American Marketer


Mobile advertising: Much maligned, much underestimated

November 18, 2011


By Inman Breaux

We have all heard the chatter about the boom in the mobile advertising space and predictions of staggering growth.

While mobile advertising currently represents about 15 percent of online advertising, it is expected to represent 64 percent of all digital ads in 2015 and mobile ad spend is expected to grow from $743 million in 2010 to $4.4 billion in 2015.

Yet, with more than half of Americans now possessing smartphones, questions have been posed about whether this growth is proportional to the growth of mobile Internet usage.

Perhaps not, but it is easy to forget that this is a nascent media to a large degree. It feels like people are trying to compare a talented rookie to a seasoned pro at times.

Will it click?

There is no denying that, even amidst all the talk and predictions surrounding the rapid growth of mobile advertising, marketers are still holding back to a certain extent.

From some quarters, there have been question marks raised about the effectiveness of advertising on mobile.

Many of these concerns are born of the direct response mindset brought on by online advertising – people are obsessing over click-through rates and are aghast that it is not higher in mobile.

But CTR has been a false prophet for a long time now, and not just in mobile but across all mediums, even online.

Market researcher comScore’s ground-breaking study, “Natural Born Clickers,” found that just 8 percent of Internet users now account for 85 percent of all clicks and that these customers are not necessarily the ones that brands want to chase.

Whether CTR concerns are justified or not, marketers clearly need a little more convincing.

A recent study conducted by The Relevancy Group found that 43 percent of marketers are not planning on increasing mobile ad spending in 2011, citing concerns about low ROI.

Is there a silver lining for those of us in mobile advertising?


Flying the standard

Ninety-three percent of these marketers said they would increase spending if they could see improved ROI. They could see that now if they look in the right places.

The scenario is reminiscent of the transition of ad spend from traditional advertising – television, radio, print and billboard – to online advertising.

There was a lag between the audience going online and when the advertisers followed, and concerns about the metrics that the early forays were delivering. It takes time but progress is being made.

For instance, device fragmentation has progressed quite a bit since mobile advertising and development began.

While there are still limitations, there is an opportunity for mobile platforms and developers to work together to create continuity across platforms.

An additional challenge that is often flagged is the lack of a standard way to measure mobile ads across applications, sites or devices.

With the sharp rise of smartphone usage and attention to mobile advertising, companies are focusing on creating a standard form of measurement.

For example, ORMMA is creating a way to measure cross-campaign engagement metrics across devices, platforms, publishers and networks. Once this is used more widely, we can expect to see more marketers being convinced by the power of mobile advertising.

Making impressions

Another area of criticism in mobile advertising has been the reach of in-app ad space. Mobile advertising is typically conducted within an app.

Detractors have bemoaned the lost impressions caused by apps that go inactive as consumers get tired of them. This drastically underestimates the ingenuity of the app developer community and the fact that leading publishers are creating high quality content for smartphones and tablets.

There is a plethora of successful apps and media sites that keep users habitually coming back for more.

What is more, some forms of mobile advertisements are immune to the curse of lost impressions. Push notification ads, for example, mean that a targeted ad reaches users even when a given app is not in use.

Mobile advertising provides an amazing opportunity for brand marketers to engage and influence their network.

A consumer’s mobile phone is more personal than almost any other device she owns and marketers need to realize the full potential of mobile advertising instead of nitpicking.

Mobile is pertinent in any vertical and can be an effective use of advertising for all, if executed properly.

It will take time to fully develop, but there is a significant advantage for those that see the power of mobile advertising before the rest of the pack finally wakes up and smells the coffee.

Inman Breaux is vice president of publisher relations and business development at Airpush, Los Angeles. Reach him at