Programmatic, Not Mobile, Drives Ad Growth

Mobile advertising jumped 145% to $3 billion in the first half of 2013, generating fresh buzz around the rapidly growing ad medium. There's nothing like a nice round billion-dollar spending figure to lend a sense of legitimacy to an emerging ad platform.

Mobile also accounted for 16% of the $20 billion in digital ad dollars in the first half of 2013 -- putting it under the heading of significant minority, the IAB report shows.

Beyond that, it’s hard to tell much because the IAB, in partnership with PricewaterhouseCoopers, still isn’t breaking out mobile ad dollars after first reporting spending for the category in April 2011. Doing so would provide deeper insight about trends and strategies within mobile advertising, and how higher mobile spending affects the broader digital ad landscape.



In a research note this week, Pivotal Research Group senior analyst Brian Wieser acknowledged that the IAB figures suggest “meaningful acceleration” in mobile spending levels, but said the lack of more detailed data leaves unanswered questions about underlying patterns. He noted that virtually all spending on paid search goes to Google, and search ad buyers make no distinction between whether a campaign is delivered in mobile or the desktop.

A growing number of display marketers also aren’t differentiating between mobile or desktop buys, partly because big publishers like Facebook placing ads wherever they determine they will perform most effectively. That said, Facebook reported last quarter that 41% of its ad sales came from mobile, underscoring its importance.

“As little mobile advertising occurs today solely because a marketer wants to reach consumers in mobile environments, fuller assessments of the state of the industry are somewhat limited by the data as the IAB presents it,” wrote Wieser. For its part, the IAB said in response to an Online Media Daily query that it plans to break out mobile advertising into different formats “in the near future,” without providing more detail.

Even without that information, Wieser uses the IAB numbers to suggest the surge in mobile advertising may not be driving the overall 18% growth in Internet advertising in the second quarter. He estimates that mobile and desktop search combined grew at a 12% clip in the second quarter, implying that non-search digital media grew 24% year-over-year.

“This would represent the fastest sustained rate of growth the industry has experienced since some time in 2006 or 2007, when the industry was half of its present size,” he wrote. But his analysis argues that mobile per se isn’t driving the bulk of growth. Rather, the report points to the rise of programmatic trading as playing a key role.

In addition to Google and Facebook, a new crop of programmatic players, including Mediamath, Turn, Rubicon, Pubmatic and AppNexus, along with next-generation ad networks, such as Criteo and Rocket Fuel, “may be capturing the bulk of new money advertisers and spending with digital media,” wrote Wieser.

“While it's guesswork on our part, it seems a more plausible assessment than any notion that goals associated with mobile marketing might be driving the growth that the industry is reporting.” The IAB also doesn’t break out the share of online ad dollars that programmatic buying accounts for.

1 comment about "Programmatic, Not Mobile, Drives Ad Growth".
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  1. Anni Paul from BoscoSystems, October 13, 2013 at 12:42 a.m.

    Programmatic is big, I won't argue there, but there are many, many components driving mobile advertising's growth, not the least of which is native advertising. I think that's the next big thing...

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