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Q&A with Brian Colbert, Chief Revenue Officer, About.com on Mobile Advertising Innovation

February 10, 2014 | By Michelle Manafy, Editorial Director – DCN @michellemanafy
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This Q&A is part of OPA’s “Three on Three” series where we ask three industry executives the same three questions on a topic to uncover actionable insights… If you want to learn more, keep an eye out on our site for more interviews. Today’s Three on Three is with Brian Colbert, CRO, About.com

Brian Colbert HeadshotQ: In mobile advertising, what is the most important thing to consider?

A: From an ad creative standpoint, there is still a tendency for advertisers to cram too much information into too small of a space on mobile. While phone screen sizes have increased over the years, they still pale in comparison to desktops and always will. The hardest thing for advertisers to accept in mobile advertising is that “less is more”. Be quirky, be relevant, be interesting but most importantly, be concise.

Secondly, it is still baffling the amount of blue-chip national brands that don’t have mobile websites. Consumers have grown to expect mobile-optimized experiences and advertisers risk damaging their brand image if their mobile experiences are not up to par.

Lastly, brands need to realize that mobile is the primary digital platform now. It’s a mobile world and brand strategies need to adapt faster to harness the full capabilities of the mobile platform.

Q: Describe one of your recent or forthcoming mobile campaigns that you think is particularly innovative:

A: We continue to iterate on our mobile platform with new ad executions, but one that has proven to be extremely effective is having our 320×50 ad unit stay fixed on the screen as the user scrolls. Because our content is long-form in nature and requires a lot of scrolling, we felt that having the banner disappear as the user scrolls, which is fairly typical with the mobile web, was not the optimal ad experience. We feel we have achieved a good balance of providing an impactful mobile ad unit for our advertisers yet not disrupting the content experience for our users.

Q: What is working in mobile advertising and what do we need more of in order to drive success in this area?

A: More and more advertisers are beginning to take advantage of mobile rich media and some executions that leverage the functionality of the phone—GPS, accelerometer, touchscreen—have made the ads much more fun and engaging than their desktop counterparts. If done well, mobile ads can actually enhance the user experience.

But the balance that publishers and advertisers need to keep in mind is that there’s fine line between “engaging” and “intrusive”. The use-case for mobile often differs than desktop and users are less inclined to tolerate ads that disrupt their user experience since they are often on-the-go and under greater time constraints.


Brian Colbert is the Chief Revenue Officer for About.com, where he oversees premium and programmatic sales, ad ops, sales development and yield management. Prior to joining About.com in October of 2013, Brian was Vice President of Mobile Advertising Sales at Pandora. Previously, he was the Senior Director of Mobile Advertising Sales and Strategy at ESPN. Brian has a B.A. in Political Science from Duke University and an MBA from New York University’s Stern School of Business in Finance and Strategy.


Note: This Q&A is part of OPA’s “Three on Three” series where we ask three industry executives the same three questions on a topic to uncover actionable insights.

Also in this series:

Q&A with Sol Masch, Director of Mobile Sales & Strategy, Time Inc. on Mobile Ad Innovation

Q&A with Joe D. Weir, VP of Digital, A.H. Belo on Mobile Advertising Innovation

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