Victor Vernilli


Time to place

Mobile Ads


Improve people’s experience on mobile ads, using context elements from around them. Generating an improve in interest and performance, in addition to decrease the dislike for ads.


During years - since advertisers discovered that internet could be a new platform for media - brands used the digital to advertise themselves without any care to people’s experience. But not only advertisers had this impression, publishers and developers always wanted to increase their revenue, even so their first response was to make it difficult for users to close the ads, generating misclicks or fake-clicks.

These two groups have complementary interests, the first wants to pay for advertising spaces and the other wants get paid for their spaces. But there is a group even more interested, the users who will receive these ads.

This behavior - from advertisers and publishers - generates in people a dislike, even hate, of mobile ads and ads in general, most people say the feeling related to ads is ‘hate’. So the ideal solution would be to improve the user’s experience, making the brand more well-seen and the publishers increasing their monetization in his/her app.

So I created a hypothesis: What if ads that included contextual information increased performance and improved the experience? Would it work both digitally and physically? Is there a way, and how would it be feasible, to add this contextual information in ads?


Research and Ideation

With the problem in hands, I started talking with mobile-ads professionals to understand some market problems, I interviewed both advertisers and publishers.

I found out the main problem: the content that users receive and the way it’s delivered. Many times the ads were about products or services that made no sense for them. And even in cases that received ads were about things they liked, the ads weren't clear or lacked personalized information.

Sketch of some ideas for Time to Place

Sketch of some ideas for Time to Place

Then I started to elaborate this idea and search forms to include the context in ads, making them personalized for each people. There are two main kinds of contexting: digital and physical. In the first case the information and behavior used are found in the real world; The other case is utilizing data and behavior in the digital world. I chose the first one because I would use a geolocation-based ad-network to deliver my test ads.

Even with some ideas in mind, I organized some talks with friends and colleagues to discuss a little more about the theme and to discover possible new ideas. I listed some ways to use context: time, distance, weather, the day of the week, etc. With these in hands, I went on to identify ways to apply each them.

Some aplications forms of Time to Place Some aplications forms of Time to Place

Some aplications forms of Time to Place


The most interesting and quick to validate was the time context. The main goal was to show - in a visual way - the person an estimated time between the user and the point of sale (POS). I called this idea Time to Place or TTP. Some ad networks - Google, for example - already have a similar feature: after the user clicks in the ad, it opens the maps app showing the POS location.

I wanted to identify if the inclusion of a simple phrase as "only 5 minutes away" could be powerful, grabbing people’s attention. It was necessary to find the best form to add this kind of context. Including subtly and without taking the focus off the product, because the product still should be the focus of attention.

In this research, real campaigns from real brands were used, because the objective was to test this context addition in the real market ecosystem, with no fake brands and campaigns.


After all the concept steps, it was time to develop the ads. So a rich media ad was created, one that would be capable to identify and estimate the time between user and POS. It was possible to create the rich media structure using HTML, CSS, and JS.

Two ad types were developed: interstitial and small banner. Interstitial ads are ads that fill all the device’s screen, giving more possibilities for creators. The small banners are the most popular ones. They are small ads that appear generally at screen corners. Because of that those small banners are ignored - consciously or not - many times by users, a problem called banner blindness.


The tests took two weeks because I wanted to compare the original ads’ performance with the ones that had a time context included. The period of two weeks was important because it avoided a seasonal behavior by users during the week compared to weekends. In general, there were almost 375 thousand views, divided between 190 thousand and 184 thousand of versions with and without TTP, respectively.

On the following paragraphs it's possible to check the most important data for a mobile ad.

The CTR - Click Through Rate - measures the user's interest for an ad, it's one of the most important metrics in digital ads. It's calculated by dividing the total number of clicks by the number of views, it goes from 0% to 100%. Each ad format has an expected CTR number, but for various reasons - which included the rejection by users - this metrics generally don't reach 4%.

It's possible to identify the increase in results of tests on the ads’ CTR performance. The numbers raised more than 30% and 27% in the interstitial and small banner, respectively. In addition, the number of visits at POS increased for ads that received the TTP.

Thus I identified that the addition of context can be a new solution for increasing the digital ad results, in addition, it can improve the impression that people have about digital ads.