Kristian Barnes
Nov 23, 2016

Year of the mobile? It’s come and gone

Why is the advertising industry still waiting for the seminal 'Year of the Mobile' to arrive? The answer is because we still are measuring it in “Ye old world” metrics

Year of the mobile? It’s come and gone

I ended up in a conversation with my 13-year-old about mobile phones the other day, prompted by his inability to use his phone in any meaningful way to stay in contact with his parents.

To illustrate my point, I told him that when I was his age, we only had landlines and payphones, and if I could manage to check in with my parents in this archaic situation (including having the right change), then he should have zero difficulty in achieving this with his always-on mobile. Being the silent adolescent that he is, he pondered this for a moment then shrugged his shoulders and asked me how I watched YouTube or used social media when I was out.

Strangely, this got me thinking about how we, as an industry, talk about mobile. In the advertising industry, every year (for the last few years) has been hailed as the year of the mobile, but the truth is that it has already come and gone.

Mobile devices are ubiquitous. Use of mobile is ubiquitous. 76 percent of Facebook users access the platform via mobile; Google says search on mobile overtook desktop in 2015, while most other large social or messaging networks (Twitter, WhatsApp, Snapchat, etc) are 100 percent mobile. M-commerce is growing at three times the rate of e-commerce and by 2020, it will make up 45 percent of all e-commerce interactions. Voice, AI and all these technology leaps are about enhancing the mobile experience; any news, sports, entertainment or smart brand worth its salt is mobile-enabled, either through an app or m-site.

People are using their mobile devices right now, every day for everyday things. Why then, is the advertising industry still waiting for this seminal 'Year of the Mobile' to arrive? The answer is because we still are measuring it in “Ye old world” metrics—i.e. volume of spend to time spent.

According to The eMarketer Forecast for 2016 on Worldwide Ad Spending, by 2020 mobile internet is predicted to see a tremendous growth, positioned at 31.8 percent of the total global media spend (37.6 percent in APAC) and 71.4 percent of global digital media spend (71.3 percent in APAC). Regardless, we need to stop selling mobile formats and start thinking about activating mobility—that is the real opportunity here. Businesses need to start adding value to consumers’ lives, by understanding what they are doing, what they want, where they are going and helping to enhance their experience.

There is already a massive information flow via mobile as the primary interface. This will only continue to grow as wearables such as non-screen devices—my current personal favourite is smart tattoos, seeing they can do anything from unlocking your car to paying for goods and services, as well as geo-targeting technology (yes beacons!)—will increasingly become more common.

The key element here is that as devices get smaller and lighter, they can be deployed into the body and around more places in our surrounding environment, constantly gathering and connecting more data. By 2020, it is predicted that there will be 411 million active wearable devices, a 234 percent increase from the 123 million in 2016, according to CCS Insight’s latest global wearables forecast.

In fact, some might say that by 2020 we will need to be “mobile only” and not just “mobile first”.

The truth is we still predominately think of mobile as a screen-based media channel that seems best utilised by irrelevant (and terrible) banner ads, or highly interruptive and excessive videos. All with a frequency of 1 million. No wonder 83 percent of smartphone users would like to block all types of mobile ads if given the choice, and 78 percent think that ad-blocking would improve their experience.

Of course, there are examples of innovative and creative uses of mobile where real value is provided to the consumer from a “brand”, but they are few and they always stand out.

Bottom line is, we need to move past thinking about mobile as a device with formats to sell, and using metrics borrowed from TV and desktop digital to evaluate success, to understanding how to effectively deliver personalised brand value through the utility of mobile, in real time.

Kristian Barnes is CEO of Vizeum APAC

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