., & Sarvary, M. (2014). Which products are best suited to mobile advertising? A field study of mobile display advertising effects on consumer attitudes and intentions. Journal of Marketing Research, 51(3), 270-285. doi: 10.1509/jmr.13.0503


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