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Are We Moving More Quickly or Slowly than we did in 1999?

Posted on July 18, 2013
By Anne Frisbie

I had the great fortune of attending Cannes Lions creative festival this year. While I was there, I spoke at Jim Stengel CMO Accelerator program to a group of very bright senior marketers from top brands around the world including Mastercard, Mondelez, Barclays among many others.

Generally, there was quite a bit of angst being expressed around the gap between time spent and dollars spent in mobile. With 26% of total consumer media time being spent on mobile, why (if you look at 2012) did marketers spend less than 2% of their total budgets on mobile advertising? One of the senior marketers at the CMO Accelerator Program keenly pointed out that if consumers aren't buying your product that you shouldn't be mad at the consumer.

I thought this was a very sage remark. Being at InMobi, I really believe in this point. InMobi has spent the past five years building mobile advertising technologies so that marketers have the tools they need to execute great advertising. How does the mobile revolution compare to the first internet revolution? Is the media industry moving more slowly or quickly compared to the first time around?

Internet advertising after four years - 1996 through 1999 - represented 1.5% of total global advertising spend. After four years, mobile advertising - 2009 through 2012 - represented 1.8% of total global advertising spend (and in the US 2.4%), and in terms of dollars that represents almost twice the total number of dollars. Buyers and sellers were able to deliver 9 billion dollars of advertising in mobile in 2012 after only four years and relative to the first digital revolution that is pretty impressive.

We are moving dollars a bit more quickly into mobile advertising than we did into internet advertising. We have generally been able to do that by moving more money globally into mobile due to higher mobile penetration abroad than desktop penetration, and more search dollars into mobile (in part because of Google's control on search).

Search represents a much higher percent of total mobile advertising than it represented of total internet advertising in 1999. Taking into account those factors, we appear to be moving display advertising dollars into mobile a bit more slowly than we did for desktops especially in the more advanced desktop first media markets like the US. But (as a previous blog of mine highlighted), consumers are adopting mobile technologies at a much faster rate than they adopted the internet.

If you take into account the pace of consumer adoption (which is astronomically faster), we are certainly moving money much more slowly into mobile than we did desktop on a relative basis. One big difference is that as an industry we are smarter and the money moving is smarter money (and the industry is likely to continue its 100%+ year over year growth rates rather than suffer a dot com-like bust). If that happens within the next few years, the investment in mobile will surpass the percent investment in desktop and I predict that this will happen.

But overall we do need to figure out what is preventing marketers from taking more advantage of mobile because we certainly don't want to "outsmart" ourselves and miss the opportunity. Do we all truly (in our gut) understand how much more quickly consumers have adopted mobile than the internet? This revolution is so much bigger and faster moving. I hope as an industry that we haven't become too cynical and, as a result, outsmart ourselves from the opportunity that mobile and consumers love of mobile presents us.

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