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A mobile strategy is a must for advertisers in digital age

A report was recently released by eMarketer that analyzed how U.S. consumers spend time with various types of media. The average time spent with almost every type of media was down from last year. The average American adult is spending less time watching television, listening to the radio and reading magazines. The only media channel they are spending more time with is mobile. Of course, if you’ve ever observed people eating in a restaurant, this should come as no surprise. I’m amazed when I see people having a conversation and actually making eye contact.

eMarketer estimates that U.S. adults spend three hours and 43 minutes on mobile devices each day. According to research from Deloitte in 2018, the average smartphone owner checks their phone 47 times per day. Wait, that doesn’t seem right. The research also found that 18- to 24-year-olds check their phones 86 times per day. OK, now that makes more sense.

It’s no wonder that advertisers are shifting their media spend to target consumers’ smartphones. It’s estimated that in 2020 advertising spend on mobile devices will surpass the spend on all traditional media combined. This is an incredible shift. For decades, advertisers invested more dollars in television advertising than any other medium. Next year, it’s estimated that TV will take just 23.5% of the total media spend in the United States. If you were wondering why every network now has their own digital streaming service, that’s the reason.

Advertisers in 2019 need to have a mobile-first strategy. The good news is, there are two companies that own the mobile experience, and both offer advertising solutions. The bad news is, there are only two companies that own the mobile experience and control the mobile advertising marketplace.

Facebook and (Google parent company) Alphabet own seven of the most used mobile apps. Facebook owns Instagram, FB Messenger and Facebook. Google owns YouTube, Google Search, Google Maps and Gmail. According to a recent survey conducted by comScore, each of these apps is in the top 10 that millennials say they can’t live without. One could argue that this is not necessarily a good thing for consumers, but for advertisers this provides some specific advantages.

Two advertising platforms can be used to place ads across all seven of these apps, Facebook Business Manager and Google Ads. Once you’ve learned the systems, you can run and manage highly targeted ads with various ad formats reaching a wide variety of consumers. Warning, though: It does take some expertise and experience (more on that later).

Advertisers can run ads with virtually any budget. If you have a credit card, both Google and Facebook will happily accept any amount of money you’re willing to donate, I mean invest.

There are ad formats that work well for building your brand (YouTube and Instagram) as well as driving direct response (Google Search and Maps).

Of course, all of this power concentrated in the hands of two companies is dangerous. The federal government is posturing that they are finally going to take action. Advertisers should be wary as well.

First off, these systems are complex. But that doesn’t stop Facebook and Google from constantly encouraging small businesses to set up campaigns. On Facebook, they send messages within the platform that encourage businesses to “boost” their posts (put advertising dollars behind them). Google sends out $25 credits to businesses encouraging them to “get started.” The problem is, if you don’t know what you’re doing, it’s very easy to waste money in these systems. Ads are sold in real-time bidding (RTB) environments instead of at standard rate card costs. If you aren’t familiar with how to achieve high quality scores with your ads, the systems charge you a premium. No wonder they encourage people with no training to run ads.

More importantly, because two companies control advertisers’ ability to reach consumers on their mobile devices, we all have to play by their rules. They are constantly creating new advertising products and changing how we set-up, target and manage advertising campaigns. With every new scandal, targeting parameters within Facebook Business Manager disappear only to return with a different naming convention down the road. Google is changing their search engine results page to include information that people can access without clicking any links. This has given rise to a large percentage of zero-click searches. This phenomenon is detrimental to companies hoping to derive site traffic from search engine marketing.

Advertising on mobile devices can be extremely effective. It has the potential to reach a large audience through a channel where they spend hours each day, plus it’s a highly personal and intimate environment. In my experience, mobile users engage with ads on their smartphones at a high rate. I guess sometimes it’s more interesting than looking up at the person sitting across from you.

Karl Heberger is chief strategy officer at Mason Digital, a full-service digital marketing firm in Penfield, New York. He can be reached at karl@masondigital.com.

About Karl Heberger