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Keeping an Eye on the Social Media Mobile Ad Space

The Betts Team
July 19, 2011

The Social Media Mobile Advertising space is quickly becoming a battlefield, but with the amount of money it’s estimated to bring in within the next few years, it’s easy to see why everyone’s fighting for it.

Wikipedia claims that “mobile phones outnumber TV sets by over 3 to 1, PC based Internet users by over 4 to 1, and the total laptop and desktop PC population by nearly 5 to 1!” Even Google has a whole web layout dedicated to stats and trends in the space ( where they claim that 49% of people who see mobile ads take action: where 82% go on to purchase a product, 42% click on the ad, and 35% visit the website. The space has become so influential (pulling in an estimated 4.9 billion dollars in 2009 alone) that there is now a Mobile Marketing Association, a global mobile marketing awards ceremony held annually by Visiongain, and the space had even been dubbed the “seventh mass media channel” by media and mobile experts.

With all of these incredible stats, it’s amazing that there isn’t a company dominating the mobile ad market yet. In fact, 79% of top advertisers do not even have a mobile optimization! Google’s mobile ad display network, AdMob, is doing pretty well, serving 99% of Google’s top 1,000 clients and receiving over 2 billion ad requests each day. Additionally, since Google is the world’s search giant, it already dominates 97% of mobile searches worldwide, and with Google’s popular Android mobile phone platform recently outselling the iPhone (becoming the most popular phone in 2010 after a 886% leap in popularity) it is my opinion that Google will soon surpass the other competition in the space.

Stiff Competition

However, there is some stiff competition out there for Google. For example, Microsoft offers mobile display advertising that connects to 50 million users (55% of total U.S. wireless users), and has partnered with Bing and Yahoo! ad platforms to provide mobile search advertising that reaches 28 million users. Microsoft has also partnered with other mobile advertisers such as MSN Mobile, Windows Live Hotmail, Windows Live Messenger, MSNBC, and Fox Sports, which expands their reach and makes them a formidable competitor for Google. Apple has also acquired its own mobile ad platform, Quattro, which has been renamed iAd (surprising, I know). Other competitors include independent ad networks, which are smaller scale but pack a punch. Inmobi, arguably the world’s largest independent ad network, reaches 314 million consumers in 165 countries.

More Creative Means More Views

Companies are also getting more creative with mobile ads, which only adds to the fierceness of the competition; from video message ads, to “advergaming,” to coupons you can redeem through your phone. The big dogs of mobile advertising are also separating from the pack because of their ability to use rich media, which is any type of interactive ad that goes beyond basic display ads, and can range from rollover expansion ads to interactive HD video content. Studies show that 96% of people notice rich media advertisement, and Google estimates that by 2015, 50% of ads will be rich media ads. In order to obtain this service, Google has acquired DoubleClick, a rich media developer. Not to be left out of the race, Apple enlisted Adobe and Greystripe to bring rich media ads to the “i” universe.

Meanwhile, Microsoft launched Silverlight. It is a rich media platform two years in the making that is a direct competitor to Adobe’s rich media player. Adobe then fired back with a new video platform that directly competes with Windows Media Player! Just to make things crazier, Google has recently made some advertising deals with the Silverlight platform, getting yet another leg up on Microsoft (come on Microsoft, how did that happen?). Luckily for Microsoft’s sake Yahoo! is providing them with a wealth of rich media ads, and the Windows Media Player still outshines Adobe’s version.  Still following?

What About The Rest of the Space?

Is there any hope for non-Google companies to succeed in this space? Good news, there is hope. There are a couple sides to mobile advertising, the primary two being mobile sites and mobile apps. Google is banking on mobile sites being the primary place to advertise. Experts estimate half of total web browsing in the U.S. will be on mobile by 2014. Apple has gone the other way, dominating the App market, and banking on the volume of app sales to attract advertisers. Other companies have even opted for more direct mobile marketing, such as text message ads or media messages, which can seem like spam to some but at least serves to diversify the playing field.

And advertisers keep developing new ways to advertise, making room for smaller scale companies to thrive. Location-based ads are one of the best up and coming mobile ad platforms. They  can operate off of “check-ins” on sites/apps like Foursquare or Facebook. Interactivity is also inspiring a lot of new ad platforms. One innovative advergaming platform that I found is Kiip, which places ads in mobile games. The ads show up when players reach certain points of the game as rewards or coupons. These rewards are instant and short term, kind of like a real life prize for the game. For example, when you complete level three, you get a coupon for a coffee store near you.

Pools and voting are also good ways to draw consumers in. Qriously is an ad platform that asks users to rate which of two options they prefer. It measures “location based public sentiment in real-time” and collecting marketing research for advertisers.

Nothing like some cut throat competition to stir up amazing and innovative technology!