The world has gone mobile-first, and advertisers have followed suit. In 2018, US adults spent an average of 3 hours, 35 minutes per day on mobile devices, according to eMarketer. Apps account for more than 90% of users’ time on smartphones, the research firm finds. It expects mobile to surpass TV as the medium attracting the most minutes of U.S. consumers’ time this year. Correspondingly, eMarketer predicts that in 2019 mobile ad spend will surpass $93 billion — a full $20 billion more than what it expects will be spent on TV and more than twice as much as what it foresees being spent on desktop advertising.
No one quite knows when the so-called Year of Mobile happened, but it’s safe to say that the Age of Mobile is now fully upon us. But with great power comes great responsibility and — despite the rapid expansion of consumer mobile habits — that’s an area where mobile advertising has struggled to deliver on its promise. Fortunately, as mobile enters a new phase of maturity, that’s quickly changing.
Here are the key developments to watch as mobile takes its place at the helm of the advertising industry.
Concerns around viewability have long constrained deeper ad investments in mobile, but increased adoption of viewability standards in mobile over the past year has instilled greater confidence within the market. Perhaps most important, last year the IAB Tech Lab’s Open Measurement Working Group (OMWG) released the first version of OM SDK for General Availability. The OM SDK facilitates third-party viewability and verification measurement of in-app ads without requiring multiple ad verification providers’ SDKs — a major step forward when it comes to enabling advertiser trust in mobile inventory suppliers. As OM SDK adoption spreads, so too will that trust.
IVT and fraud
Of course, viewability is just the tip of the iceberg. Beneath the surface, one of the biggest challenges to mobile advertising growth has been invalid traffic and mobile ad fraud concerns. That's why IAB Tech Lab’s recent release of the final version of the app-ads.txt specification is such a big deal.
At long last, the advertising industry's broader anti-fraud initiative has made its way to mobile in-app advertising. In the desktop space, IAB's ads.txt project has helped the advertising industry take great strides forward in preventing counterfeit inventory and improving transparency in the digital programmatic supply chain. Underapp-ads.txt, mobile app publishers can now list the vendors that are authorized to sell their ad inventory, and programmatic ad buyers can check these lists to ensure a company claiming to offer an app’s inventory is actually able to sell the app’s inventory. As adoption of app-ads.txt grows, the reduction of fraud within the mobile space, like the desktop space before it, will be transformative.
In the desktop space, the rise of header bidding as a programmatic solution represented a significant leap forward in transparency that also boosted publisher revenues. In the in-app space, header bidding isn’t nearly as simple to execute — but that hasn’t stopped providers from trying. In 2019, we can expect to see this area take a leap forward when it comes to flattening the waterfall once and for all.
Perhaps more important, though, we’re also going to see the world of mobile programmatic move into a more premium realm. To date, mobile programmatic has been largely focused on serving in-feed and banner ads. This year, that’s going to open up significantly via new programmatic placements — ones triggered by elements such as weather, location, and actions being completed on a device. These sorts of premium placements are a natural, and long overdue, next step in the maturing mobile marketplace.
In the past, advertisers have had to take a lot on faith when it comes to their mobile ad spends, with issues surrounding viewability, fraud, and auction dynamics weighing heavily on advertiser trust in mobile. But over the next 12 months — thanks to initiatives put into motion over the past year — transparency, accountability, and quality within the mobile space are going to take dramatic leaps forward. Buckle up. It’s going to be an exciting ride.
Bill Alena is chief revenue officer of Kiip