Apple’s announcement of iAd in April 2010 came with much fanfare. It touted a universe of rich, HTML5 ads that behaved like a dedicated ‘microsite’ on a mobile smartphone - specifically, the iPhone. In Jobs-speak, it would be easier for advertisers to reach premium users and make it very easy for agencies to leverage the medium on behalf of large brand advertisers. This was one of my top goals as Head of Product for MyScreen Mobile Inc. back in mid-2008. Our small Toronto startup built a robust ad-targeting platform tethered loyalty rewards, content consumption, and a mobile wallet for subscribers. Funded by Orascom Egypt with a $10m strategic round, we took our mobile marketing platform from a successful market trial with Turkcell to commercialization in Latin America in three markets with Telcel Mexico, Claro Brazil and Claro Argentina.
That was then. This is now.
Every startup idea or innovation is about market-timing. It usually requires a perfect-storm of sorts in terms of scalability, commercialization, consumer interest, and the right mix of technology from devices and networks to lower operating costs to make it all work.
According to IAB, almost $5.3 billion went into mobile advertising in 2011. That’s huge a trend and isn’t something to be ignored if you look at phone ownership vs. computer ownership. Henry Blodget’s own “Future of Mobile” presentation in March 2012 illustrates the trend between feature phones and smartphones in a series of slides that I’ve handpicked for this tumblr post.
The following data points should illustrate the power of mobile (period!) and how it relates to consumption, advertising, and purchasing.
Without any doubt, Ad spend is increasing for mobile and the rise in the global user base is happening in mobile, not fixed broadband Internet use.
Further, the user is consuming more time with media on a mobile device vs. anywhere else. That’s a compelling trend that we can’t ignore.
Clearly, this single slide (above) should highlight where the future flow of money for ad budgets will be. The biggest loser will be TV as more of that ad spend shifts to tablets and other media consumption devices that is trackable for ROI. Unmeasured television (Nielsen Family Ratings) is being decimated by on-demand viewing and to a lesser extent (today, more so) by time-shift programming via personal video recording (PVR) units. Looking at the print media, it spells all but certain death for the printed format as consumers spend more time on the web and mobile. Clearly, the losers will be TV, print and radio. Listen up media buyers and brand advertisers - don’t ignore mobile because it will be your lifeblood like online in the future. You didn’t think those YouTube ads at the beginning were doing badly, did you?
What about PCs vs. smartphones vs. Tablets? It’s not surprising that some research analysts are now ranking Apple as the top platform manufacturer for devices when the iPad is included in their data. Looking at the next slide, it seems quite obvious where things are headed. THIN CLIENT COMPUTING.
Sure, Microsoft worked on a tablet early on - c. 2000. Sure, Apple had a Newton MessagePad too. But a lot of things were missing back then. Ubiquitous cheap connectivity, content ecosystems, scalable social networks, sharing, and powerful computing that could enable consumers to do a lot more of their simpler daily tasks on anything but a personal computer. Heck, the concept of the “portable computer” did not even hit mainstream until the Compaq Portable II hit the market in 1986. Once again, this all falls back on the idea of market-timing and the “perfect storm”. So while Microsoft, Apple and mainly others dabbled with concepts early on, these concepts were far too ahead of their time. Apple, in fact, played the right game by releasing the iPhone first (vs. iPad) because it created a paradigm shift in how smartphone U/X should be. Apple then released the iPad (three years later) to much success, supported by a large existing base of customers (users!), a healthy developer base, and a robust content ecosystem which continually drives device sales today.
Looking deeper, mobile marketing is just at the starting line in terms of growth opportunity. Why? Because we haven’t fully moved away from the “dumb/feature phone” in North America and globally. For mobile advertising to be successful, the entire global population of mobile users needs to shift to the “smartphone” after Apple helped kick-start with its iPhone introduction in 2007. Look at the next two slides. Major opportunity before us!
Clearly, we still have some more time for the conversion away from feature to smartphone takes full effect. ”Smartphone penetration” across age groups is already happening but it will reach all consumers, in all age groups, with time. See this slide.
IAB’s own metrics highlight how mobile ad spend was placed globally in 2011. Clearly, North America leads the charge followed by Asia-Pacific and Europe when it comes to “display advertising” on mobile.
In June 2012, Dick Costolo, Twitter CEO confirmed that on some days, mobile ads outspent web ads in the past quarter. How did they make this money? In the form of promoted Tweets and hashtags paid for by advertisers. Naturally, we’d all expect this since twitter really is a mobile product — I rarely use my desktop client anymore to engage with others or to curate information.
This is in starkly different than Facebook’s own experience which, not surprisingly (for me), deeply affected their IPO launch. What were they thinking when they released forecasts about their advertising revenue knowing full well that a greater portion of their users were accessing the devices through a smartphone? Duh! The Facebook mobile app (iOS and Blackberry - both platforms I use today) do not have any inkling of advertising to show for. In 2011, Facebook earned 85% of its $3.7 billion from advertising revenue - none of it from mobile. To add salt to their wounds, 425 million of the total 845 million monthly active users in December 2011 accessed the Facebook platform through a mobile handset. Unbelievable how they could mess this one up. It’s not like they didn’t have time to figure this out or something.
At D10, Mary Meeker did paint a less rosy picture for mobile advertising with one slide. Interestingly, the weather category dominated the mobile eCPM bucket against all other categories.
We shouldn’t be concerned though. The business models for mobile ads haven’t been fully figured out. The same happened back in the dot-com days when I worked for a leading financial portal called StockHouse.com. At the time, online ad models weren’t defined, metrics was shoddy, and the value proposition was a tough one to sell in a world born with unmeasured television and radio media. Today, online advertising is tried, tested, true and measurable. Unfortunately, everyone is trying to still figure out the model for mobile advertising based on user interaction, use frequency, and format (device/smartphone). Even Meeker is optimistic about mobile advertising, claiming the mobile world is far more sophisticated than the folks that tried to monetize the desktop web in the 1990s. She may be right.
We will be ready for mobile advertising. It will arrive. And like every new trend before it, the right mix of ingredients will need to come together to make the perfect recipe for success. At the Mobile World Congress 2012 in Barcelona, I personally saw three key trends from a macro-perspective.
- Mobile advertising
- Mobile payments
- Data Visualization and Analysis (Deep Network Inspection)
Source: Business Insider