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Mobile as a 1st screen: shift ad dollars or lose eyeballs forever

Dominance of mobile Dominance of mobile
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Johan Larsson

The dominance of mobile can no longer be ignored. The first screen of choice, it’s time for brands to pivot and engage consumers in a more relevant and timely fashion.

It’s a fact that consumers now spend more time on mobile devices than any other media. What this means for advertising is that, although mobile is already booming, a tipping point is on the horizon.

Brands simply can’t continue to ignore the dominance of mobile, it is now the primary route to consumers. It’s time to shift the focus to mobile and ad formats such as video, which has been used for decades on TV, to engage consumers in a meaningful and creative way.

My experience talking to mobile advertising agencies tells me that the days of the mobile banner ad are numbered.

They’re just not valuable and arguably as a tactic from the desktop era the banner ad should have never appeared on mobile screens. Cisco predicts that by 2019, 72% of mobile traffic will be video content, and for my money, video will be the dominant format for mobile advertising before then.

All the big global apps and services know this. Facebook’s acquisition of Liverail shows that it’s serious about video – and the company now has a revenue-sharing ad model for publishers who post videos on the social network. Social rival Twitter has also just announced a new ‘Video App Card’ ad format.

Industry watchers expect video to be a major source of revenue for Facebook over the next year, but Facebook is not the only one moving towards video ads to offer brands the chance to engage users.

The likes of Snapchat, Instagram (admittedly part of Facebook now) and Pinterest have all launched mobile video offerings as they try to find the key to unlocking brand spend and latching on to the dominance of mobile.

Market potential

The dominance of mobile means the opportunity for mobile video is vast. Global brand TV ad budgets are in the region of $200bn (with 5% of that coming from the top 12 US advertisers).

You may ask what that has to do with mobile. The answer is simple – TV is haemorrhaging viewers, because eyeballs are shifting from televisions to mobile devices and the evolution of TV on demand bringing the ability to skip ads altogether.

Forrester Research says that the majority of millennials (18-34 year olds), don’t even watch linear television anymore.

Analytics company Flurry say time spent on mobile devices in the US has now overtaken time spent watching TV – mobile is now America’s ‘first screen’. Half of millennials now spend more than four hours per day on mobile devices, and eMarketer reckons this year the average adult will watch 39 minutes of mobile video every single day.

What’s more, device ownership for millennials is at 95%, and crucially eMarketer says that 13-18 year olds (the consumers of the future) now spend more than five hours a day on mobile devices.

Why are the behaviours of these young whippersnappers so important? Because they represent the first generation to have grown up in a world where TV isn’t the focal point.

They’re not used to watching TV because they’re mobile-first. If brands don’t develop a long-term strategy to engage with these young people, and their kids, they will lose them forever and that will spell big trouble.

From a consumer point of view, it’s easy to see why this is happening. The convenience of catch-up and subscription TV services, coupled with the ever-improving HD screens on the latest mobile devices, puts linear TV in the shade.

From the advertiser’s standpoint, mobile enabled them to measure video campaigns in a way that is impossible for TV ads.

Measuring how long a video engaged the viewer before clicking away, or how many people clicked through to shop for the product gives advertisers the flexibility to optimize their campaigns – and even retarget users with follow-up ads.

With standard mobile ads garnering low single-digit percentage, average click-through rates, video opens up the opportunity to create significantly high levels of engagement and go that step further, using audio and visual to communicate brand stories.

Measurement tools are only going to get more sophisticated as brands and ad-tech firms develop the marketplace.

What does all this mean for brands? Success and relevance comes down to marketing strategy – here are my tips for harnessing the dominance of mobile:

1) Develop a joined-up mobile strategy

We need to start thinking of consumers as mobile-first – according to the Gallup Panel, the majority of American adults check their phone more than once every hour. Every company needs a mobile strategy, as it’s a matter of time before the dots between mobile ad engagement and shopping on mobile are joined.

2) Use mobile to meet your objectives

The fundamental question a business needs to address is how the dominance of mobile can help it achieve its corporate objectives. Facebook identified mobile as the way to get its next billion users – what can mobile do for you?

3) Make mobile the focus

Your marketing strategy should be mobile-centric. Google’s search results now take into account how mobile-friendly websites are; YouTube has stated its three priorities going forward as “mobile, mobile and mobile”. It’s not going away and it’s set to become the dominant advertising channel.

4) Address the skills gap

Companies need to hire adventurously – seek people who have already lived and breathed mobile so you can get your strategy right from the start. Mobile is new, there’s no shame in the CMO not fully understanding it provided they’re happy to hire people who do.

5) Mobile is today – be ready for tomorrow

The new advertising landscape is moving at lightning pace, and companies need an iterative strategy that engages with today’s mobile-focused world, and is ready for the long term too. The Internet of Things is widely tipped to be worth.