Every year, for the last 3 years, the pundits have been predicting The Year of Mobile. What exactly were they talking about? Does “the year of mobile” refer to digital advertising and the growth of mobile advertising?
I’m not so sure that we have seen that year just yet. The adoption of mobile usage, and in particular, mobile internet usage, however have certainly exploded.
Recently the OPA commissioned a study to determine the attitudes and behaviours of smartphone users. The study found that 68% of smartphone owners report that they “cannot live without” their smartphone, and 93% of smartphone users access content and information above any other activity, demonstrating that content consumption continues to dominate smartphone usage.
Smartphone adoption has risen from 31% in 2011 (73 million smartphone users) to 44% in 2012 (107 million smartphone users), and is projected to hit 57% in 2013 (142 million smartphone users). These figures are staggering, and I’d say “the year of mobile consumption” has absolutely arrived.
I am surprised, however, by the slow adoption rates of mobile advertising. The screens are now bigger, better, and fully interactive and, with consumption rising so dramatically, what on earth is the hold up? Despite the efforts of many large companies such as Apple and Google, and many upstarts like Jumptap, Velti, and Millennial, I see a few issues that are hindering smartphone adoption among marketers:
1. Is it 1999 all over again? Back in the late nineties Web advertising was just getting its legs. Ad units were both small and ugly (the tiny 468×60 comes to mind); and, slow connection speeds (thank you dial-up!) gave meaning to the infamous term: “World Wide Wait.” Everything about advertising was a challenge. File sizes were restricted to 10k or less, animation was still a thing of the future, and most ads didn’t even link to the marketer’s web site. Back then, most marketers simply put a brochure online and called it advertising.
Similarly, the mobile web today is slow (although getting better with 4G and wifi access points) and advertisers are focused on building out apps or HTML5 mobile sites to enable customers to engage with branded content. These are requirements for sure. Why advertise if you don’t have some compelling content to engage with?
2. Mobile ad formats lack standardization. We see many versions of creative formats in mobile advertising today, and no standard yet exists for building and delivering these units at scale across the various devices, screen sizes, and capabilities available. This presents a real issue for the creative shop trying to create consistent messaging and deploy ads quickly. Obviously, each vendor you work with will have a recommended set of creative formats, but there are limitations that arise when you stretch your plan beyond publishers that are certified. In order to enable scaled buying, it is essential that app developers and mobile websites adapt a simplified and standardized set of engaging ad units. Once this happens, and we solve for the device support issues (iOS vs Android and soon Windows Mobile,) true creative design can begin to take shape.
3. Limited targeting and tracking. For mobile to capture its fair share of ad spend it will need to easily enable the same level of targeting that we find on the web. Additionally, mobile campaigns must be easily integrated, measured, and managed holistically across platforms so that users are not overwhelmed with the same message again and again on PC, Mobile, and Video. This cross platform management is a critical step for brands. Hyper-local targeting was the big discussion last year when everyone thought it would change the face of advertising.
Indeed, there are some interesting applications for geo-fencing, but mostly I’d say consumers find the practice a bit creepy and would rather see such targeting used when they engage with a retailer or app directly. Geo-targeting works best when it offers added value to the consumer. But don’t randomly alert me with a banner just because I’m walking past a Starbucks—I may be in the area, but I am not necessarily in the mood for coffee.
We clearly have our work cut out for us to overcome many of these obstacles. The good news is that there are companies and industry groups working tirelessly to solve these problems for us. I expect 2013 will be the real year of mobile advertising, and will have a major impact on how media is planned and bought. More on that topic soon. What do you think?
The views expressed here reflect the views of the author alone, and do not necessarily reflect the views of 24/7 Media, its affiliates, subsidiaries or its parent company, WPP plc.
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