Mobile Advertising: What It Is & How to Do It [2024]

September 7, 2023 | By Sam Pelton
Mobile advertising examples

Mobile’s now the name of the game.

This is true in many areas of business and is no different when it comes to advertising.

Since practically everyone’s on their mobile devices, mobile advertising provides you a medium to reach people anytime, anywhere.

Case in point: Statista reported that over 58% of web traffic in the first quarter of 2023 was from mobile devices (and this is even excluding tablets).

So how’s your mobile advertising game? What even is mobile advertising? Why pursue it? How can you pursue it? What are best practices?

This guide will help walk you through all of that, so that you can get the most out of mobile advertising for your business. So let’s dive in!

What Is Mobile Advertising?

Mobile advertising refers to marketing that occurs on mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets.

Mobile advertising can have unique considerations that differ from traditional marketing and even from digital marketing geared toward computer users. Marketers, therefore, need to take into account those considerations that are particular to the mobile experience in order to have the most impact.

The Evolution of Mobile Advertising

Early Developments in Mobile Advertising

Mobile advertising's roots can be traced back to the early 2000s when basic mobile phones began to support texting (SMS). Some brands began to see the potential of using SMS as a marketing channel..

(And although texting has been around for a long time and has reported read rates of up to 98%, many brands still have yet to fully jump on board the SMS advertising bandwagon.)

As mobile technology advanced, using the internet via phones through mobile browsers was introduced, opening the door for a whole new type of mobile advertising.

Eventually came the introduction of mobile display ads as mobile internet usage became more and more prevalent. Banner ads, similar to their desktop counterparts, started appearing on mobile websites, aiming to capture users' attention and drive them to click through to the advertisers' websites.

In addition to banner ads, mobile advertising via mobile-friendly emails and social media became a major consideration along the way.

Furthermore, starting in 2010 with the release of the iPad, tablets became prominent consumer products. So “mobile device” began to take on an additional meaning as people carried around their iPads and Kindle Fires.

The growth of mobile advertising has been nothing short of remarkable. According to Oberlo, the expected total mobile ad spend in the US for 2023 will be $355.1 billion. (This will be the first time that it’s surpassed $300 billion.) In contrast, desktop ad spend hasn’t even reached $60 billion.

The adoption of smartphones and the rise of mobile internet usage have no doubt been major catalysts to this growth. With more people owning smartphones and using them to access the internet, the potential audience for mobile advertising has expanded exponentially. Moreover, the increased availability of high-speed mobile internet and the introduction of 5G technology have paved the way for more engaging ad formats like mobile videos and interactive rich media ads.

The Impact of Smartphones and Mobile Internet on Advertising

Smartphones have transformed the way consumers interact with brands—presenting advertisers with both new challenges and new opportunities. With mobile devices in hand, consumers have become more receptive to personalized and location-based marketing messages.

Brands can use mobile advertising to deliver much more personalized experiences—for example, using geolocation data to deliver targeted ads based on users' physical proximity to their businesses. And a whole host of other kinds of data can be used to help deliver targeted mobile advertising based on preferences, activity, and demographics.

The pervasive nature of mobile devices helps ensure that ads have the potential to reach consumers at almost any time, whether they’re waiting in line, commuting to work, or relaxing at home. This 24/7 connectivity has made mobile advertising an essential component of any comprehensive marketing strategy.

Mobile advertising has also seamlessly integrated with social media platforms. The combination of social and mobile has helped enable brands to engage with their audiences on a more personal level. And social media apps have become virtual marketplaces, allowing businesses to promote products, run sponsored posts, and even enable in-app purchases.

So the evolution of mobile advertising has been marked by significant technological advancements, changing consumer behavior, and a shift in marketing spending. As we delve deeper into the world of mobile advertising, we'll explore the various types of mobile ads available to businesses, each offering unique advantages and the potential to reach millions of mobile users worldwide.

People viewing mobile devices

Types of Mobile Advertising

Now that you know a bit about the history of mobile advertising, let’s get into some of the different types that exist.

Mobile Display Ads

There are a few different kinds of display ads you can use that are significant for mobile advertising.

1. Banner Ads

Banner ads are one of the most common forms of mobile advertising. They appear at the top, bottom, or sides of mobile websites and apps, in an attempt to display engaging visuals and ad copy. While they can be effective in generating brand awareness, their relatively small size may limit their engagement potential.

