Continental Airlines ran a test campaign a while back in which it partnered with WhitePages.com to target banner ads aimed at business and leisure travelers. An identical ad was placed on the WhitePages.com mobile site, as well as in its mobile application. The outcome proved surprising for those involved and was rather telling in terms of what types of mobile ad formats are most effective.
Contrary to the expectations of WhitePages and especially Continental, the mobile Web ads (on the iPhone) delivered a higher click-through rate than the app versions. Without providing actual rates, WhitePages said the Web banners had a 135% higher CTR than ads on the iPhone app.
Digging a little deeper, it was noted that ads on the mobile home page generated a higher CTR than other pages, while there was little difference in ad performance among pages in the app. In terms of placement, ads placed at the top of pages worked better than those at the bottom in both cases. In the end, the ads on the mobile site sold 80% more airline tickets that that of the iPhone app.
It’s interesting to note that the ad placed in the iPhone app called up safari to access a landing page, which resulted in users being very reluctant to leave the app environment by clicking the ad. Utilizing a banner that allows for in-app interaction would most likely solve the problem.
Though it’s a case study for only one particular niche, it furthers the notion that in-app mobile ads aren’t proving as effective as many originally thought. A lot of testing and tweaking is still needed before the medium can show the benefits mobile WAP ads have for a while now.