AA/WARC revised-down mobile adspend projections: what does it mean? - Reaction from Havas EHS, MEC, SMG, The Weather Channel, TubeMogul and more

As latest AA/WARC figures revise down projected mobile adspend for 2014 from 75 per cent to 56 per cent, is it a sign that mobile advertising is failing to reach the hype? The Drum spoke to some industry experts to find out.

Alexandra Rodriguez, VP partners international, Ensighten

The fact that mobile ad spend has failed to meet the forecasts set by Warc could be indicative of mobile marketing being rethought in the broader context of overall customer experience. While mobile does indeed represent a significant opportunity for brands, there is also an opportunity for advertisers to alienate consumers if it is used incorrectly.

The smaller screens make it easy for ads to be invasive and interruptive, ensuring it requires a more considered approach than desktop display, for example. For many brands, gone are the days of serving non-relevant pop-ups on tablets or mobile apps just because it is possible to do so.

Many marketers are now investing in piecing together the customer journey across devices so they have a broader understanding of their customer needs and how different channels affect one another. What this means for mobile marketing is that it’s used when it’s contextually relevant – both within the screen itself and the customer’s path to purchase – with brands looking to target consumers in a more personalised and strategic fashion on mobile.

Peter Sells, head of mobile, Havas EHS

Don't panic, mobile marketers. This morning’s news that mobile ad spend isn't performing as well as expected shouldn't make you choke on your cornflakes. It's still predicted to grow at 50 per cent - still by far the fastest growing media (ever?). The short history of mobile marketing is littered with examples of reality not quite matching our own hype. I have no doubt mobile will prove itself to be the most effective (and therefore efficient) marketing medium ever.

The reasons for a perceived slow down are quite clear, however:

1.) We are rubbish at predictions. Doesn't matter how well researched, how robust the methodology, we don't know the future. The truth at variance with your prediction? Look at the prediction first.

2.) The Meeker-inspired notion that growing mobile adspend is being driven by lag between that spend and usage is true – but is not the whole story. Getting to eyeballs is only one piece of the puzzle, doing something with those eyeballs – that is compelling enough to distract the mobile user from their often purpose-driven activity – is the key challenge in this medium.

3.) Mobile advertising is about data, personalisation, creative and rewarding journeys. Get any of this wrong and your campaign won't work. ​

Jide Sobo, head of mobile, MEC

At 65 per cent growth for H1 2014, mobile adspend is still in the ascendancy, and even if growth for the whole year comes in at 56 per cent, it’s still a remarkable increase. Let’s not forget that mobile adspend reached £707.1m in H1, almost as much as national and regional print newsbrands and print magazines combined. And this from a medium that is only about seven years old, so let’s not write it off, just because of a light downward growth re-forecast.

I believe the reason for this slowdown in growth is that it is still hard for brands to work out how mobile fits within their overall comms strategy. It’s fine for performance advertisers, who are able to push downloads of their transactional app, or for pureplay mobile companies such as Hailo, where there is an obvious ROI calculation to be made.

It’s harder to demonstrate the same success with brand awareness activity, which is why we need to be moving away from click through rate as the main KPI. Instead, we should be measuring the shift in brand favourability metrics, such as message recall and purchase intent. Once we focus on the correct metrics, more brand money will flow in to mobile, and we’ll see growth forecasts revised upwards again.

Samantha Tillett, agency sales director, Rocket Fuel

There is a spend gap in the mobile advertising sector. The capacity is there but the spend is not keeping up.

We've continuously talked about the potential and opportunities in mobile advertising and in the last few years observed consumers’ usage of mobile devices sky-rocketing. Around 40 per cent of all inventory visible to Rocket Fuel is mobile inventory today (roughly 25 billion impressions daily) with roughly a 50:50 split between Android and IOS devices

I would argue that it's not the industry that isn't ready to take this spend but that the advertisers and agencies are still cautious of this relatively new channel.

