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In the heyday of Motorola RAZR, pressing the “web” button on a device brought up to a mobile landing page completely controlled by your carrier. It was unavoidable. Carriers weren’t just the company sending you a bill, they dictated what the first step into the mobile web would look like and filled that space with advertisement. At this time, so-called on-deck advertising was pretty much the only game in town.
Fast-forward over half a decade later. Smartphones reign supreme and carriers are lucky if they even get to brand the device they subsidize for their customers, let alone have access to anything on the device. That means the best days of on-deck advertising — deals cut directly with carriers for placement on their mobile web entry points — are likely going the way of dial-up.
“On-deck advertising largely exists on feature phones,” said Paran Johar, chief marketing officer of Jumptap, a mobile ad network. “As the market goes more toward smartphones, the deck is becoming less relevant.
Loading up the web browser on your smartphone brings up website of choice provided by the platform. iPhone defaults to Apple.com and Android to Google.com. This is the future of the web portal, or rather the closest that there will be to the rebirth of it. Neither site offers a place to advertise, leaving the concept of on-deck lost in the past.
With how open Android is, even with the recent attempts to tighten the reins on what tweaks can be made, a carrier could easily mandate that Android devices initial webpage load directly to its portal. With the power that manufacturers now have and the lack of differences between the devices depending on carrier, it’s unlikely that they’ll go that route.
The simple fact is once people get smartphones, they don’t rely on the walled garden provided by the carrier. They’re more apt to fire up an app store to download specific programs they want. Advertising follows consumer attention — and consumer attention is with apps and the mobile web, not with carrier portals.
‘It’s a walled garden with some content that’s licensed and some that is original,” said Johar, making the comparison to the dial-up Internet services.
While it would seem few would mourn the passing of on-deck advertising, it does have a downside for advertisers in that on-deck advertising provided additional user data directly from carriers. After all, carriers have registration data. This information isn’t available on smartphones unless it’s gathered directly from the mobile website or app.
That portends a future for carriers in the mobile ad ecosystem, according to Johar. Jumptap, which has been a big player in on-deck advertising, has deals with carriers to use their data in other mobile placements.
“The biggest thing to understand for mobile is that its different from the PC.” said Johar, “On the PC you have six different ads on the screen. On mobile it’s a very constant consumption experience. People crave relevancy and it becomes hyper-critical in mobile.”
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