Yahoo logoYahoo wants a bigger chunk of the mobile ad market, and the company’s trying to grab it by rolling out a trio of new ad units. 

But Yahoo isn’t
trying to steal marketshare from rivals like Google (with AdMob), or
Apple (with Quattro). The target is an even greater behemoth: TV.

It’s a lofty goal, given that TV still takes the lion’s share of ad budgets in the US. But Yahoo is offering up some viewing research to support its efforts:

Viewers multi-task during commercials

Yahoo found that TV viewers tune out ads – even during some of the most highly-rated events – and consume quick bites of digital content. Take the most recent Oscars:

During the 2010 Oscars, traffic on the Yahoo! Mobile site increased an average of 12% while TV ads were airing … our users were searching 13% more than they normally did, and checking and sending 6% more email.

Meanwhile, ads during the World Cup Finals didn’t seem much more compelling: 

For the 2010 World Cup Finals, traffic on the Yahoo! Mobile Front Page increased an average of 10% during commercials … Activity on Yahoo! Mobile News spiked by 57% … Mobile users searched on Yahoo! Search 12% more.

The sales pitch?

Catch those viewers that TV is losing by running mobile ads during those special events. (With 49 million monthly mobile uniques, Yahoo’s mobile ad network can deliver TV-size scale.) It’s the same pitch that companies like Glam Media have capitalized on in the past. (Glam hosted a Twitter-based ad format during the 2009 Oscars, and got cosmetics brand Aveeno to sponsor it.) 

The ad units

Yahoo has three new ad units aimed at turning those “TV tune out” moments into marketing opportunities:

•    Yahoo! Mobile Screen Takeover ads are custom units designed with engagement in mind. The ad stays with users as they scroll up and down the page.
•    Yahoo! Mobile Customized Expandable ads cover two-thirds of the screen, providing advertisers with the space to incorporate lead-capture tools, sophisticated graphics, social engagement features, polls and other options.
•    iPad Tap to Video ads (pictured below) are banner ads that mobile users can tap to expand, unveiling a full canvas.

Yahoo iPad ad

The caveat

First, I think it’s great that Yahoo has ventured onto the iPad; it adds to the roster of options marketers have for reaching users on the device. (It could also bode well for a future tablet-based ad platform from Yahoo, since the tablet market continues to expand.) 

But the premise behind the two other mobile ad units is a bit worrisome. Both Yahoo’s Screen Takeover and Mobile Customized Expandable ads have the potential to annoy users. Takeovers and expandables are disruptive enough when viewers see them on the web; the smaller screens of mobile devices may make them unbearable. 

It’s worth noting that the expandable, interactive ads are increasingly being
launched by other mobile content and ad networks, and Yahoo tells mocoNews that the expansions will be handled “tastefully.”

Still, users are clearly tuning out of TV because of the ad onslaught. If Yahoo bombards them with intrusive ads on its mobile properties, the company may find that users actually start tuning out from its mobile content, too.