Mike Isaac

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The Biggest Challenge for Mobile Ads? Showing That They Work.

spillman_spero1Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: We’re shifting from desktop computing to a mobile world.

Cool for phone sales (see Apple and Samsung)! Not so cool, however, for ad sales execs, who have spent the past two decades trying to sell Web real estate to advertisers. Now they’ve got to figure out how to sell that space on even smaller screens.

Enter Google’s Jason Spero and Millennial Media’s Mollie Spilman, two of the people charged with figuring out how to usher in (read: sell) a new era of online advertising.

The biggest problem? Helping advertisers see when their mobile ads are actually working.

“Until you can show [that tracking connection], they’re not going to pay as much for it,” Google’s Spero said at our D: Dive Into Mobile conference. “We’re investing heavily in helping people track the value.”

It’s obviously not a Google-only problem. Others, especially Facebook and Twitter, are trying to figure out ways to tie things like tweets and shares directly to consumer activity, and to show just how far something like a promoted tweet really goes for an advertiser willing to shell out a hundred grand on it.

It’s also likely the reason that advertisers aren’t willing to spend as much on a mobile ad compared to, say, a desktop ad or traditional media ads in print or on TV.

“Sometimes [advertiser activity] is coming from this test sort of mentality,” Spilman said.

Ever the optimists, Spilman and Spero are confident that things are looking up. “It’s becoming more mainstream and mandatory that mobile is part of the marketing budget or media spend,” Spilman said.

The best way to build on that, Spero said, is ultimately to make the tools to figure out if it’s actually working better over time.

“We have a responsibility that our customers can attribute the maximum amount of what they’re buying … and to make that scalable,” Spero said.

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There’s a lot of attention and PR around Marissa, but their product lineup just kind of blows.

— Om Malik on Bloomberg TV, talking about Yahoo, the September issue of Vogue Magazine, and our overdependence on Google