Maurice Saatchi on The Rise of Mobile Advertising

Here at M&C Saatchi, the ‘Brutal Simplicity of Thought’ is our guiding philosophy. We believe that no matter what the medium, it is the thought process that should apply to all forms of advertising – including mobile, which is becoming increasingly important to brands as a means to engage and target relevant consumers. And yet the incredible rise of mobiles and tablets presents new challenges and concerns to advertisers, perhaps making mobile advertising appear more complicated than it should be.

As we enter this new mobile age, advertisers do not need to be confused or intimidated. Working with an experienced specialist mobile agency will help to reduce the apparent complexity of mobile and retain the simplicity that needs to govern a brand’s advertising outlook. As ever, I believe that brands should be free from the shackles of technical intimidation and should be able to focus on what they have always done best, which is to ensure that a compelling and clear message reaches the right customer at the right time.

Mobiles are ever-present in most of our lives. They are now a natural extension of ourselves and a means of staying permanently connected to a world of friends, family, work and information. Their ubiquitous nature means that they present advertisers with an emerging opportunity like no other. There are now more mobile phones and tablet devices in the UK than people and television sets.  Opportunities to connect are reaching new heights with Wi-Fi on the London Underground and airplanes and a new Wi-Fi network is soon due to launch in London’s Black Cabs.

In Britain we spend around 127 minutes per day in mobile apps. Increasingly, our mobile devices form a picture of our interests and browsing habits and they know who we are. Perhaps, most significantly, they also know where we are at any given time. The added awareness that location brings to mobile advertising offers new and exciting opportunities for brands and consumers alike. Location-awareness represents a revolution in advertising, messaging and branding. Retail brands are now able to geo-fence around their bricks and mortar stores to appropriately identify when a consumer is near. This means that exclusive offers can be sent to shoppers in the vicinity of a store, or a movie trailer played to customers near a cinema.

There are two highly significant trends which will accelerate the importance of mobile in 2013. The first trend is the decline of the desktop PC. Recent research by International Data Corp showed that PC sales worldwide are at their lowest point since records began with a 14 % drop in sales and IDC calling the US market “dismal,” with its shipments at their lowest level since 2006. Although some blame has been placed at the door of Microsoft’s new Windows 8 software for putting consumers off, much of the decline can be attributed to the growth of smaller form-factor tablets, especially the introduction of affordable sub-£150 7” devices from Amazon and Google as well as the launch of the iPad Mini.

The availability of affordable tablet devices is providing the tipping point for consumers to begin abandoning the PC as their primary means of accessing email and Internet. To accompany this, they are even eating into the exclusivity of the television set, by providing consumers with a new way of watching their favourite programmes and films. Recent stats from the BBC show that in March, the number of people accessing BBC iPlayer through a tablet surpassed the smartphone figure for the first time ever.

The other major change is the introduction of new 4G networks, which is akin to the move from dial-up to broadband for fixed line connections.  Although true mass-market adoption is still a small while off for 4G, the introduction of super-fast mobile broadband offers exciting creative opportunities for running interactive media campaigns on mobiles.

Another significant growth area for mobile advertising is social networks. This is largely due to the fact that they take up a significant amount of consumers’ time spent on their mobile. As a result of this, companies such as Facebook and Twitter are able to build an incredibly detailed picture of interests and habits for increased advertising targeting effectiveness.

James Hilton, chief executive of M&C Saatchi Mobile observes the “explosive” growth of mobile advertising, as well as its capabilities first hand. Mobile advertising has proven itself to be a major advertising platform, with global revenues worth $6.43 billion in 2012 according to mobile ad exchange SMAATO and is projected to be worth $19.7 billion by 2017.  2013 is shaping up to be the biggest year for mobile so far, as more consumers than ever shift over to smartphones and tablets: 25 million+ iOS and Android devices were activated globally in the period following Christmas alone. These numbers support the trends we saw in 2012, as smartphones overtook feature phones and opened up new opportunities for rich and engaging mobile advertising.

The ever-present nature of mobile devices coupled with location awareness, combine to make mobile an incredibly potent platform, giving brands the capability to target consumers at an increasingly granular level. This is something which has not existed previously and consumers will once again welcome advertising as it serves up products and services which are directly useful and relevant to their lives.

The sheer pace of change and sophistication of mobile devices means that for advertisers it is often easier to complicate than to simplify. This need not be the case. Brands should leave the technicalities to the experts so that they can focus on what they have always done best – which is to focus on the core message. More than ever, mobile requires what all other advertising mediums need to deliver: brutal simplicity of thought.

Lord Maurice Saatchi is executive director of international advertising agency M&C Saatchi.

Lord Maurice Saatchi also provides the foreword for M&C Saatchi Mobile’s first white paper: ‘Inside Mobile Advertising, The Top 5 Trends and Insights’.