Posted December 20, 2012 9:31 am by with 2 comments

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ebay-logoBefore we get started here it should be noted that eBay is definitely a unique business in that its scale and shear reach allow it to do things that other businesses may not be able to.

Regardless, when the president of global marketplaces of a major online player is quoted in All Things D saying the following it deserves some examination.

EBay is ecstatic about mobile, just not about mobile advertising.

Devin Wenig, eBay’s president of global marketplaces, said in an interview that next year the company will stop running mobile ads inside of its applications.

“We aren’t happy with the user experience and we don’t need the money,” he said.

This year, eBay displayed ads inside of its iPhone app as an experiment, but found that they were distracting and cluttered up the smaller screens. The ads also didn’t deliver meaningful revenue.

“It’s not worth it,” Wenig added.

Once again, not many companies have the luxury of being able to say “We don’t need the money”. What this does say, though, is that from a user experience point of view (which is pretty important, don’tcha think?) mobile advertising may be less than ideal. This experience is likely to not be confined to just eBay as well.

I know that from a personal experience POV, even with a larger screen that I have with my Android device, I am rarely, if ever, thrilled with mobile ads. Part of the reason is that I don’t want to see ads normally but the other is that they are extremely intrusive in a smaller screen environment. Real estate on a mobile device is at a premium from the start and anything that is taken up by an ‘uninvited guest’ will make the experience less pleasurable.

As marketers it will be important to approach mobile with a level of caution or at least do a fair amount of testing to see what is working and what doesn’t work. Testing is always paramount but in the mobile space there may be other considerations that need to be tested for especially relating to how much a mobile ad could sour a visitor to a brand rather than just simply getting in the way in other online environments.

So what are your plans for mobile ads in 2013? Is it a big part of your planning whether you are placing the ads or selling the space on your property? Is there real concern that the mobile space may not be the ad friendly play that everyone desperately wants it to be?

We would love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

  • Cynthia Boris

    Since ebay makes money by selling items on the site, technically every listing is an advertisement, so putting in additional, traditional ads is just redundant

  • Keith Rabinis

    I guess I fall into the camp that thinks this is a monumentally BAD decision on a multitude of layers. “Not needing the money” is not an answer we should be given. Mobile advertising (via in-app ads) is HUGELY profitable when done correctly. Perhaps eBay isn’t doing it correctly. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to say eBay’s mobile platform is more enjoyable for consumers with mobile ads (mobile ads aren’t popular and I’m not stupid, so that’s not what I’m arguing) but as a mobile app developer who sees an excellent cash flow from in-app ads (thank you very much !!!) I think eBay is making a very poor business decision that seems to speak to its inexperience – or dare I say incompetence – in mobile advertising. Eventually, eBay will come back. I don’t think it has a choice.