2. Interstitial Ads

Interstitial ads are full-screen ads that appear at natural transition points within an app or mobile website. They usually offer more space for creative visuals and engaging content, which makes them more attention-grabbing than banner ads. However, their intrusive nature can be annoying to users, so you’ll need to strike a balance between creativity and user-friendliness.

3. Native Ads

Native ads seamlessly blend with the content of the mobile platform, matching its look and feel. These ads may provide more value to users than other types of ads and are naturally placed. The "naturalness" of these ads makes them less intrusive and more appealing. Native ads may outperform other formats in terms of engagement and user acceptance, since they feel less like traditional advertisements.

Mobile Video Ads

People love videos.

That’s why mobile video ads have become a popular choice for advertisers seeking to captivate their audience with visually appealing content.

Whether through short and snappy ads or longer storytelling formats, videos often have the power to convey messages more effectively than other channels.

Social platforms like YouTube, Instagram, and TikTok have opened up exciting opportunities for you to take advantage of mobile video ads—and connect with your target audience in an engaging way.

Mobile App Ads

One popular form of mobile advertising you can take advantage of is app advertising.

There are a couple of ways to go about this…

1. In-App Ads

In-app ads are displayed within mobile apps themselves, providing a direct channel to reach users while they’re engaged with an app's content.

These ads can take various forms, such as banner ads, interstitials, rewarded videos, or native ads. In-app ads allow for precise targeting based on users' app usage behavior, interests, and demographics. Thus, they can be effective in driving app installs (if your business has a mobile app), user engagement, and ultimately conversions.

2. App Store Ads

If you have a mobile app, another app-related option is to publish ads into the Apple and Android app stores.

App store ads appear within store search results or featured placements, with the aim to promote app downloads and increase visibility. So these ads can significantly boost exposure for your app. App store ad placements allow you to reach users at the exact moment when they’re actively looking for new apps to download—ideally increasing the chances of conversion.

3. Push Notifications

You can also use your business’s app to send push notifications. These notices engage users with messages that show up directly on their phones, similar to SMS.

Push notifications give you a unique opportunity to connect with users in a way that they’ll be very likely to see and engage with.

Types of Mobile Advertising infographic

SMS Marketing Ads

SMS marketing involves sending promotional messages or updates directly to users' mobile phones via text messages. This direct and immediate form of communication allows businesses to engage with their audience personally.

Think about it: how often do you ignore the texts you receive? Likely never. And the same is probably true for your target audience.

Other kinds of ads can be easily ignored. But texting’s nature is very direct, and the read rates are very high. Thus, SMS marketing is highly effective for any type of message. (That would include promotions, order notifications, appointment reminders, and two-way conversations with leads and customers.)

Mobile Social Media Ads

Social media platforms have transformed into mobile-first destinations—which, of course, makes them ideal channels for mobile advertising.

You can run sponsored posts, carousel ads, story ads, and more to reach your target audience on platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter (now called X), LinkedIn, and Snapchat. (Meta’s new social platform Threads doesn’t yet have an ad option yet. But more than likely, they'll develop an ad option at some point down the road.)

Social media advertising enables precise audience targeting based on demographics, interests, behaviors, and location.

Mobile Search Ads

Mobile search advertising targets users who are actively searching for products, services, or information on search engines like Google or Bing. These ads appear prominently in search results, above or below organic listings. Mobile search ads enable businesses to capture high-intent users, which drives relevant traffic to their websites or landing pages and increases the likelihood of conversions.

Benefits of Mobile Advertising

Now that we’ve gone over some specific types of mobile advertising, let’s get deeper into all the different benefits you get from focusing on it.

Wider Reach and Audience Engagement

By some reports, people spend almost 5 hours a day on their phones.

We all know that mobile devices have become an integral part of people's lives, and that they carry them everywhere they go.

This constant connectivity allows mobile ads to reach a vast audience at any time and in any location.

Whether users are scrolling through social media, browsing the web, or using apps, mobile advertising ensures that your message is delivered directly into the hands of potential customers. The “omnipresence” of mobile devices results in higher impressions and greater opportunities to engage with your target audience.

Personalization and Targeting Capabilities

As mentioned when going through some of the different types of mobile ads listed above, mobile advertising platforms offer sophisticated targeting options that allow you to deliver personalized messages based on users' demographics, behaviors, interests, and location.

This level of precision targeting ensures that ads are shown to the right people at the right time—increasing relevance and, therefore, user engagement. Personalized ads resonate better with consumers, which leads to improved click-through rates and higher conversion rates.

