The nature of mobile advertising has evolved enormously over the past few years. The advancement of phone technology has, in turn, changed the ways in which marketing is produced, presented, and maintained throughout the medium. Mobile advertising employs a number of characteristics that make it distinct from prior forms of marketing. These include mobility, adaptability, accessibility to users, the individuality of consumers, customer behavior and habit information, and interactivity. As a result of this, mobile advertising has also generated the ways in which manipulation has become a prominent element of product and service marketing within these mediums. Mobile advertising is able to manipulate the purchasing habits and behaviors of clients through pseudo-ownership psychology, the implantation of private user data, and the gamification of regular marketing processes. Due to the nature of mobile marketing’s interactivity and access to users despite time and location, the aforementioned strategies are more likely to influence those that are unaware of the manipulations.
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Mobile advertising tactics have been even more effective in terms of manipulation than prior platforms such as television, billboards, or a number of other mediums. The ability to utilize imagery, motion, and sound on a single platform has given mobile advertising flexibility and reach that prior tools were unable to. The prevalence of mobile phones and the time given to using the internet via a phone by users also allows advertisements to access consumers at any time of the day or location. However, it is the advancements of already existing tactics that employ the adaptability of mobile advertising in order to extend consumer manipulation. Primarily, this is seen in the application of pseudo-ownership advertising, which uses language that implies ownership, such as the frequent use of ‘my’, ‘your’, or ‘our’. A study found that the introduction of pseudo-ownership incited purchase intentions, brand choice, and favorable attitudes towards a brand through the manipulation of a consumer’s relationship with said brand or product (Kou & Powpaka, 2021). As such, pseudo-ownership in mobile advertising does not simply exist as a stylistic choice of a marketing direction but as a component of general mobile marketing, with a particular focus on establishing psychological brand ownership and loyalty.
Much of the adaptability and accuracy of mobile advertising is built on the availability of their consumer’s digital patterns and behaviors. They utilize this often private or at least not publicly available information in order to tailor their products or marketing towards particular client populations. Though some may argue that this eases the process of purchasing for clients and makes marketing more direct, a process essentially utilizes the private information of users to manipulate their buying habits. In fact, legal limitations such as the California Consumer Privacy Act exist in order to allow authorities to oversee the types of user data that is gathered, when it is collected, and the ways in which it will be implemented (University of Pennsylvania, 2019). A firm’s continuous access to user information through mobile devices allows them to directly advertise through those mediums, the severity of this manipulation is now becoming more and more monitored by policy as a result. This is due to the very likely chance of privacy breaches and misuse of user data to promote certain products over others. Currently, without the adoption of these guidelines by companies, the continuous harvesting of user data for mobile advertising is likely to remain a prevalent and direct risk to the consumer’s privacy.
Mobile advertising introduced a component to marketing that has rarely been seen prior and has the ability to create an enjoyable process while introducing products to clients. Gamification is a tactic that links elements of games, such as point-scoring or competition, to other unrelated processes. In this case, the implementation of gamification within marketing has been successfully affiliated with mobile advertising, which can be easily turned from purely presentational to interactive. One study that assesses the gamification of loyalty programs through the mobile environment found that even conventional gamified programs of loyalty resulted in increased loyalty and an intention to download the firm’s apps (Hwang & Choi, 2020). Self-oriented rewards presented higher results of consumer involvement. The manipulative aspects of the process become clear when they are directed at certain consumer groups, such as adolescents. The current generation of teenagers and young adults are usually knowledgeable about phones and utilize them frequently. As such, they become prominent targets for advergames, which essentially exist as covert advertisements that offer limited interactive features. However, a study that analyzed phone attachments and the influence of advergames in adolescents found that there were few results on brand response as a result of gamification (Van Berlo et al., 2020). This may suggest that while both groups of adults and adolescents depict traits of phone attachments, those that are better acquainted with modes of mobile advertising manipulations are likely to be less susceptible to it.
There exist arguments that state that the manipulation of choices and decision-making performed by mobile advertisements inherently supports consumer empowerment. This is supported by the notion that the user’s data generates the content, which is then advertised and promoted to them. As such, certain digital marketing specialists claim that data-related decision-making by advertisements is the root of customer empowerment, in opposition to the manipulation that others present it as (Darmody & Zwick, 2020). However, this concept assumes that the entire identity of a user as a consumer exists through their digital footprint, which is false. While a consumer’s data may be a large aspect of their purchasing behavior and habits, both are susceptible to change or incompleteness. As a result, the use of such decision-making tools based on outdated or incomplete data makes mobile advertisements limited and potentially unreliable. The promotion of inadequate products or services is then, by default, a form of manipulation. In fact, the purchasing of the advertised product by a consumer is irrelevant in the analysis of whether such marketing is a manipulation or not. The manipulative nature exists in the inherent process of mobile advertising, which simply generates product content for users despite their intent to purchase.
Through the use of pseudo-ownership, user data, or gamification, mobile advertising is able to establish a marketing process that is effective but inherently manipulative. Pseudo-ownership influences the psychological loyalty and enjoyability of a brand. The collection of user data has severe and possibly legal ramifications if misused by a firm. Gamification applies the interactivity of mobile advertising to increase the use and intent to buy a certain product or service. As such, while certain marketing specialists and consumers may find that these processes eliminate obstacles for customers, it cannot be denied that they are inherently manipulative because of the covert operation of mobile advertisements.
Darmody, Aron, & Detlev Zwick. “Manipulate to empower: Hyper-relevance and the contradictions of marketing in the age of surveillance capitalism.” Big Data and Society, vol. 7, no. 1, 2020, Web.
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Hwang, Jiyoung, & Choi, Laee. “Having fun while receiving rewards?: Exploration of gamification in loyalty programs for consumer loyalty.” Journal of Business Research, vol. 106, no. 1, 2020, pp. 365-376, Web.
Kou, Yan, & Samart Powpaka. “Pseudo-ownership advertising appeal creates brand psychological ownership: the role of self-construal and customer type.” Journal of Product & Brand Management, vol. 30, no. 2, 2021, Web.
Van Berlo, Zeph et al. “Adolescents and handheld advertising: The roles of brand familiarity and smartphone attachment in the processing of mobile advergames.” Journal of Consumer Behavior, vol. 19, no. 5, 2020, Web.
“Your Data Is Shared and Sold, What’s being done about it?” University of Pennsylvania, 2019, Web.