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Mobile Digital Technology

Global mobile ad spend set to tip TV in 2019 thanks to programmatic 'boom' and 5G boost


By Rebecca Stewart, Trends Editor

January 24, 2019 | 3 min read

Global mobile ad spend will overtake TV this year if current growth rates are maintained, buoyed by a programmatic 'boom' and the rollout of speedy 5G networks.

mobile ad spend global

Even without access to 5G, 3.5 billion (or 72.6%) of global internet users will be mobile-only by 2025 / Unsplash

According to Warc's latest Global Ad Trends report, advertisers spent an estimated $138bn to reach mobile users in 2018. Across 12 key markets, including the US, UK, China, Brazil and Russia, this number is set to swell to $153.2bn in 2019 overtaking TV.


Of 800 senior marketing and advertising practitioners surveyed by Warc as part of its research, 71% said they expected a rise in mobile budgets over the next 12 months, with most money going to the Facebook-Google duopoly.

In line with this trend, the report noted that strong growth in the mobile ad market was being fuelled by a 'boom' in programmatic trade with 63% of all digital display ad spend having been automated in 2018. This figure was up from a 35.3% share in 2014 and has trebled since 2013; showing that despite concerns from advertisers around transparency in the media supply chain, they're still investing heavily in automated digital inventory.

5G technology – which is set for a wider rollout this year – will facilitate higher connection speeds and data transfer, making mobile video ads more attractive buys for advertisers.

In the US, brands' investment in mobile video is forecast to reach $12.6bn in 2019, up 37.1% from an estimated $9.2bn in 2018 and equivalent to 67% of all online video spend in the country. In China, mobile is also set to account for over two-thirds of online video spend, at $5.2bn.

With telcom giants like Verizon, China Mobile and EE funnellng spend into 5G, 1.5 billion people (or 18% of the global population) are expected to have a 5G subscription by 2024, giving marketers the opportunity to reach more eyeballs, faster.

Even without access to 5G, 3.5 billion (or 72.6%) of global internet users will be mobile-only by 2025. China, India, Indonesia, Nigeria and Pakistan are expected to account for half of all growth in mobile users over the period, said Warc.

However, despite the sunny outlook and increased investment, viewability and measurement were still big concerns for brands with 47% of marketers agreeing these were the two biggest issues with mobile.

20% said they weren't yet able to measure mobile ROI accurate and a further 59% were 'uncertain' how to do so.

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