Mobile vs Online Advertising for Desktop: Why Do You Need Both?

Reading time: 7 minutes

Mobile marketing is seeing exponential growth as mobile consumers make up for well over 52% of all user traffic. This has caused mobile marketing to become a main focus for digital marketers and business owners alike. However, desktop users still account for upwards of 48%, making the competition between mobile advertising and general online advertising an ongoing debate. 

With mobile ad spend growing at a sharp rate to accommodate the trends in user traffic,, most digital marketers and business owners want to ensure they’re allocating advertising funds appropriately. So, where should business owners really focus their marketing efforts — in mobile marketing or desktop marketing? What about both?

In this article, we’ll dive into the difference between the two types of digital advertising to help you choose which would be more beneficial to your brand. Keep reading to learn more.

The Difference Between Desktop vs Mobile Advertising

The foundation of mobile advertising and desktop advertising is virtually the same. However, there are several notable differences when it comes to the finer points such as ad formats, strategies, and the associated features. Before we get into the finer points of each mode of digital advertising, let’s break down the advertising ecosystems that they fall into.

The first thing you need to understand is that there are three primary ecosystems within the entire digital marketing industry:

  • There is desktop computer advertising, which is directly based on web ads. These are the types of ads that are shown within the web browsers while the users are browsing the internet from their desktop computers.
  • Then there is mobile advertising, which actually accounts for two of the primary ecosystems. These ecosystems are better known as the mobile web and in-app — which is also where it becomes slightly complicated. 

When it comes to mobile-friendly web browsing, there aren’t too many discrepancies[3] between mobile ads and general web ads. This is because mobile web advertising functions similarly to desktop web browsers in that the ads are shown within the browser within each of the two ecosystems. 

Of course, with in-app marketing, we’re talking about mobile advertisements displayed within the apps on a user’s smart device. This serves as the third ecosystem and a major alternative to mobile web platforms on smart devices.

Each ecosystem has its advantages and disadvantages, and each performs ‘best’ according to a business’s unique goals. 

Now let’s discuss the benefits that the general online advertising and the mobile advertising ecosystems have to offer:

The Benefits of Display Advertising

Keep in mind that when we talk about display advertising[4], we’re talking about online advertising via desktop devices. Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, let’s go over the benefits:

  • It offers a wider range of digital ad formats: Desktop advertising was the very first environment to exist for online advertising. Therefore, it has been innovated over time to seamlessly match a variety of formats available to advertisers. This would include Banner, native, rich media[5], video and many other types of ad formats. This allows for much more creativity from the marketing perspective.
  • The creatives are bigger: Display advertising also allows for a lot more space considering the larger screens of desktop devices. Not only does this feed into the creativity aspect of ad formats, but it also accommodates mobile as sizes for smart devices with various screen sizes. This allows you to contextually and visually convey your message with less hassle.
  • It offers a lot of versatility: Being that display advertising was the first and still one of the most popular channels for general online advertising, display ads have become a universal solution for marketers and businesses of all industries. Essentially almost any demand-side platform[1] (DSP) works with display advertising making it the simplest solution for all business’s unique goals and marketing strategies. 
  • It comes with a better user experience: Most websites today are designed to fit desktop and laptop screen sizes, which means that launching a display advertising campaign[10] is the optimal way of ensuring your ads will be displayed without errors or glitches.

The Benefits of Mobile Advertising

Now let’s shift over to the benefits of mobile advertising, which includes the following:

  • Instantaneous communication with users: It goes without saying that individuals with smart devices — namely, smartphones — are never too far from those devices. Therefore, mobile advertising allows for the unique ability to deliver a business’s message directly to their audience at the most opportune moments and places. Essentially, mobile users use the search engines on their phones to look up very specific products and services to find immediate solutions. (Think: Best pizza near me, where to get a quick tire change, etc.) According to the Marketing Pilgrim, 70% of all mobile searches result in an immediate action — as in a purchase decision — while desktop browsing is more associated with the end stages of the sales funnel. 
  • It offers more targeted solutions: Thanks to the instantaneous availability of mobile applications and the devices that enable them comes a much wider range of audience targeting[11] solutions. Therefore, a well-designed mobile ad campaign enables advertisers to target users by not just by simple things like their interests, salary ranges, or demographics but their current location and favorite places to visit as well (thanks to geotargeting and geofencing capabilities). 
  • It brings more engagement: One of the greatest benefits of mobile advertising is arguably the higher engagement rates which are a direct effect of the increased use in mobile apps. Users spend a lot more time on their smart devices and are twice more likely to not just like but also share the content they are consuming compared to the average desktop and laptop user. More attention to these smaller screens equate to better ad viewability[6] and higher engagement — it’s really that simple.
  • There are less ad blockers on mobile devices. In 2019, over a quarter of internet users in the US reported using ad blocking[7] software. In essence, mobile users don’t typically download ad blocking software or plugins for their browsers, which means mobile advertising virtually guarantees optimal ad viewability.

