Several Industries Boost Mobile Ad Spend; Questions Surround Display Efficacy

December 14, 2012

10 verticals grew their mobile ad spending on the Millennial Media platform by triple-digits in Q3, reveals the network in its latest S.M.A.R.T report [download page] released today. The auto industry – the largest advertising vertical in the US in Q3 – led the charge, increasing its spend by a whopping 574% year-over-year, after also boasting the biggest hike in Q2. The travel (+431%), education (+421%), and sports (+417%) verticals also bumped up their mobile ad spending in Q3, though telecommunications remained the top spender for the quarter.

The other leading ad spending verticals after telecom were: retail and restaurants; finance; automotive; and travel. The technology industry, which boosted its spend by 294%, snuck into the 10th spot.

Mobile Display Performance Questioned

While these industries clearly see the benefits of mobile advertising, one researcher at least is not so sure. A recent study [pdf] from Marchex analyzed several branded, national advertiser campaigns across 6 major mobile display ad networks. The campaign goals were a single quality phone call – taking the form of an auto insurance quote, a cable TV subscription inquiry, a home services appointment, or a class registration.

The study found that in order to obtain one quality call from mobile display, it took almost 500,000 impressions, which in turn created 2,481 clicks, which generated 29 calls – all leading to a single quality call (the other calls were deemed low quality – too short, or a hang-up). The study equates that to spending $302 for a single quality call if paying $0.61 CPM for mobile display, or $248 if paying $0.10 per click from mobile display impressions. That’s up to 10 times the price for a targeted consumer phone call.

Site Search Most Popular Post-Click Campaign Action

Of course, the Marchex study takes quality calls as its measure of mobile ad effectiveness, but the Millennial Media report shows that advertisers are directing consumers to various post-click actions. Site search – where mobile users were led to mobile-optimized sites – was the most popular of these, comprising 41% of the post-click actions on the platform in Q3.

Application download (32%) was the next-most popular post-click campaign action, followed by social media (28%) and mobile commerce (24%). Place call comprised just 10% of the post-click action mix.

Those actions correlate with advertiser goals, which didn’t concentrate on quality calls. Instead, sustained in-market presence (26%) was the leading goal, with travel brands in particular using mobile ads to encourage consumers to visit their applications and search, research, or book travel during the summer season. Site traffic (23%) was also a popular goal, as were registrations (17%) and brand awareness (16%).

Android or iOS? Depends on the Network

An earlier report from Millennial Media showed Android’s share of impressions at 52% in Q3, far ahead of iOS at 34%. According to a 2012 retrospective from Opera, though, iOS took top billing for the year, with 44% of all impressions on that network, compared to 29% on Android devices.

In other news from the Opera review, the music, video & media category generated the most impressions (23.8%), and tied with entertainment to lead in monetization, each contributing 15% of total revenue. Sports counted as the fastest-growing category, beginning the year at less than 4% of revenue, but ending it at close to 14% of monthly revenue.

Other Findings:

  • According to the Marchex study, the real call-through-rate showed huge variance across advertisers and networks, ranging from 0.001% to 0.0281%. The researcher concludes that clicks did not turn into calls, making it extremely difficult for advertisers to use clicks as an effective measurement of campaign success.
  • The study also found that the traditional click-through rate (CTR) had less variance (0.3% to 0.76%), but that the level of CTR had no bearing on the real call-through-rate.

About the Data: The Millennial Media data is based on the top 750 campaigns on its platform in Q3. The Opera data is based on an analysis of 40 billion+ monthly impressions served on over 10,000 mobile sites and apps that use the Opera mobile ad platform.


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