Mobile Ads? Potential, but Call Waiting

If it seems to you that a mere billion bucks spent on Mobile ads in the USA is tiny versus total industry ad spend, you’re right.

A billion dollars is peanuts – but experts say that’s triple this year. The growth in mobile ad revenue is due to growth in handset penetration and the increased time spent on our mobile devices

BI Intelligence has issued a topline on why much of the mobile ad market’s potential remains untapped. They point a finger at structural issues such as mobile ‘exchanges’ (for ad placement) as opposed to the standard ‘networks’ (aggregators) found in other ad/media industries. They say it’s magnified by a lack of consensus on protocols & metrics (standards) for measuring ad value & effectiveness. Agreed.

Doesn’t that fragmentation sound familiar? Doesn’t it sound like every other industry in an early growth phase? Yes it does, and if you’re wondering why mobile ‘phones’ that have been around for 30 years are STILL in a state of fragmentation, it may be because this is NOT the same product category. We’ve seen a shift from ’satellite handsets’ (1970′s), to ‘car phones’ (1980′s), to ‘mobile phones’ (1990′s), to ‘smartphones’ (2000′s), to ‘handlheld computing, communicating & entertainment devices’ (now).

Mobile phones are at the forefront of an entirely new phase of existence. They’re as different from early mobile phones as the steam or gas-powered automobile ‘carriages’ were from the horse & buggy ‘carriages’.

This generation of phones offers an entirely new promise of utility & power, benefits for both a work & leisure. The software and applications industries are quickly creating an infinity of rich, relevant, customizable options to further boost one’s personal enjoyment & productivity, regardless of the platform you choose (iOs, Android, Windows, Blackberry).

This is NOT your father’s cellphone. And because of that, the industry structure/ behaviour resembles classic New Product Early Phase characteristics. Tons of platform options rushing in, lots of fragmentation, a lack of consensus on value & standards. No wonder the Mobile phone ad market isn’t sorted out’ yet.

Give it time; it’ll get there. And it’ll be massive, and hugely relevant.

In the interim, if you want a surefire way to get product / brand exposure despite all those awkward platform splits, why not take advantage of an Oldie But A Goodie…..- Product Placement!  It’s hotter than ever:

  • A well-placed in-bottle of Purell used by neurotic Sheldon on Big Bang wins winks;
  • An Aston Martin in a Bond film causes more drooling than a bare-topped Daniel Craig;
  • An inexplicably shiny Hyundai Tucson in a filthy post-apocalyptic Walking Dead earns eyeballs & exasperation;
  • Deadly effective move by tough-image Jeep to buy placement for the ‘Liberty’ in a game of Assassin’s Creed.


Products appearing in context or, better yet, woven right into a storyline (the dysfunctional Big Bang group play ‘Twister’) are seen by viewers regardless of the platform, forever.

Steven Litt

Image mosaic attributed to Lynn- Creative Commons, 2003