Selective Attention to Commercial Information Displays in Globally Available Mobile Application

Selective Attention to Commercial Information Displays in Globally Available Mobile Application

Yi Liu (ESC Rennes School of Business, Rennes, France), Chuan-Hoo Tan (Department of Information Systems, National University of Singapore, Singapore, Singapore) and Juliana Sutanto (Lancaster University, Lancaster, UK)
Copyright: © 2016 |Pages: 21
DOI: 10.4018/JGIM.2016040102


The prevalence of mobile applications has revived research interest in examining the issue of how commercial information (e.g., adverts) can be displayed to yield click-throughs. Mixed perspectives are proposed over whether or not adverts should be integrated into the primary media content. By anchoring on the load theory of selective attention, this research proposes that user response (attention) to consistent adverts (i.e., adverts that are contextually consistent with the media content) is contingent on how they are displayed (intra- and inter-pages). This study subjected the worldwide users of a location-based mobile social networking application to random manipulations of intra-page and inter-page advert displays. The findings reveal that controlling for the geographical locations of the users, high click-through counts are obtained when consistent adverts are displayed at the early stage of application interaction (top position of the front page), but the effect diminishes as users scroll down to the bottom of front page and navigate to subsequent pages.
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Mobile phone services have been adopted globally in recent years (Mao et al., 2005; Wresch, 2003). For mobile applications - especially those free usage ones – they rely on displaying commercial information, such as adverts, as an essential source of revenue. Baghdassarian (2011), a Gartner Group analyst, predicted that mobile advert revenues would reach US$20.6 billion by 2015 — an amount that obviously has considerable appeal to mobile application companies. The opportunity to reach out to over 1 billion smartphone users globally (Go-Gulf, 2012), is a prospect that many companies cannot resist. Cognizant of the commercial value of placing adverts within mobile application (Dong, 2009), media companies offer solutions that promise to help retailers generate advert displays that yield high click-throughs, i.e., high numbers of users who click on the displayed adverts – such solutions include Google’s AdMob (Google, 2013), Facebook’s mobile ad network, and Apple’s iAd. However, despite the availability of these solutions, there is widespread skepticism over the effectiveness of advert displays in mobile applications. For instance, Google has the problem to monetize mobile advert clicks for most of the regions including Europe, Africa and Asia (Marvin, 2014). Ari Mir, co-founder and CEO of Pocket Change - a Google venture-backed Silicon Valley start-up - stated that approximately 99% of people who viewed such adverts do not actually click on them (Belicove, 2013), a reality that reiterates the fundamental fact that adverts interrupt a user’s primary task in using an application. So the leading issue, which is an enduring one, is to determine how commercial information (in the form of adverts) should best be displayed in globally available mobile applications to attract higher click-throughs.

As a form of commercial information provision, the display of adverts has been studied in several traditional forms of media (Vasisht et al., 2004). But only a few works have focused on mobile media, whose characteristics and small screen size set restrictions on the number of adverts that can be displayed through such devices. As only limited information can be provided on a small screen, mobile users worldwide may have to engage in extensive scrolling (up/down, left/right) to navigate within and across mobile application pages (Jones et al., 1999), so the most vital consideration in placing an advert is the setting in which it is displayed. An advert itself is a visual distraction from the primary task of using the media, such as reading a news article on an information website (McCoy et al., 2007), but the distraction effects could differ based on the advert content and the media backdrop involved (Cho, 2003; Edwards et al., 2002; Moore et al., 2005). When the content of an advert shares the same theme as the primary backdrop (e.g., an advert about a flight ticket deal appears on the same page as an article on how to book a flight), the advert seems to be integrated with the theme of the backdrop, and so is contextually consistent. Several past studies have reported that adverts that are contextually consistent with backdrop contents are perceived as informative (see e.g., Edwards et al., 2002), and affect users’ overall perceptions of a web page positively (Newman et al., 2004). However, other studies have claimed that such contextualconsistency does not necessarily lead to adverts gaining higher click-throughs (Lee & Faber, 2007; Mandler, 1982; Moore et al., 2005). These mixed perspectives and findings suggest this is a fertile area for research investigation, as diverse mobile-based devices continue to be introduced into the global marketplace, and companies seek to develop successful marketing strategies to harness such consumer-based globally available technologies.

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