Tracking and Analytics for Better Insights

Like any marketing initiative, you need good data in order to make informed decisions.

Mobile advertising typically provides comprehensive tracking and analytics tools, so you can measure the performance of your ad campaigns accurately. You’re able to track typical marketing metrics such as impressions, clicks, conversions, and user behavior to gain insights into campaign effectiveness. And with all of this data, you can make data-driven decisions, optimize ad creatives, and allocate budgets more effectively to maximize return on investment (ROI).

Because we all know how important it is to get that positive ROI!

Cost-Effectiveness Compared to Traditional Advertising

Mobile advertising offers a cost-effective alternative to traditional advertising channels like TV, radio, billboards, or print media.

As an example, Gitnux reported, “In 2019, out-of-home advertising (billboards) had a CPM (cost per thousand impressions) of $5.22, whereas digital display ads had a CPM of $2.80.”

With traditional advertising, reaching a broad audience often comes with high costs and limited targeting capabilities. In contrast, mobile advertising allows you to access a vast and targeted audience without breaking the bank. Whether you have a small or large budget, you can bid on ad placements and choose between various pricing models like cost-per-click (CPC), cost-per-thousand-impressions (CPM), or subscription services to ensure efficient spending.

Creating Seamless Customer Experiences

Mobile advertising initiatives can be seamlessly integrated into the user experience, enhancing the overall customer journey.

By using formats like native ads, you can create non-disruptive ad experiences that blend harmoniously with the surrounding content. This type of approach helps you give more positive user experiences.

You can also use other formats like SMS marketing to provide effective, seamless experiences for your audience. For example, if someone abandons their shopping cart before purchasing, you can send a follow-up text giving a discount or offer to give them a reason to follow through with the purchase.

Using the Power of Push and SMS

As mentioned previously, mobile advertising can include the use of both push notifications and SMS.

These kinds of engagement channels warrant their own mention as a benefit in and of themselves, because they have huge potential to really reach a wide and engaged audience—directly on their mobile devices.

Sending personalized and timely messages allows you to remind users about special offers, new products, or relevant updates in a way they’ll actually see. So in a powerful way you can encourage users to take a desired action.

Mobile Commerce and Immediate Action

Mobile advertising seamlessly connects with mobile commerce. That means you can allow users to take immediate action after seeing an ad.

This is especially important with the ease of mobile payments and one-click purchases—which can lead to higher conversion rates.

Furthermore, the ability to include click-to-call or click-to-download buttons in mobile ads enables users to interact with businesses instantly, bridging the gap between ad exposure and action.

Benefits of Mobile Advertising infographic

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Crafting an Effective Mobile Advertising Strategy

With all of that information in mind regarding why mobile advertising is beneficial, how can you actually go about implementing a strong strategy?

Here are some tips.

Step 1: Identify Target Audience and Goals

If you don’t have a clear idea of whom you’d like to reach and why you’d like to reach them, you’ll have a hard time reaching anyone.

So you’ll need to think about and document your target audience, and set clear objectives for your campaigns. Then make sure you understand your customers' preferences, behaviors, and pain points in order to create ads that resonate with them.

And make sure you have clear objectives—whether that's increasing brand awareness, driving app installs, boosting website traffic, or generating leads and sales.

Step 2: Choose the Right Mobile Advertising Channels

Once you know your target audience and goals, you’ll be able to make an informed decision about which advertising channels will help you reach them.

Consider your target audience's preferred platforms and their engagement habits. For instance, if you're targeting a younger audience, platforms like Instagram and TikTok might be more effective, while LinkedIn may be better for B2B marketing.

A multi-channel approach can also be beneficial, allowing you to reach a broader audience and diversify your advertising efforts. (But, generally speaking, you can’t do everything at once, so prioritize the channels and tactics that you think will best resonate with your target audience.)

Step 3: Use Targeting

Take advantage of geolocation, demographics, and other types of targeting to deliver hyper-localized ads to users based on their physical location, gender, age, or other data points.

Some examples of targeting include geotargeting and contextual targeting.

Geotargeting allows you to tailor ads to local events, weather conditions, or nearby business promotions—that way, you can enhance the relevance of your message for your audience (thus, increasing the likelihood of conversions).

Contextual targeting also involves displaying ads that are relevant to the content that users are currently engaging with. Using this approach helps ensure that your ads align with users' interests, to improve overall engagement.

Step 4: Ensure Mobile-Friendliness

Obviously, mobile ads must be designed with the mobile user experience in mind.

