This is the dawn of the smartphone age. But you wouldn’t know it by looking at mobile advertising spend. Last week in this space, Derek Thompson showed that consumers are spending 10% of their media attention on their mobile devices while the medium only commands a mere 1% of total ad-spend. Comparatively, the quickly “dying” print medium attracts only about 7% of media-time, but still captures an astonishing 25% of the total U.S. ad-spend, with print receiving 25-times more ad money than mobile.
The disparity between the two mediums gives a strong indication as to how much room mobile still has to grow.
While industry analysts have become increasingly bullish on the growth of the mobile medium and industry behemoths like Facebook are building out their mobile capabilities with the recent acquisitions of Instagram, Glancee, and Karma, it is perfectly clear that advertisers have avoided chasing consumers’ eyeballs into this medium. While the ad-spend numbers don’t quite match the perceived growth, a closer look shows us that we are actually beginning to enter the golden age of mobile and that the advertising spending will follow. To fully understand this trend, let’s examine the features that characterize the rise of mobile today: its diversity, quality, innovation, experimentation, and cultural influence on society.
The diversity of tactics in the mobile medium is astounding.Advertisers now have an extremely robust palette of mobile tools to choose from to connect their messages and experiences with their desired audiences thanks to advancements in mobile ad units, mobile search, mobile apps, mobile websites, and SMS. Each of these mobile tactics is now being successfully embraced by advertisers to drive brand awareness, consideration, purchases, and loyalty.
The quality of the work is at an all-time high. As a judge at the recent 2012 D&AD (Design and Art Direction) Awards, I received a strong overview of where the industry is heading and it’s clear that some of the best creative and technical minds have finally shifted over to the mobile medium. Brands like Nike and their recent Nike+ Fuelband product shows just how far the quality of the work has come where the Nike+ Fuelband app leverages social platform design, Bluetooth integration, and 3D animations. This is a far cry from when mobile ad units were a brand’s main mobile advertising option. The recent addition of the Mobile Lions to the Cannes Advertising Festival will also continue to accelerate this shift in talent and drive up the quality of mobile work in the upcoming years.
Innovation has accelerated. Recently, each innovative mobile product or service seems to beget the next one as the boundaries of the mobile medium continue to be stretched. In the past year, mobile has seen breakthroughs from the likes of Uber, Clear, Path, and Figure as mobile designers look to leverage location information, gestures, and UI advancements to reduce complexity and provide for more compelling services. In the near future, we’ll also start to see more designers attempt to add voice control and personalization to improve users’ experience on mobile.
Experimentation leads to advances. Recently, the apps, Highlight and Sonar were released at SXSW with much fanfare. Both are considered social discovery apps, which help to monitor your location in the physical world and alert you when “similar” people are in close proximity to you. While, both of those apps have had difficulties gaining traction and overcoming the “creepy” label attached to them, they have fueled the imagination of what is now possible using a combination of GPS, open graph technologies, and the social web to find commonalities between people that were not always immediately obvious. Social discovery apps are leading the experimentation charge as the web evolves to become the ‘personal web’, a web rebuilt around individuals.
Cultural Influence on society. More than 2/3 of our time on mobile phones is now used for non-communication activities with the average American spending 94 minutes per day utilizing mobile apps vs. 72 minutes of web-based consumption. Mobile is poised to surpass television as the dominant consumer access point for all media. How we experience life, relationships, entertainment, education, exercise, and work have been completely transformed (for better or worse) because of mobile.
It’s Still Only the First Inning. Despite mobile’s progress and momentum, we’re still only at the beginning of the golden age of mobile. There is still a huge gap between the rapid adoption of mobile and the budgets assigned to it. Brands will need to more than quadruple their mobile budgets to begin catching up to the level at which consumers are embracing the channel. Statistics also show that globally “dumb-phone” users still outnumber smartphone users 5.6 billion to 835 million, meaning that the “upgrade cycle” to smartphones is still in the early stages.
Imagine a world in the next 2-3 years, where smart phones are in the hands of every consumer and tablet sales will exceed PCs. It will be a world where global internet users will double, led by mobile usage. At that time, mobile will no longer be a support medium, it will be THE medium. Today, we’ve already seen apps disrupt multi-billion dollar industries – gaming, retail, media, publishing, small business, photography, and travel.
At this point, not having a mobile strategy / roadmap in place for your brand is a recipe for disruption. The golden age of mobile is here and will be here for years.