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Mobile advertising spend will outstrip digital rivals by 2016

The lat­est fore­cast for US media ad spend­ing from eMar­keter pre­dicts that mobile adver­tis­ing will sur­pass all oth­er dig­i­tal ads by 2016.

An his­toric over­take

Mobile adver­tis­ing agen­cies will have their work cut out for them, it seems: over the next two years, mobile ad spend­ing is pro­ject­ed to more than dou­ble from this year’s $17.7 bil­lion to $37.5 bil­lion. Any­one with a smat­ter­ing of knowl­edge about the mobile adver­tis­ing mar­ket will instant­ly appre­ci­ate that this will amount to an his­toric event: for the first time, mobile ad spend will out­strip that for print and desk­top.

So, what’s hap­pened to turn the runt of the adver­tis­ing lit­ter into the titan? The expla­na­tion, says eMarketer’s exec­u­tive edi­tor Noah Elkin is a major shift in con­sumer habits. He said:

“It real­ly has to do with con­sumers’ time, atten­tion and engage­ment. Con­sumers are spend­ing more of their dig­i­tal media time with their smart­phones and tablets than their desk­tops and lap­tops.”

Last year, US adults were spend­ing just two min­utes more on their tablets and smart­phones than on larg­er lap­top or desk­top screens. But this year, that dif­fer­ence has sky­rock­et­ed 20-fold to reach forty min­utes more.

As Elkin some­what mod­est­ly puts it, adver­tis­ers are now more will­ing to focus more of their dol­lars on the mobile chan­nel for one over­rid­ing rea­son: “To the extent that time is mon­ey, that is a con­tribut­ing fac­tor.”

Doubt and con­fi­dence

But it may not all be plain sail­ing. Some cau­tious observers of the mobile phones adver­tis­ing mar­ket remain a lit­tle skep­ti­cal. Shel­by Sav­ille, for exam­ple, who heads dig­i­tal adver­tis­ing at the Pub­li­cis-owned media agency Spark, remains to be ful­ly con­vinced. She said:

“The oppor­tu­ni­ties for paid adver­tis­ing in mobile are not that strong yet. In many ways we are repeat­ing the sins of the past in desk­top,” point­ing to the ten­den­cy to sell ban­ner ads “on an even small­er screen”.

Spark’s clients are more attract­ed to chan­nel­ing their dol­lars into ad spots run­ning with video games, and Yahoo recent­ly declared to would shift resources away from mobile ban­ners to native ads that blend more sub­tly with oth­er con­tent.

But some real jug­ger­nauts in the mobile adver­tis­ing space sug­gest that eMar­keter is onto some­thing: as we report­ed recent­ly, Twit­ter just acquired NY mobile ad start­up Tap­Com­merce and Face­book is cer­tain­ly muscling in, too.

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