Whitepaper: Mobile vs. Desktop Ads

The computing power of today’s smartphones is vast, and consumers are responding to the instant access that they provide.

Brands are also responding with increasingly comprehensive mobile advertising strategies, while smart marketers are managing their mobile investment as closely as their TV and digital spend.

The drive towards using mobile, however, raises questions about how this format compares to other digital assets. To answer those questions, we have compared our normative databases for both.

Brands are curious

In 2016, US adults will spend an average of three hours and eight minutes per day on mobile devices, excluding voice activities. This has a strong impact on your advertising.

Over the past 12 months, mobile advertising has been growing in importance, and MetrixLab has been doing more mobile asset pre-tests than ever before. Our mobile ad testing is done within the mobile environment to measure an ad’s ability to breakthrough in context and the viewer’s response to assets once they have been viewed in full.

Consumers globally are accessing a wide range of content across devices. To be successful, campaigns must seamlessly transfer information and calls to action across all devices to reach the consumer at any of the multiple entry points to the purchase cycle.

Clients have asked us to review overall results for mobile versus desktop advertising where assets have been tested in similar formats. This has revealed useful insights for both banner and video advertising.

A huge increase in the number of people
who use three screens in just three years


Banners: Mobile vs. desktop

Mobile banners do a better job of breaking through when it comes to ad recognition and
message recall compared to desktop banners.

We believe that the stronger breakthrough may be a result of the immediacy and intimacy of mobile.This in addition to the fact that mobile banners tend to take up a larger share of the screen and there is less clutter on the screen.

While breakthrough isn’t an issue, we do find that branding, likeability, credibility, how easy they are to understand and their impact on purchase intent and brand interest is weaker than for desktop. The implication is that because mobile is a relatively new format, advertisers still have a lot to learn in terms of optimizing advertising assets for smartphones and tablets. We know that mobile is key when it comes to targeting the Millennial market, as more than 40% of this group researched their last purchase using a smartphone.

Again, we hypothesize that it’s because it is a new format and there is still much to learn about how to make assets more engaging and how to deliver messages more coherently on a smaller screen.

We have found that text needs to be minimized and visuals, especially pack shots, should be played up for mobile banners. Short, clear messaging and strongly branded visuals are key.





The video rocket

  • The average internet user is exposed to an average of 32.2 videos in a month.
  • 78% of people watch videos online every week.
  • By 2018, 79% of consumer internet traffic will be taken up by video.
  • One third of all people on the internet are on YouTube.



Video: Mobile vs. desktop

Overall, video ads perform better when viewed on mobile than on desktop in terms of breakthrough. Brand recall for video ads viewed on mobile is about the same as it is for desktop, while message recall and ad recognition are both higher for mobile.
Again, we think that this is due to their share of screen and the nature of the more intimate and immediate mobile experience. Despite stronger breakthrough, however, the viewer’s response to video ads viewed on mobile is weaker than it is to video ads viewed on desktop, especially in terms
of likeability. There is definitely room to improve mobile video assets and still a lot to learn about how to make mobile videos more engaging for consumers.
We believe that most mobile video assets are still being created with a larger screen experience in mind, and
that the smaller screen format should be taken into consideration more when they are being developed.
Consider context as well because many mobile videos are played without sound. Using multiple brand cues and easily recognized branded visuals can help.

Video length on mobile

Mobile now represents a majority of digital media consumption.

In terms of using videos on mobile, shorter is better, especially if you want people to watch the entire video. Shorter ads (less than 30” vs. longer than 30”) also tend to have about 20% higher ad recognition. However, we have evidence showing that when people do watch the longer ads all the way through, they tend to perform better in terms of likeability and influencing purchase intent. Nevertheless, this added impact is not enough to overcome the weaker breakthrough potential of the longer ads.





What does this mean for brands? We know that your ads need to breakthrough and that if they do not, it doesn’t matter how well the ad does in forced exposure tests. The key is to make shorter video ads for mobile and to optimize these by making them more enjoyable, relevant and engaging, while telling your individual brand story.

It is also important to learn how to make the best use of the smaller screen for both banner and video ads, where there are greater challenges in terms of showing recognizable package shots or branded products in use. Having visible brand cues is even more important on mobile than on other media.

Learn more

Contact us to understand more
about mobile ad testing.

About MetrixLab

MetrixLab provides consumer insights that drive smarter business decisions. A truly global digital research agency, we pioneer new technologies and integrate multiple data sources to push the boundaries of research. This enables our experts to provide high-quality insights at scale, at speed and for an unparalleled value. Our passion, expertise, and solutions enable our clients to succeed at product innovation, brand engagement, and consumer value.

Active in over 90 countries, MetrixLab is a proud partner of more than half of the world’s top 100 brands and part of Toluna.

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