Mobile Ads vs Web Ads Formats

As you can see, both mobile advertising and online advertising come with a set of immense benefits that all businesses can leverage in different ways associated with their own marketing goals. This means that the real differences between the two digital advertising types really comes down to their practicality in application — as in their ad formats.

Here’s the breakdown:

Banners Ads

Banner ads[8] are among the most traditional ad formats and are typical for both mobile advertising and online advertising. 

When it comes to mobile ads, banners tend to take up more of the screen and therefore the user’s attention. However, mobile ads also require additional optimization implementation which can become an issue. Therefore, it’s important to pay close attention to how your banner ads are performing on certain webpages and optimize them accordingly. 

Keep in mind that your best bet with the banner ad format is to use strong visuals and clear messaging to get your message across on both digital advertising platforms.

Video Ads

Video advertising has also seen a successful rise, especially over the past few years. It’s actually the dominating trend in the digital marketing industry, with the total US video ad spend having risen from $9.9 billion in 2016 to $22.08 billion by 2020. 

On one hand, mobile users in general tend to demonstrate better message recall and brand recognition. On the other hand, display video ads[12] still hold the primary position regarding viewer response and engagement. 

However, it’s important to remember that mobile video ads must be optimized for the smaller screens. It’s almost important to remember that most video ads are typically played without sound due to the fact that mobile users are out and about in public. Therefore, businesses need to use the strongest branded visuals possible when it comes to mobile video ad campaigns.

You’ll also need to remember that video ads shorter than 30 seconds tend to be associated with better ad recognition and engagement, yet have a weaker effect compared to longer running ads.

Native Ads 

Native ads[9] are popular for the fact that they blend in perfectly with their surroundings — and this is true for both the mobile advertising and online advertising ecosystems. This would also include all platforms from social media channels to news websites. 

Generally speaking, for both mobile and desktop use of native ads, the format is especially beneficial for display ad campaigns. It also works well behavioral and contextual targeting[2] while offering a certain universality that gives way to more creativity for both in-app mobile and online native ad campaigns.

Mobile or Online Advertising: Which Should You Choose?

As you can see, the differences between mobile advertising and online advertising are distinct and similar at the same time, meaning that they’re both beneficial to businesses in digital advertising campaigns. Additionally, they both work off the same principles, and depending on the ecosystem, some ad formats work better than others.

Of course, when it comes down to mobile vs online advertising for desktop use, there’s really no contest since both allow businesses to further reach and engage with their audiences. Therefore, you don’t necessarily want to choose between the two but instead find a way to use both to your advantage. 

1. demand-side platform. A Demand Side Platform or DSP is a platform where advertisers can buy digital inventory to easily and more directly connect with sellers in a programmatic and real-time ecosystem.
2. contextual targeting. Places ads based on content on screen or on the webpage. Advertisers can use contextual advertising to target consumers based on the environment of content they are in, for example, this could be ads for running shoes on a news article about running, or it could be ads for laptops on a tech ecommerce site.
3. discrepancies. Discrepancies happen when there are revenue and impression discrepancies between ad servers and ad network dashboards. It is critical to know and understand ad serving so that you can maximize ad revenues as a publisher.
4. Display Ads ( display advertising ) Display ads are a term used for traditional banner advertisements that serve on mobile or desktop web pages. Like video ads, many variations, types, and sizes exist.
5. rich media. Advertising appearing in a ‘richer’ form. These units are outside of the standard ad sizes and usually include special placements and movement. Examples of rich media units include skins, sponsor bars, pushdowns, rising stars.

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