Five game-changing developments in mobile marketing

As he prepares for the five year anniversary of Mobile Engage, Jon Mew, IAB UK’s director of mobile and operations, reflects on five game-changing developments in mobile marketing.

This year marks the fifth anniversary of Mobile Engage. By coincidence it’s also the five-year anniversary of my arrival at the IAB. In that time mobile has changed beyond all recognition – and consumer habits with it.

As we start the countdown to the fifth anniversary, which will be taking place on Thursday 15 May at the Mermaid Centre, I thought now would be a great time to take a look back and think about five things I feel have had an enormous impact on mobile advertising.

I’ve steered clear of talking about particular devices, but clearly the fact that smartphone penetration has gone from 25 to 75 per cent in five years has had a huge impact on mobile.

That aside here’s my top five:

The little guys

Digital has done a huge amount to level the playing field for small businesses and mobile has continued that trend. I’m referring in particular to app developers. It still baffles me that we see such strange behaviour in this space – for example, the fact that the majority of retailers are making apps where you can’t complete any purchases. In contrast, some of the smaller guys have taken the bull by the horns. The examples of Angry Birds, Talking Tom, Candy Crush, Temple Run and Instagram show how household brands can be created on mobile and downloaded 100s of millions of times by consumers.

Social growth

Social is massive on mobile. ComScore data shows that 4 in 10 smartphone users look at social networks every day on their mobile. From the outset, Twitter was designed around the limitations of text and Facebook was one of the earliest web brands to strike big integrated deals with operators to allow cheap and even free access to Facebook. Both Twitter and Facebook have also helped drive mobile advertising. As Facebook reaches its tenth birthday with a whopping 1.23 billion active monthly users it’s interesting to look back at its very public mobile journey, from what was apparently an insurmountable problem driving down their share price, to representing the majority of their revenue in a little over 18 months.

Rich media

After the launch of iAd, mobile advertising very quickly got more sexy. Swipeable, interactive rich media units became the norm for brand campaigns. In 2012 just over a fifth of all mobile display budgets were spent on rich media and the number is growing. If we’re honest the perception of creativity on mobile probably holds the market back but, as our own creative gallery shows, thanks to richer ads, things have changed a lot.


Search isn’t talked about as much as it should be. Two thirds of mobile ad revenue is spent on search - making it vital to the industry. Not only was it remarkably easy for brands to port search campaigns to mobile, search from the outset has been improved by mobile allowing brands to do even more. Added functionality like click to call, maps and directions have helped to make search even more useful to consumers and brands alike.


I thought we should have at least one IAB initiative on the list and it seems to me like one of the things that has had the biggest impact was launching mobile adspend. I remember when we collated the first number (for the full year 2008) and mobile registered a modest £37.6m. We did, at least in passing, wonder if the figure was so low it might put people off. But if you want a grown up market I think you need to be able to be able to benchmark it. By the time we host Mobile Engage 2014 on 15th May we will have released the figure for the full year 2013, and I’d be surprised if we haven’t gone pass the £1bn threshold, a figure few people would have expected five years ago.