Although it is not surprising that figures for the mobile ad market have had year to year increases, the actual figures are eyebrow-raising. According to Millennial Media’s 2011 Q1 Scorecard for Mobile Advertising Reach and Targeting (S.M.A.R.T.) report, in 2009 there were 312 million smartphone users. By the end of 2011 that figure is expected to be 571 million.
Those numbers have attracted a steep increase in mobile advertising, according to the report, as well as attempts to create best practices, to reinterpret traditional advertising methods for mobile audiences and to take the fullest advantage of technology that permits ad customization not possible in more traditional advertising outlets.
According to the report, the auto, finance, telecommunications, health and fitness, and education sectors all experienced triple digit growth in mobile ad spending year over year. But those numbers pale when compared to the retail and restaurant vertical, which experienced an astonishing 1342 percent growth in year over year mobile ad spending.
Mobile advertising has not only increased dramatically, but as the industry, along with its underlying technology, matures, advertisers have developed ways to more accurately target ads. Improvements to both the reach and the timing of mobile advertising are maximizing its effectiveness. According to the report, 44 percent of mobile ads are targeted to a demographic, a local market or a specific behavioral audience. In fact, the report called the shift in local advertising dollars from traditional media, including print and radio, to mobile, one of the top three advertising trends of the first quarter.
Advertisers that timed mobile campaigns to specific events or holidays experienced spikes in usage. In Q1, mobile ads in some verticals tied to New Year’s weekend, St. Patrick’s Day, the Superbowl, President’s Day weekend, and Valentine’s Day, saw increased interaction rates. For example, according to the report, online dating services experienced spikes in interactions around Valentine’s Day.
When it comes to engagement goals, drawing traffic to a sustained mobile site remains the gold standard, largely because of the accessibility it affords to the entire range of mobile users -those with feature phones, smart phones and tablets. But app downloads experienced a 31 percent quarter over quarter increase, which can be seen as a gauge of increasing smartphone penetration.
A new technique in mobile advertising borrows a page from the television advertising playbook. Mobiblocks, defined by Millennial as “a mobile strategy…to achieve dominant share of voice with their target audience…[by running an ad] across an entire mobile network or with a specific audience, demographic or channel…” is akin to roadblocking on television and allows advertisers to build some degree of wall-to-wall coverage.
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