Mobile advertising genie may finally be out of the bottle


There are many people who still have their doubts about mobile advertising. They point to the smaller screen, the very personal nature of the device, and the sea of advertising we encounter everywhere else in life as reasons why mobile and advertising don’t make for easy bedfellows.

I can see their point. When mobile advertising is both untargeted to the user and untailored to the device to which it is delivered, it’s nothing other than annoying. Despite the reservations, however, look at the numbers: Mobile advertising seems to be powering ahead.

In the UK, according to the latest Digital Adspend report from the Internet Advertising Bureau UK (IAB), conducted by PwC, spending on mobile advertising reached £429.2 million in the first half of 2013, compared to £188.1 million in the first half of 2012. This is not too far short of the total 2012 figure of £526 million.

When you look at those 2012 figures, you see almost two-thirds of mobile ad spend came in the second six months of the year. And, if we had the breakdown, no doubt the few weeks around Christmas would be responsible for a disproportionate amount of that. Which means, if the trend is repeated, that total UK mobile ad spend for 2013 could be around £1.3 billion.

This is a remarkable figure when you consider that just five years ago, in 2008, it was only £28.6 million. Between 2008 and 2009, there was only modest growth, to £37.6 million, but every year since then, UK mobile ad spend has more than doubled.

So the rate of growth is exponential, and it’s being fuelled by the rapidly increasing maturity of mobile as an advertising medium, which manifests itself in many ways.

  • First, the devices: The days when mobile as a medium meant just phones are long gone. Tablets are now an important part of the mobile marketing landscape and, with their large screens, offer brands an attractive canvas on which to paint their pictures and tell their stories.

    And tablets are not the end of the story. Think smart TVs, wearables, mobile notice boards, and whatever other blueprints the product design teams are working up.

  • Secondly, the networks. As 4G services roll out around the world, it’s becoming possible for brand advertisers to deliver rich video content to mobile devices with increased confidence that it’s going to deliver an experience the consumer will enjoy.

  • These first two, the devices and the networks, give birth to the third factor: the increasing use of video in mobile advertising. Companies are realising mobile can be as much of a branding medium as TV or print, but with the added potential for interactivity and location awareness.

In fact, video advertising grew by 86% year-on-year to £135.2 million in the first half of 2013. Over the last three years, video ad spend has increased almost six-fold, while in the last year, video’s share of online and mobile display has grown from 12% in the first half of 2012, to 18% in the first half of 2013.

Looked at on a global basis, mobile advertising’s growth is no less impressive. Figures released by Zenith Optimedia at the end of September forecast a 77% growth in mobile ad spend this year, to reach US$14.3 billion (£8.86 billion).

For the first few years of its life, mobile advertising was a pure performance medium. The performance advertisers, to be fair, have become more sophisticated in their use of the medium and in the way they filter their audience to target specific segments.

But it’s the bigger budgets from mainstream brands that I believe are fueling the massive growth being seen in mobile advertising.

Every year at Mobile Marketing magazine, we run the Effective Mobile Awards. And every year since we started the awards, the category drawing the largest number of entrants has been for the Most Effective Mobile Application.

This year, for the first time, the biggest category was for the Most Effective Mobile Advertising Campaign. And in addition to the entries from the mobile specialists, who have been with us from the beginning, there was notable involvement of mainstream media agencies, the likes of Mindshare and Manning Gottlieb OMD.

Perhaps, finally, the mobile advertising genie really is out of the bottle.

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