The One Slide From Mary Meeker That (Still) Makes No Sense At All

Last week, somewhat lost in the FIFA farce, KPCB’s oracle spoke: Mary Meeker presented her annual “Internet Trends” report. This report is highly anticipated each year, and is perhaps the digital equivalent of the State of the Union — or, perhaps more appropriately (for my British readers), the Queen’s speech (also last week).

This year’s edition is no fewer than 196 pages long, and is a treasure trove of data, facts and trends. If you want to download it (it’s free), go here.

In December 2013, I wrote my second Online Spin contribution ever under the headline “Mary Meeker Is Right/Mary Meeker Is Wrong.” In it, I took issue with the fact that she always includes a chart that compares time spent by consumers on various media and ad budgets allocated to these media. This year’s edition is no exception. You can find that info on page 16.



This slide always seems to resonate with the digital industry. The sentiment seems to be: “Advertisers are stupid, they are still not getting it. The consumer has moved to digital and advertisers should follow.”

But the amount of time spent vs. advertising budget allocated is a truly pointless comparison, for two reasons.

Here is reason number one.

People like porn, and they are consuming ever-larger amounts of it online. Says Covenant Eyes, an Internet Accountability and Filtering service that allows parents to protect their children (or perhaps the whole family) from accessing unsavory content: “By 2017, a quarter of a billion people are expected to be accessing mobile adult content from their phones or tablets, an increase of more than 30% from 2013. Mobile adult video chat alone will have a compound annual growth rate of 25%.”

That is a lot of porn. So the amount of time spent is very high. Yet marketers have not really embraced this opportunity with an equal share of ad spend. You could also make the same argument for violent video games.

Here is reason number two.

The Super Bowl is relevant for certain brands and messages because it reaches potential consumers in very large numbers. Vine reaches large groups of people, too (if you are targeting my teenage son, you’ll certainly hit him). According to Vine’s head of user experience Jason Mante, one hundred million people watch Vine videos on mobile and on the Web every month.

But the costs to develop and buy a commercial for the Super Bowl versus Vine are miles apart. For a 60-second Super Bowl spot, think several millions of dollars (celebrity inclusion alone can set you back vast amounts of money). The Super Bowl lasts one evening. Now let’s compare that to producing and placing a six-second Vine with a famous internet celebrity. The cost here is much (much!) lower than the Super Bowl commercial, and so is the media cost -- it will perhaps set you back a few $100,000 in total.

Don’t get me wrong: The amount of time spent by consumers on any medium is an important statistic for marketers, because it indicates a chance to connect around a certain passion point. But let’s agree once and for all that the share of time spent by consumers on a certain touch point does not set a benchmark for how much advertising money should be spent on that touch point. OK?

6 comments about "The One Slide From Mary Meeker That (Still) Makes No Sense At All".
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  1. Joe Marchese from true[X], June 1, 2015 at 12:04 p.m.

    Just going leave this right here....

  2. Maarten Albarda from Flock Associates (USA), June 1, 2015 at 12:18 p.m.

    Hahaha - now that I see your post again, I remember reading it at the time. #stopthenonsensicaltimespentvsadspendcomparisonslides. I think we can get that to trend!

  3. Eileen Mcknight from Self-Employed, June 1, 2015 at 12:40 p.m.

    I agree. The report provides numbers and numbers only. The effectiveness,impact on brand recall, brand preference and other key elements for successful marketing is not taken into account. Rather than infer that marketers aren't taking advantage of digital opportunities, it would be nice to provide context and a healthy dose of common sense here as well.

  4. Ari Rosenberg from Performance Pricing Holdings, LLC, June 1, 2015 at 12:51 p.m.

    Nice job pointing out the truth Maarten

  5. Blaise D'Sylva from Dr Pepper Snapple Group, June 1, 2015 at 2:31 p.m.

    Thank you Maarten for not giving up on this issue.  I couldn't agree with you more.  It's not relevant and is a lazy way of justifying ad spending.  Mobile ad spending has to demonstrate value, it is not a right.

  6. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, June 1, 2015 at 5:05 p.m.

    Anyone who really thinks that time spent with the media ---even if the stats are reliable---has anything to do with advertiser media mix decisions knows nothing about media and/or advertising.

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