Sultan Khan, co-founder and CEO, AdMaxim
Sultan Khan, co-founder and CEO, AdMaxim
A view from Sultan Khan

Think BR: Why is mobile ad spend lagging behind?

Mobile ad spend is growing but it is still a fraction of spend on other media, writes Sultan Khan, co-founder and CEO, AdMaxim.

Leaving home this morning you almost certainly checked you had keys, your travel pass, cash and last but not least your mobile phone. 

Mobile phones are a brand marketer’s dream. They’re indispensable to consumers, extremely personal, almost always on.

Sophisticated functionality and well designed user interfaces mean that mobile devices are highly interactive, while rocketing penetration levels globally mean they offer access to billions of users in hundreds of different markets. 

What’s more, mobile has huge potential to revolutionise the opportunities for how, where and when advertisers engage with consumers thanks to the growth in real-time and mobile location based services.

Meanwhile smartphones using high speed networks can now carry high quality rich media advertisements that are both sophisticated and creatively compelling.

UK mobile advertising spend increased by 157% to £203.2m last year, which is impressive growth by any measure. But the fact remains that mobile still only accounts for around 1% of total UK media budgets.

On paper mobile should be doing better, but something appears to be putting a drag on the medium. I think a key problem is the way that mobile as a sector talks to marketers as well as media and creative agencies.

Brand marketers know they need to get to grips with mobile, but they don’t know where to start. From O2 to Vodafone, they are faced with a variety of delivery platforms, a plethora of handset brands and operating systems, as well as a vast array of formats and routes to consumer, from video to rich media and apps.

To help them navigate this mobile marketing maze, a huge array of niche mobile advertising technology service providers has grown up offering advice and technology. All too often the advice doesn’t come with the technology and the technology itself is vanilla and covers only part of the picture.

This fragmentation is bad enough, but that’s not the real sin that the mobile sector is committing. The digital mobile marketing sector has collectively failed to speak plain English and focus on what’s important: audiences and ROI.

With all its abbreviations, acronyms and jargon, the technology-orientated language used by the mobile sector only serves to underline its complexity so acting as a further turn-off for our customers.

To a busy brand marketer, mobile is just another ad channel. And if we want to compete more successfully with TV, print, or online then it’s crucial that we start talking to brand marketers, agencies and creatives about mobile as an ad medium. 

This means explaining the benefits of advertising on mobile, compared to other media. Mobile users watch TV, listen to the radio, go online, use social media, read the papers. They are increasingly doing this on mobile devices. So in both senses, a mobile audience is an audience of all the other media.

We need to get that message across. We also need to make mobile’s complexity a virtue rather than a vice. This means explaining just how clever real-time audience optimisation learning algorithms can be and the potential benefits in-depth, instantaneous analytics can deliver for brand marketers.

Because mobile technology is not just clever for the sake of it. By combining information about a consumer’s location, which device they’re using and at what time of day, mobile technology is increasingly enabling brand marketers to achieve one of marketing’s holy grails - relevancy.

In other words allowing brands to personalise their content, messages and offers in real-time so that these are as relevant and timely to consumers as they possibly can be. Because the mobile space is so personal, this is a critical element in achieving campaign success.

Which other ad mediums currently swallowing large portions of brand marketers’ ad spend can claim the same degree of personalisation and relevancy that mobile can?

The answer is none of them, which is why mobile as a sector needs to be do a much better job of shouting about its competitive advantage over other media in language we can all understand.

Sultan Khan, co-founder and CEO, AdMaxim