Mobile marketing, what a difference a few years make

This past March, Briabe Media celebrated its sixth anniversary, though most days it feels like we have been around twice that long given how much the industry has evolved over that time. In many ways the industry is barely recognizable. Just consider the following:

  • When we first entered the market, the mobile advertising industry was largely marred by carrier domination, as they had much greater control over the mobile ecosystem than they do today. Carriers were able to extract the lion’s share of revenue from mobile marketing activities traversing their networks, which made it difficult for large advertisers and publishers to justify investment in the channel. Not until Apple’s launch of the iPhone did the industry truly start to flourish and break away from a carrier-centric model.
  • In 2006 most advertisers were still on the fence about mobile marketing. In a survey published that year, barely 28% of advertisers surveyed were using or even considering using mobile advertising. Much of the hesitation stemmed from concerns about the channel’s efficacy due to the very personal nature of mobile phones and the small size of the phone screens. Consequently, that year Forrester predicted the entire US mobile advertising market would reach $150 million. The US mobile industry is projected to reach $1 billion by the end of this year. Google is generating over $1 billion annually in global mobile ad revenues and major advertisers such as Coke have declared mobile an indispensable part of their advertising strategies.
  • According to a study by Telephia in December 2006, US smart phone penetration at that time stood at less than 5%, meaning the vast majority of mobile subscribers owned devices with screen sizes too small for a rich mobile advertising experience. Thus with a 38% penetration, SMS (text messaging) was by far the most widely deployed mobile advertising tool. Smartphone penetration is approaching 50% in the US today and nearly 90% of US mobile subscribers own an internet-ready phone, giving advertisers have a far more expansive selection of mobile advertising options.

Although much has changed in mobile over the past few years, one constant has been the passion Hispanic and African American consumers have demonstrated for mobile services. These consumer groups have consistently led the way in consumption of voice minutes, the purchase of mobile content and the adoption of advanced mobile data services such as SMS (text messaging) and mobile internet usage. America’s ethnic consumers combined purchasing power now exceeds $2 trillion, so advertisers looking to stay ahead of the pack should closely follow these audiences’ mobile behavior, as there is significant opportunity to reach the country’s growing diverse population through their mobile phone.

James Briggs is CEO and co-founder of Los Angeles-based Briabe Media, Inc., a multicultural mobile marketing agency.

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