Mobile-centered marketing means that your landing pages and websites are mobile-friendly and responsive to different screen sizes. Page speed is also highly important.

A seamless transition from the ad to the landing page is essential—otherwise, users may bounce due to poor loading times or non-optimized layouts. Optimize load times and simplify the conversion process to make it easy for users to take action after clicking on your ad.

Step 5: A/B Test and Optimize

You’re most likely well familiar with A/B testing and you probably already implement it across your marketing efforts. Just don’t forget about it when it comes to your mobile advertising!

Test different ad creatives, offers, copy variations, calls-to-action (CTAs), and targeting parameters in order to identify which combinations yield the best results.

You can then continuously analyze the data and optimize your ads based on your performance metrics. Regularly tweaking your content and targeting helps ensure that your campaigns are as engaging as possible.

Step 6: Implement Retargeting / Remarketing

Mobile retargeting strategies are effective for re-engaging users who have previously interacted with your brand but haven't converted.

By showing tailored ads to these users across mobile channels, you can remind them of your brand's value and encourage them to complete their desired actions. Retargeting campaigns can include personalized incentives (for example, discounts or limited-time offers) to entice users back into your conversion funnel.

Crafting an Effective Mobile Strategy infographic

The Future of Mobile Advertising

So what will mobile advertising look like as time goes on?

Here are some thoughts on what may be growing in popularity.

5G Revolution

The widespread adoption of 5G technology could revolutionize mobile advertising. With faster internet speeds and reduced latency, you can deliver richer and more immersive ad experiences, such as high-definition videos… and even AR/VR content.

Voice-Activated Advertising

Do you use Siri, Alexa, or Google Assistant? It’s likely you do—and your customers do too.

As voice assistants like Siri, Alexa, and Google Assistant become more integrated into our daily lives, voice-activated advertising may gain prominence. You’ll need to optimize ads to be voice-search-friendly and explore new ways to engage users through voice commands.

Expanded Payment Options

Mobile devices will likely continue to drive ecommerce growth. The relatively recent innovations of mobile wallet payments and one-click purchases could make a big impact on mobile advertising efforts.

Integrating seamless mobile shopping experiences into mobile advertising strategies will be critical for businesses to capitalize on the mobile commerce trend.

Augmented Reality

Shoppable content and augmented reality (AR) will enable users to interact with products directly from mobile ads, making the shopping process more interactive. This immersive experience could lead to higher engagement and conversion rates.

(Not to mention, it’s just really cool!)


Artificial Intelligence (AI) will likely continue to play a significant role in shaping the future of mobile advertising. It will enable better ad targeting, and therefore better personalization.

It will also allow for better mobile ad optimization. AI-driven algorithms have the potential to analyze vast amounts of data in order to help you better understand user behavior, preferences, and trends. That way, you’ll be able to make more informed decisions.

Additionally, AI-powered chatbots and virtual assistants will enhance customer service, which will enable businesses to provide instant support and gather valuable insights from user interactions.

Future of mobile advertising infographic

What Are the Implications for Your Business?

In light of all of the discussed benefits, considerations, and predictions, here are a few action items you can follow for your business.

1. Think “Mobile First”

In many (if not most) situations, you should be thinking “mobile first” as you implement your strategies rather than “desktop first.”

Currently in many cases, it’s the other way around—people implement strategies with desktop primarily in mind and mobile is merely an afterthought. However, mobile should often be given equal if not more attention.

2. Choose 1–2 Mobile Ad Strategies to Implement

Since you can’t tackle everything at once, choose 1–2 ad strategies to start implementing. (You can use the list under “Types of Mobile Advertising” above for reference.)

When considering which strategies to try, consider first what you think would best resonate with your target audience, and then consider your business’s bandwidth and feasibility for getting that channel implemented.

3. See How You Can Incorporate AI

AI is so popular at this point that it’s almost becoming a cliche.

But that’s because the potential with AI is enormous. There’s always more you can be doing to take advantage of AI technology to help improve your marketing efforts, so keep that in mind as you go about your mobile advertising efforts.

Boost Mobile Advertising for Your Business

As we’ve seen, mobile advertising obviously plays a vital role in a modern business’s marketing strategy.

It’s time to amp up your mobile efforts and take full advantage of this powerful marketing approach!

One aspect of mobile advertising that’s often underutilized is SMS marketing.

Get a free consultation with an SMS expert to see how the Mobile Text Alerts SMS platform could help boost your business’s mobile marketing—and get you more sales.

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