Surprise! Mobile Users Are Internet Savvy

Congratulations! Act now to read this entire post to win some understanding about human nature! Researchers at the Penn State Media Effects Research Laboratory have found that time sensitive banner ads and other potentially scummy advertising methods rarely fool mobile users into clicking and, instead, cause them to treat the site as a potential threat.

“It could be that an instant gratification message makes mobile users, who tend to be more tech savvy, leery about the site,” said Professor S. Shyam Sundar.

For example, sites and banners that encourage you to do something “right now” or click to win are ignored at best by mobile users. Sundar believes it’s because mobile users are more experienced on the Internet and aren’t fooled by advertising in the same way a desktop-only user might.

“It’s a boomerang effect–marketers may think that they are activating the instant gratification heuristic when they display time-sensitive offers, but what they’re actually doing is cuing red flags about the site.”

disable-play-onlySundar tested 220 subjects by showing them four mobile sites. The first site showed a security warning, another showed a free gift icon, and a third showed both. A fourth site showed neither. To measure the impact the team then asked for social media information after a user clicked through and measured how forthcoming the subjects were. Finally, the users were asked about their perception of the site. Generally users who saw only the “free gift” ad rated the site as untrustworthy.

“People may feel that the social media information is already public information, not necessarily private information, and they are not as concerned about revealing social media information,” said Sundar. “The ‘privacy paradox’ of giving away information when we are most concerned about its safety may not be all that paradoxical if you consider that the information we give away is not quite private.”

What does that mean for us? First, that most “act now!” advertisements don’t work on mobile. However, the team discovered that security warnings did make users concerned but hesitant to share information with the site after they appeared, which means those “Your Phone Is Being Attacked! Buy Anti-Virus Now!” ads also don’t work. The bottom line, then, is be real: offer real products that a casual user might like. Just please don’t put a buxom maiden on the screen and offer amazing medieval sexytime gameplay for free, OK? That annoys everybody.