Why so little support for mobile marketing ad spends in Australia?

Why so little support for mobile marketing ad spends in Australia?
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Mobile marketing ad spends, particulary in the UK and USA, are on the increase.

While still significantly lacking overall as a medium in terms of matching budget allocations to eyeballs, in the UK our sister company 4th Screen Advertising is seeing sizable growth in budget.

For mobile in Australia however it's a slightly different story despite strong year-on-year growth. We’re simply not supporting mobile via spend as we could, or indeed should.

Mobile is often omitted by advertisers spending online, despite the massive shift in consumer behaviour towards mobile over the last few years. The now ubiquitous Mary Meeker internet trend research which defined worldwide digital use Vs ad spend is useful to illustrate this point: 

“People spent about 12 per cent of their time on mobile devices, which accounts for just 3 per cent of ad spend. This compares to 26 per cent of time spent on the Internet, accounting for 22 per cent of ad spend," it states.

In Australia, we estimate mobile marketing is sitting at just under 5% of total digital spend, even though we’re ranked fourth in the world for smartphone penetration (some reports say we’re actually 2nd).

Locally, we’ve still got some way to go before we catch up with our consumers. And while there is a gap overseas, in Australia it’s a canyon. In the UK for example, IAB reports that mobile accounts for 14% of the total digital ad spend – which is double the spend of the year before.

So what’s happening to result in less spend?

I think it’s the classic chicken and egg story. Mobile is still a new, often untried medium at home which means fewer examples of excellent campaigns and creative to showcase to clients. There are many great examples of course, but there are also poorly-executed performance campaigns displaying terrible creative in random environments with no contextual relevance whatsoever. Maybe this is hampering mobile’s advancement?

I’m not knocking performance per say, it can be done well and for companies or products without significant brand profiles who just need to communicate their message and generate click throughs, a performance buy is not only cost effective, it works. The point I want is make is the creative.

You only have to look at the numerous poorly designed banners floating around any of the latest buzz entertainment apps to know what I mean about the creative. This type of advertising is sending the wrong message about the capabilities of mobile and just might be the factor that has led to the huge gap between the millions frequenting the latest apps and mobile games and advertising spends.

But right now, this is actually good for the savvy advertiser. Great creative simply stands out. When the artwork becomes part of the app, it’s viewed like content. The opposite approach also works well. In line with some of the best creative formats coming out of the UK right now, the banner has grown up and evolved into a three dimensional explosion across a mobile screen and can now also run video. Gamified ad units are also here and really work to increase time spent immersed in brand messages. 

There are a constant stream of new developments that are likely to be significant in closing the gap. For example, better targeting can be deployed which locates user preferences and tastes in terms of content and delivers them similar ads. Such capabilities combined with high impact and engaging creative is helping to ensure brands invest more and more into mobile.

And this momentum is only set to continue. As new and better creative comes into play plus ever evolving mobile functionality 2014 will be the tipping point for mobile in Australia propelling the medium towards the millions of consumers waiting.

Pete Birch is the Managing Director of 4th Screen Advertising at Mobile Embrace – Australia’s largest premium mobile advertising network.

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