Article | Harvard Business Review | March 2013

For Mobile Devices, Think Apps, Not Ads

by Sunil Gupta


Many companies envision mobile ads becoming an integral part of their communications strategies. But there's a growing consensus that ads don't work on mobile devices; consumers just don't like them. Instead of creating tiny banner ads, smart marketers will turn to apps to reach customers and engage them. Effective apps will do one of the following: (1) Add convenience. Banking apps, for example, let people pay their bills online, and airline apps let them check in and monitor the status of their flights. (2) Offer unique value. In South Korea, commuters can use an app to order groceries while waiting for their trains. (3) Provide social value. Apps on Facebook and other sites let users send gifts to their friends. (4) Offer incentives. Apps that give away mobile minutes, for instance, can entice customers. (5) Entertain. Red Bull and other companies have devised popular games focused on their brands. "Mobile advertising" is often a hollow phrase, but mobile apps can enable marketers to communicate with consumers in a format that enhances their lives and offers long-term value.

Keywords: Software; Advertising; Mobile Technology; Innovation and Invention;


Gupta, Sunil. "For Mobile Devices, Think Apps, Not Ads." Harvard Business Review 91, no. 3 (March 2013).