Gartner predicts global ad revenue for mobile will top $11 billion this year, and leap to $24.5 billion three years hence. (Press release) That's a striking increase from the estimated $9.6 billion it recorded in 2012, suggesting a rosy near-future for mobile ad sellers such as search companies, app developers, ad networks and social platforms. Right?
Maybe. A bunch of factors are hindering mobile ad growth – among them problems of measurement, discontent with creative formats, small screens, and fat fingers. Marketers are throwing a lot of money at these hairy issues, and they expect to throw more. A new survey conducted by the Association of National Advertisers and MediaVest found 85% of respondents intend to raise their mobile budgets in the near future.
But that doesn't mean they're happy with results. In a damning data point if there ever was one, MediaVest/ANA found just 21% of marketers said they've been "solidly successful" in mobile. That's actually down from a similar study conducted two years ago in 2010. So we're backsliding on ROI/effectiveness tracking? Not good.
David Shiffman, MediaVest SVP Connections Research & Analytics, says the 85% figure is higher than the agency would expect even for an emerging channel. "One of the big things for me from this study is marketers get it. They are very aware of where this is going and the opportunities mobile presents. They want to figure it out quickly."
That need to "figure it out" is what's driving ad spend increases, and will likely continue to do so as the great smartphone/tablet migration continues. In terms of marketing objectives, Shiffman noted interest is divided about equally between "brand building / management," "awareness," and "customer loyalty / retention."
However, marketers do appear to have blind spots with mobile.
For instance, one finding that surprised Shiffman was a relative lack of interest in social as it relates to mobile. "I would've thought we'd see more buzz [about social-mobile] because mobile is emerging as the core way people connect socially," he said.
That may be because CMO's tend to compartmentalize channels, or it may just be that talk of SoLoMo is still filtering into the marketing world. "We're early in connecting those things together from a marketing perspective," said Shiffman.
Of course, mobile has its strengths from a measurement standpoint as well – including the ability to track location in a way that's actually meaningful. An example of this is the creation of individual data profiles based on habitual activities – such as regular neighborhoods visited and commuting routes – with messaging tailored accordingly.
Shiffman said of mobile measurement, "It definitely suffers by comparison to other channels, like every medium does. The known and longstanding measurement that people are comfortable with becomes really good in people's minds when we compare it to other things."