MARKETERS have often claimed that mobile advertising is taking off. But this time they could be right. Global numbers are hard to come by, but a leading mobile-advertising firm, AdMob, says the number of advertisements it has delivered worldwide has tripled, and this because many of the obstacles that have held mobile advertising back are going away.
Apple’s iPhone, Google’s G1 and the BlackBerry Storm have solved this problem. They have touch-screens large enough to display the web properly—and advertisements, too.
Faster networks and lower rates also help. Having to wait for an advert to download, while being charged for the privilege, was unlikely to inspire warm feelings about the product being advertised. But with download speeds increasing and flat-rate “all you can eat” data plans, mobile services and applications are becoming more popular—and, increasingly, funded by advertising.
Perhaps most importantly, marketers are starting to work out which types of advertising work on mobile phones. Simple text-messages and banner adverts still dominate, but a more interesting idea is to spread the word using several channels. Amobee, a start-up, allows customers to insert adverts not just into text messages and mobile-internet sites, but also into games and other programs that run on handsets.
Advertising on mobile phones, like that on social-networking sites, presents risk and opportunity. The risk is that it can seem intrusive, since it appears in an intensely personal context. But that is also what makes it so attractive to advertisers—provided they can target their audience without seeming insensitive.