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13 November 2012

The year of the mobile? Next year. Maybe. Perhaps.


By Larry Allen (Real Media Group)

Pretty much every January since 2006, someone in the advertising sector has gone on record predicting that ‘this will be the year of Mobile’. And pretty much every December, the industry has looked back and thought to itself, ‘Errr...nope, that wasn’t it’.

Larry Allen blog post

There’s no doubt that mobile usage, and in particular, mobile internet usage, have exploded.  According to research from Strategy Analytics, the number of global smartphone users went past one billion for the first time at the end of the third quarter of 2012. And a recent study by the Online Publishers Association (OPA) in the US 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.

So, it’s probably fair to say that "the year of mobile consumption" has definitely arrived. 

However, the adoption rates of mobile advertising are not nearly as impressive. The screens are now bigger, better and fully interactive, so with consumption soaring so dramatically what on earth is the hold up? Despite the efforts of many major brands to kick start the mobile advertising revolution, it seems that there are three key factors still holding us back:

1. Advertise like it is 1999: Back in the late nineties, web advertising was just starting to develop. Ad units were both small and ugly and slow connection speeds (thanks to dial-up modems) led to the infamous term “World Wide Wait”. Everything about digital 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 back to the marketer’s web site.  Back then, most marketers simply put their brochure online and called it advertising.

Similarly, the mobile web today is noticeably slow (although getting better with the promise of 4G and an increasing number of Wi-Fi access points) and so advertisers are focused on building apps or HTML5 mobile sites to enable customers to engage with branded content. Why advertise if you don’t have some compelling content with which to engage – and why bother with an incredibly impressive ad if it won’t load in time to be seen?

2. A lack of standardisation: We see many different creative formats in mobile advertising today, and yet no industry-wide standard exists for building and delivering these units at scale across all the various devices, screen sizes, and capabilities available.

This presents a real issue for creative agencies trying to create consistent messaging and deploy ads quickly on mobiles. Each vendor they work with will have a recommended set of creative formats, but limitations 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 standardised set of engaging ad units. Once this happens, and we solve the device support issues (iOS versus Android versus Windows Mobile), true creative design can begin to take shape.    

3. 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 advertisers 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 their PC, their mobile and video.

This cross-platform management is a critical step for brands. Hyper-local targeting was the big discussion last year and geo-targeting works best when it offers added value to the consumer. But that doesn’t mean they should randomly alert customers with a banner just because they’re walking past a Starbucks — they may be in the area but they’re not necessarily in the mood for coffee. 

Thankfully, there are companies and industry groups working tirelessly to solve these problems – and to create a mobile advertising environment that works for all brands and publishers across all platforms. So perhaps 2013 will be the year of mobile advertising after all; that would be a nice change of pace.


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