Media planners and buyers continue to allocate 5-10 per cent of their overall display budget to mobile activity. Therefore, including it in the marketing mix but hardly giving the medium a starring role. Some agencies talk of "mobile first" - mobile at the centre and highest priority in their plans - but often end up restricting performance models on mobile to become much more bespoke add-ons to standard campaigns - for example geo-fencing, targeting particular devices and attribution only for post-click conversions. This can severely limit the performance capabilities of a mobile campaign when comparing it to desktop activity.

Lack of understanding in tracking, transparency and brand safety capabilities needs to be addressed at an industry level - not just to the agencies but to the advertisers and CMOs. How are we measuring success and what does it look like? If we can address these issues I believe spend in this sector will start to catch up with the opportunity available.

Richard Hocking, EMEA director of performance marketing and mobile development, Starcom MediaVest Group

Mobile is still the powerhouse behind ad growth in this country and across most of Western Europe. I think headline figures can sometimes distort the underlying trends. We have mobile video and display still delivering triple figure growth while the more mature mobile search and social are clearly dragging the headline figure down due to their share of mobile.

We also have some of the early adopter heavy spending gaming advertisers reaching saturation point in mobile and therefore their spends are plateauing and in some instances being redistributed into TV which will impact the headline figure due to their sheer scale of spend in mobile.

What is a better indicator of the health of mobile should be the brand count of advertisers active or new to mobile and this has never been higher. At SMG we also see this trend which has led to our spend projections being revised up and are expected to double year on year.

Ross Webster, MD EMEA, The Weather Channel

It is no real surprise that mobile adspend is not yet meeting projections. The platform is there, the audience is there, but publishers, advertisers, agencies and ad tech providers need to (and will) catch up.

The fact is that making money from mobile is hard. Despite the fact users are ditching their laptops and desktops in droves in favour of smartphones and tablets, publishers and platforms have struggled to succeed financially, with a clear revenue gap continuing to exist for the vast majority.

Publishers have a tougher time with mobile - there have been no standard units, no standard devices, no standard speed. The sector is awash with competing technologies and jargon. Having said this - the same issues arise with each new medium - TV and online suffered in similar ways initially. Every medium has benefitted when vendors and agencies have agreed a standard set of formats for advertising.

Banners are now acknowledged to offer a poor user experience, the customer is moving to the forefront and contextually relevant native ads are becoming popular. New measurement systems that can track audience across screen browsing are now being implemented, making mobile campaigns more measurable and therefore more attractive. Advertising is getting smarter across screens with advertising campaigns taking advantage of the unique capabilities of mobile devices such as touch, pinch, swipe, shake and geolocation.

The arrival of faster mobile connectivity will have an impact - long-term it will have a big impact on mobile ad investment, because the mobile web will become faster and consumers will become more comfortable with mobile browsing. At the same time it will remove restrictions on using more engaging rich media ads, making functionality less of an issue. And then, there is video!

Access to big data means better ad targeting: Location, weather etc. Targeting the right person at the right time at the right location has become essential.

Watch out - the mobile ad industry is catching up...

Nick Reid, UK MD, TubeMogul

It’s interesting to see WARC revising the mobile adspend forecast for 2015 down, based on the IAB results earlier this month. According to the IAB, mobile adspend only increased by 68 per cent, whereas mobile video grew 196 per cent. This indicates that the mobile sector is growing within the more premium video format, with an apparent question mark over the role of display in mobile.

We see advertisers following consumers as they move increasingly towards consuming video on any screen and any device – the IAB also reported that Brits now spend a record five hours a week watching TV, clips and films online. This is great for brands that stand to make use of personalised nature of mobile, as well as all of the benefits of using sight and sound to creative a narrative for their audiences.

The WARC figures also show a rise in TV ad spend, even as the consumer allegiance migrates across device, indicating and overall growth of confidence in video as an ad format, regardless of the screen or channel.

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