Commentary

Tell The IAB What You're Spending In Mobile

SmartPhone-Horiz

The IAB for the first time included an estimate of mobile ad spending in its annual report of online ad revenue, signaling a new level of recognition for the medium. That step followed the IAB's creating a Mobile Marketing Center of Excellence in December, to help encourage the growth of the emerging category through training and education programs and consumer research.

Still, the mobile ad estimate released this week highlighted how far mobile still has to go to approach the current level of Internet spending. The latter rebounded in 2010, growing 15% to $26 billion. Mobile ad dollars were estimated at $550 million to $650 million, equal to less than 5% of that total. That spans spending across mobile search, messaging, display (both mobile Web and in-app placements) and sponsorships.

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The IAB said it based the figure mainly on publicly available information and industry research, rather than survey-based data collected by research partner PricewaterhouseCoopers, as with the online spending data. In its year-end report, and during the conference call discussing the results, the group urged "sellers of mobile advertising" to lend greater support to its research to help the IAB develop an "accurate, independent, authoritative market sizing of the industry."

Hopefully, over time the IAB will get more input from mobile industry stakeholders to chart spending on a quarterly and annual basis as it does with online ad dollars. Whatever one thinks of the IAB methodology for tracking online spending, its figures are widely cited in connection with Internet ad spending. Extending the imprimatur of the IAB to estimates of mobile ad revenue would only help boost its legitimacy as an ad medium.

Much of the metrics around mobile advertising today come from a variety of mobile ad networks including Millennial Media, Mojiva and InMobi. Given the fragmented nature of mobile to begin with, having a single, independent standard for tracking mobile ad spending would be especially welcome.

An IAB spokesperson said today the organization would like to break out more details on mobile ad spending as part of its Internet Ad Revenue Report, published twice a year. But that depends on "PwC getting more and broader support from ad sales organizations, which we hope will happen as the market grows," noted the IAB official. The group doesn't project spending figures, but eMarketer this week forecast U.S. mobile ad revenue would crack $1 billion for the first time in 2011. A year from now, the IAB will presumably report what was actually spent.

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