How to lose 69% of your audience.

The inimitable Mitch Wagner posted an item on Facebook earlier about a study Google conducted on the audience impact of interstitial advertising in mobile environments. Particularly, Google was promoting their Google+ native app to users of Google+ on mobile devices via a full page interstitial ad.

We all know these ads. You click to go somewhere and, instead of going there, you are presented with an ad for something else. Generally, the ad will have some sort of “skip” mechanism to allow you to continue with the site but sometimes they are timed so the ad must sit on screen for a certain number of seconds.

These ads are particularly odious. They violate the “don’t make me think” rule. They take time. They are a vestige of interruption-based marketing. In a mobile environment, they are particularly hated because they also take time from the user which translates pretty directly into costs. But, marketers love them because they have healthy click-through rates.

interstitial-studyThe Google study is innovative because it exposed the three possible outcomes from an interstitial ad:

  • 9% clicked through on the ad
  • 22% continued with the mobile site
  • 69% aborted the mobile site


Anybody involved with online advertising would see that 9% click-through rate with wide open eyes and libido on fire. In a world where a half a percent click through is considered good, 9% is a mind-boggling result.

But with 69 out of 100 users aborting the site, it’s impossible to defend that 9% as being good business. It seems that one very effective way to suppress your user base is to run interstitial ads.

What’s more, the Google study makes a few additional points about that 9% that are worth bearing in mind.

1. Some of those people who clicked through were already app users
2. Not all of the clicks resulted in actual downloads

Also, a point not mentioned in the study but worth paying attention to is that it’s impossible to say how many of the people who clicked on the ad did so inadvertently. In other words, trying to stick with the mobile site, these users accidentally ended up on the app download page. You can be sure that they can be added to the 69% who abandoned the site altogether.

Interestingly, eMarketer scored the effectiveness of various mobile advertising types and mobile interstitials did not do well.



When deciding how to monetize traffic, it’s important to weigh the various outcomes together. Now we have some data on the impact Is it really worth losing 69% of your visitors outright to convert a potential 9% to the native app version?

Unfortunately, the division of labor at many organizations make it difficult to view the three numbers together.