Mobile Advert's Contextual Consistency: The Effect of Its Positional Display

Mobile Advert's Contextual Consistency: The Effect of Its Positional Display

Yi Liu (Rennes School of Business, France), Chuan-Hoo Tan (Department of Information Systems, National University of Singapore, Singapore, Singapore) and Juliana Sutanto (Lancaster University, UK)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-1786-4.ch002


How adverts can be better displayed to attract more click-throughs has been enduringly debated, and mixed findings have been reported regarding the effectiveness of contextual consistency. This study reconciles prior debates by anchoring on the load theory of selective attention to propose that user response to contextually consistent adverts is dependent on their intra-page and inter-page positional display. In collaboration with a European mobile application company, adverts were randomly displayed in its location-based mobile social networking application. The follow-up think-aloud protocol analysis, conducted to collect qualitative feedback from users, validates the theoretical assumptions. The findings reveal that high click-through could be obtained when contextually consistent adverts are displayed at the top positions or the front page of the mobile application. These findings address an enduringly debated issue of how to leverage on new technology, such as mobile device, to display commercial information most effectively.
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Mobile Internet technology has been rapidly adopted in the last decade and it is estimated that around 2 billion users are using smartphones globally (Dong, 2009; Su et al., 2018). The global mobile application revenue has reached US$88 billion in 2016 and it has been forecasted to reach US$189 billion in 2020 (Dogtiev, 2019a). Due to the importance of mobile Internet market, advertisers have been focusing on running advertisement campaigns in mobile applications, and it is reported that global mobile advertising spending reached US$107 billion in 2017 (Dogtiev, 2019b). Advertisers would like to have their displayed adverts to receive high number of click-throughs. However, the effectiveness of advert displays in mobile applications has been questioned. For example, Google faces the difficulty to monetize mobile advert clicks for most of the places globally (Marvin, 2014), and it is reported that most of the mobile users do not click on those adverts (Belicove, 2013). Thus, how mobile adverts should be displayed in mobile applications to attract higher click-throughs needs to be examined.

Although the display of adverts has been examined in traditional forms of media, only a few studies have focused on mobile context (Vasisht et al., 2004). Due to its smaller screen size characteristics, only limited information or adverts can be displayed on the screen, which forces mobile users to engage in extensive scrolling to navigate within and across mobile pages (Jones et al., 1999). Although adverts are visual distractions from the primary task of using the backdrop media (McCoy et al., 2007), the distraction effects could differ based on the theme of advert content (Edwards et al., 2002; Moore et al., 2005). When the content of an advert shares the same theme as the backdrop content, such as an advert of a mobile gaming application appears on the same page of an article on online gaming, the advert could be recognized as contextually consistent. Existing studies found that contextually consistent adverts 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 claimed that such contextualconsistency does not necessarily lead to higher click-throughs for adverts (Lee & Faber, 2007; Mandler, 1982; Moore et al., 2005). These mixed findings suggest that the effectiveness of contextually consistent adverts needs further examination.

This article aims to empirically examine whether and how contextually consistent adverts can be effective in terms of users’ click-throughs. Previous studies considered users’ cognitive loads, which are affected by the position where an advert is displayed in the mobile application, and suggested that contextually consistent adverts could receive high click-throughs when they are exposed to mobile users earlier, but the effect diminishes (Liu et al., 2016). The objective of this study is to enrich the previous findings by examining this positive effect in different positions. Specifically, the positional display of an advert can be considered in two ways: intra-page and inter-page positional displays. By collaborating with a mobile application company, empirical investigations using the company’s location-based mobile social networking application was conducted. Field data were collected, in which users’ click-through records were obtained, and think-aloud protocol analysis was performed, in which users were recruited to validate the theoretical assumption. This study contributes to the existing literature by examining the advert display, and taking into account the contextual consistency and the position in which the mobile advert is displayed in the application.

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