Mobile Ads Are the Future. They're Also Lousy

What gap in the consumer attention span can they fill?
Photo illustration by 731; Photographs by Don Farrall/Photodisc Green/Getty Images (billboard); Amana Images Inc./Alamy (TV); Sorendls/E+/Getty Images (bus stop)

Companies across the Internet continually proclaim mobile ads as the next great frontier. Pandora Media, Twitter, and other big names often derive the majority of their revenue from them. On Oct. 23, Facebook’s stock leapt more than 10 percent on news that the social network earned 14 percent of its third-quarter revenue from mobile ads, up from almost nothing in the first quarter. That mobile advertising should be an enormous business makes sense. After all, our smartphones are always with us, know where we are, and collect far more data about us than a desktop PC. So if mobile has such potential, why are the ads so mediocre?

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