The birth of television over 50 years ago kicked off the trend of viewing media on small screens. Today, 90% of American media consumption is done on screens totaling over 4 hours spent daily across phones, tablets, TVs, and laptops.
If we look at smartphones alone, we are currently at 56% penetration in the US. It makes sense that advertisers are increasingly viewing mobile as not only an experimental part of the budget, but as a valid force of its own. In fact, an August 2013 eMarketer study estimates that mobile will capture almost half of total digital ad spend in North America by 2017. Indeed, mobile usage is rapidly taking over as a standard way of life. Consumers transition seamlessly from device to device over the course of the day — they may start a search on a smartphone, switch to a laptop to read more information on a larger screen, then finish the task on their tablet as they head out the door.
The technologies powering this multi-screen revolution are converging to form a new, more engaging advertising experience, and publishers, brands, and media companies are fighting for a stake in the new digital landscape. Fortunately, the signs point to a flourishing mobile advertising industry. Consumers spend about 18% of their time on mobile devices using Facebook. A year ago, Facebook made virtually no money from mobile advertising. This year, however, Facebook reported that it earned approximately 40% of its Q2 revenue from mobile. By Q3, mobile comprised a staggering 49% of the company’s advertising revenue. Facebook’s rapid mobile ad revenue growth is a promising sign that time spent on mobile leads to corresponding advertising revenue and consumer engagement.
Although the majority of mobile ad inventory is in the form of static banners, Facebook and other publishers are increasingly turning away from traditional banner ads when it comes to mobile. On a desktop, traditional banner ads can be a nuisance, but most consumers have learned to ignore them. But on a mobile device, banner ads can be highly disruptive, as they demand valuable real estate on the small screen. As expected, mobile click-through rates are low, between 0.1% and 0.5%.
Mobile is a nascent category, so it makes sense that advertisers and publishers are still figuring out how to monetize. There are a few key trends.
First, we will see more in-stream, native ads that are embedded into publisher sites. Native ads are less intrusive to the user experience, are designed with the rest of the site in mind, and are often content-rich — all of which make them less likely to be ignored by users. According to a recent study by Solve Media, 20% of publishers are expected to offer native ad products this year.
Second, there will be a shift from prioritizing passive impressions to active engagement via interactive rich media that fully takes advantage of the unique offerings of mobile. A study by Berg Insight found that location-enabled ad spend reached about 8% of total mobile ad spend for 2012, and is expected to quadruple to 33% by 2017.
For example, mobile makes geolocation more accessible. Mobile coupons are being used across the gamut in retail: 41% of mobile coupons users said they had redeemed coupons at the grocery store, 41% said they redeemed coupons at department stores, and 39% at clothing stores. Target is an example of a retailer that sends coupons to shoppers as soon as they enter a store.
Third, campaigns must be integrated and cross-screen, so brands can reach customers wherever they are, on whichever device they are using. For example, Walmart utilizes a diverse toolset to target customers with mobile applications, mobile web, digital coupons, augmented reality, mobile barcodes, mobile advertising, display advertising, social media, location-based services, and push notifications.
Meanwhile, Coca-Cola promotes search engine results for restaurants that offer deals on Coke, and prints special bottle caps that ask people to send text messages in order to win a prize. In addition, ads have to load across all devices, and that means a shift to HTML5 versus outdated Flash that won’t load on iPads and iPhones. Brands like L’Oreal are trialing HTML5 to enable ads to run seamlessly over multiple devices.
And finally, advertising in a multi-screen world also means that ads on various devices should complement each other. For example, a recent study by Nielsen found that 45% of people used their mobile devices to access social networking sites while watching TV, and 22% looked up coupons or deal related to ads they saw during a commercial break. The fact that consumers are engaging with the same brand on multiple screens at the same time is a new opportunity to create a holistic experience at each touchpoint.
For example, the Nike Greatness campaign during the 2012 Olympics debuted with the brand’s usual television spots and encouraged folks to share their achievements on Twitter with the hashtag #findyourgreatness. The ads led to a series of digital missions that users were encouraged to complete, then share their achievements with friends via a microsite and social media. User footage was then aggregated into the Nike+ Fuelstream, a curated social media experience of Instagram photos, tweets, and promotional material embedded across multiple Nike sites.
The multi-screen revolution is in full swing, and despite a general reluctance to embrace mobile advertising, more brands and publishers recognize the potential of the channel to offer relevance for consumers and deliver value for advertisers. By catering to consumers in the way that they now consume content, brands can leverage multi-screen touchpoints to transform media engagement to become more personalized, interactive, and ultimately, more interesting for the user.