Mobile technology has dramatically changed the way consumers access the Internet, and naturally, advertisers are following suit. Mobile and desktop ad spending are headed in two different directions, with mobile ad spend expected to pass desktop by next year and nearly double it by 2017.
But the mobile ecosystem has been plagued by complexity problems for years -- that’s why year after year you hear the jokes about the “year of mobile” finally arriving.
Spending is a clear indication that advertisers understand the importance of a mobile presence, but necessity doesn’t always go hand-in-hand with ease.
That’s the crucial part for triggering mobile’s growth -- and advertisers’ success. And despite the fact that mobile is almost too complex for advertisers to navigate, now is the time for them to ramp up their investment.
For a good parallel, look to programmatic advertising, where budget investment has grown steadily over the past half decade. Late last year, eMarketer predicted that programmatic would account for half of display advertising by year’s end. Contrast that growth with the fact that about one third of agencies are unsure whether they trust programmatic technology, and you’ll see that growth doesn’t always equate to expertise or comfort.
Programmatic is admittedly hard to understand, and mobile advertising is even more complex and fragmented. Let’s quickly outline some of the parameters that can be used to determine a mobile campaign: geographic data type (IP or GPS), device type, environment (mobile Web versus in-app), and operating system (Android and iOS). Those are the factors that are unique to mobile.
Now layer in a crowded ecosystem of networks and inventory suppliers, as well as measurement tools for in-app and mobile Web tracking. Plus, there’s the existing complexity of ad unit sizes, regional targeting, global reach or deficiencies, and inventory quality. Finally, factor in the existing confusion of programmatic ad buying and partner selection.
That’s a lot of decisions for a marketer or their agency to make, purely from a technological standpoint. I haven’t even factored in consumer data, such as behaviors or unique audience identifiers (which are different from the device identifier). Then there’s strategy, including where the marketer drives traffic from an ad. Is it to a Web site or an app? A drive to purchase or to download? The choices are endless.
Feel overwhelmed yet? My intent here isn’t to throw around a lot of jargon to parody the ecosystem. It’s to show that the level of information and choice can be downright daunting to an entire marketing department, no matter what the level of experience within advertising.
No one would dare argue against the fact that mobile is the future -- it’s a piece that every brand knows they need to explore if they want to stay in front of their audience. But mobile is far more complex than standard desktop advertising, and figuring out the “how” in staying in front of audiences is a mystery right now to many brands.
What we’re seeing right now -- and may still see even with growing ad spend -- is many brands adopting simple strategies that only scratch the surface of what’s possible on the mobile channel, or even staying on the sidelines altogether, waiting for things to sort themselves out.
But it’s highly unlikely that complexity is going anywhere. If anything, the mobile ecosystem could fragment further. While certain aspects are bound to become easier for advertisers, new devices, browsers, apps and operating systems will continue to enter the market and continue its evolution.
None of this is designed to deter advertisers. Mobile requires investment, based on consumer participation alone. What advertisers need are education initiatives and dedicated guides to mobile. This will likely come in the form of dedicated trade groups, as well as partnerships with mobile vendors and agencies.
In the next few years, we are likely to see a rise in mobile marketing standards, the creation of mobile-dedicated agencies, and tech acquisitions by multichannel vendors looking to improve their mobile chops.
The complexity isn’t going away, but the number of solutions and guides will grow as well. Mobile is the future, and it’s happening right now -- the eyeballs are there, and publishers need ad revenue support. Any brand that is hesitating on mobile is better off jumping in right now, because things aren’t going to get any easier any time soon.