Commentary

Mobile-First Is No Longer A Term, It's An Ad Spend Fact

If anyone was in any doubt, we're living in a mobile-first world -- not only in terms of where consumers' attention is, but also where the corresponding flow of ad money is attracted to -- the latest IAB UK and PwC Digital Adspend Report for 2016 is required reading.

It's startling not just for the enormous increase in ad spend that takes the UK market to GBP10bn, but also for the degree to which this is driven by mobile. 

Nearly half of all Internet time -- 48% -- is spent on mobile, and hence there is a corresponding 50% rise in mobile ad spend. Spending on the small screen hit GBP3.87bn last year, accounting for 38% of all digital ad spend. That's up 4% from a year ago.

Where this gets really interesting, however, is that new digital channels are totally dominated by mobile, which accounts for 79% of social media spend, 76% of content and native and 63% of video ad spend.

YouGov data shows that in the last six months more than half of Brits -- at 54% -- have watched video clips on their phone, with two in five saying this is more of a habit now that it was a year ago. Among Millennials, consumption of traditional television shows is increasingly common on mobile. Three in four Millennials watch short clips on a mobile device, while nearly half, at 44%, have watched television and a third have streamed movies on a mobile device.

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This means that mobile video is the standout star of 2016, doubling in ad spend growth in just a single year, compared to the stalwarts of mobile marketing -- search, social and display -- all increasing by around 50% each.

Sorry for all the figures -- but when you get a highly important report like this from IAB UK and PwC it's hard to draw out the key findings without referring to a bunch of percentages. Basically, mobile is driving digital above the ten billion-pound mark for the first time, and mobile video is the big channel behind the momentum. 

So this should serve as a wake-up call for any marketer whose brands are not optimised for mobile. The obvious starting point is a Web site that is optimised for mobile, but also one that makes it really easy to get things done. Nice large buttons and no needing to cut and paste order numbers and customer references. Data must be integrated and made to serve people on mobile -- they simply won't suffer going back to an email to cut and paste information. 

Mobile is all about proximity too, so that should feature in your mobile marketing plans as well as in-app. If someone searches for you, why not bring up a home page that is suited to their location, such as their nearest branch/restaurant/bank/store details to save them having search further? If that data is not available, build in a system where you can ask if a person would like to share their location to improve the service on offer. 

Customers are often on a journey when using mobile, so it's always useful to preempt their next steps. Do they want an x with their y, they've just walked into the mall, do they want an offer for today's specials, they've just parked the car, do they want to pay at the touch of a button and when that time elapses, do they want an alert to buy an extra hour.

And speaking of mobile video, welcome to the old days of square video. BuzzFeed's top advice is to always go square rather than today's modern widescreen formats because, quite simply, most people will view your video in a social feed -- and if it doesn't fit in the screen properly, with subtitles so they can get the gist without turning audio on, you can forget any deeper engagement. 

Mobile puts the power squarely into the hands of the consumer who will punish any brand that thinks just porting over a desktop experience to the small screen will cut it. It will not -- and only the brands that act on this and make interacting with them as easy as pushing a couple of buttons will prosper. 

This column was previously published in Mobile Insider on April 12, 2017.

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