The Year of Mobile Will Never Come

Caspar SchlickumThe ‘year of mobile’ has become such a hackneyed phrase that it is now used as a joke in industry speeches more than to announce a new dawn for digital advertising. An equally over-used idea is that a commensurate amount of ad spend on mobile will magically match move over from other channels, simply because people spend more time on their phones. However, as Caspar Schlickum, CEO of Xaxis EMEA, explains here, it isn’t as simple as that, and marketers will seek to get the best out of mobile via a range of different marketing techniques, many of which go beyond traditional mobile advertising.

Sorry people. But the year of the mobile is never going to come. But not for the reasons you think. Let me explain, and then feel free to disagree.

Ever since I first became interested in these things, the famous and fabulous Mary Meeker has publisher her overview of the world’s internet. It’s an amazing and thorough piece of work.

In her deck (the 2016 version of which was recently released and can be found in its entire 213 page glory here – which by the way, she presents in less than 5 minutes!), is this one:

Percentage of Time on Mobile vs Ad Spend

In this slide she points with a big arrow and blue box at the difference in time spent / money spent on mobile. The message is clear: our industry is en-masse under investing in mobile. And it’s a $22Bn opportunity (just in the US).

Meanwhile, we go to conferences and wonder jokingly if it might be the year of the mobile because we are defining the year of the mobile as the year when our clients finally spend that $22bn.

Leaving aside the fact that the low cost of mobile inventory means that we are unlikely to ever get those levels of spend on mobile advertising, this argument misses the point.

And its a point that most marketers actually understand very well: mobile is not only (or even in many cases) about advertising. This does not, however, mean that it does not play a key role in marketing.

Allow me to illustrate with an example from Brazil, which won the Mobile Lion in Cannes in 2014:

I think we can all agree that this campaign is all-in on mobile. In fact this campaign idea let alone the execution would not have been possible without mobile technology.

But what was the media spend here? I don’t have the facts, and would very much like someone to set the record straight if they were involved in the campaign, but I am reasonably sure that the media plan looked a bit like this:

Print, including magazines and flyers on the beach to distribute bracelets and app download instructions: 100%

Mobile advertising: 0%

If we were generous we might include the app-development cost as mobile spend, in which case the above percentage might be 95/5 percent if they got someone expensive to build the app.

My point is that the year of the mobile isn’t coming, because it’s been and gone. And as demonstrated by Mary’s chart, it has very little to do with mobile advertising, and everything to do with mobile marketing and engagement.

So I’m sorry Mary, but you are measuring it wrong.

This post was originally posted on LinkedIn and has been republished with Caspar’s permission. 

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