How many times this year have you heard some mobile evangelist decry the gap between time spent with mobile and the share of ad spending it gets? Maybe you’ve even found yourself repeating the mantra — stemming from the release of Mary Meeker’s annual Internet report this spring — that mobile attracts 20% of media time in the U.S., but only 4% of the ad dollars.
If you do feel the urge to opine on that topic, don’t do it as part of a pitch for business from hotel chain La Quinta Inn & Suites. “That’ll get you kicked right out of my office,” said Amy Bartle, director, media & digital marketing for La Quinta, in a session at MediaPost’s Mobile Insider Summit in Lake Tahoe on Monday.
She suggested the focus on the quantity of time spent in mobile is too simplistic, with no consideration of the quality of time spent. In that vein, she cited figures that 68% of time with mobile takes place at home, which she said indicates that people are often doing something else while they’re using a mobile device. Furthermore, she said that 80% of mobile use is focused on personal matters rather than in shopping or search.
One study last year by AOL and the University of Virginia found that three-quarters of all mobile ad impressions were viewed within the home, and a quarter of all digital time is spent at home on tablets or cell phones.
Even as the mantra of the mobile advertising gap persists, some observers have pointed out that the direct correlation of media budgets with the proportion of time spent per medium is spurious. Pivotal Research Group’s Brian Wieser wrote in a research note in May: “Whether or not budgets flow to a medium depends on the ad products developed by media owners, the degree to which certain segments of marketers find different ad inventory uniquely impactful in driving marketing goals, and the degree to which ad inventory is bundled together.”
As a result, he reasoned that it’s more likely that time and money will remained mismatched for most media than not. As it is, mobile’s slice of ad spend will likely grow over time, but it won’t necessarily be in lockstep with share of time. By the end of this year, eMarketer projects mobile (smartphones and tablets) will represent 10% of all U.S. media ad spending -- overtaking newspapers, magazines and radio for the first time.
The Mobile Marketing Association two years ago came up with a formulation recommending that mobile spending should make up 7% of media budgets. While the MMA has not updated that figure, a representative for the trade group noted that the report projected that proportion should increase as the installed base of mobile devices increases. Current MMA research with brands including AT&T, MasterCard and Coca-Cola indicates the optimized mix for mobile is higher than 7%.
La Quinta’s Bartle did not reveal how much of the company’s marketing budget goes to mobile, but salespeople pushing the mobile ad gap argument in hopes of generating higher spending are likely to be shown little hospitality.