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How have mobile advertising campaigns, objectives and spending evolved since Millennial Media published its first report in March 2009? We go to the source for the answers.

But first, a little background on methodology. These reports are based on actual campaign and network data from Millennial Media. The most recent report provides us insights based on data that was accumulated across 67 billion mobile impressions in 250 countries and territories. For some reports (such as the Mobile Intel report on mobile retail I analyzed here) Millennial Media has married its factual network data with consumer insights from research firm comScore. (Editor’s note: Millennial has four more Mobile Intel reports in various stages of development in the pipeline looking at verticals including Automotive, so watch this space.)

Vertical explosion

As more industry verticals embark on mobile campaigns and marketers shift their focus from one-off experiments to ongoing execution, mobile advertising (and spending) is entering a new phase of growth.

Aptly titled “Vertical Explosion,” the December 2010 SMART (Scorecard for Mobile Advertising Reach and Targeting) report from Millennial Media was the first to confirm and quantify this mega-trend.

VerticalExplosion_Millennial Media reportThe most recent SMART report (2Q2011) released just this week reveals that the vertical explosion is at full force. Specifically, six verticals experienced triple-digit growth or greater year-over-year.

Who are the Big Spenders?

Interestingly, the financial sector has moved out of the test phase and is making a significant investment in mobile.

Overall, the Finance vertical placed number 3 in the Top 10 U.S. Advertising Verticals and number 5 in the Top 10 International Advertising Verticals.

But the real story is the phenomenal percentage growth in ad spend (and Millennial Media assures me this is not from a low level). Specifically, spending from financial brands and institutions increased 1095 percent year-over-year.

In Q2, insurance brands heavily utilized mobile for generating leads, while banking and credit advertisers ran campaigns to raise the awareness of their products and services.

Meantime, other verticals upped activities, leveraging mobile to create awareness of brand, promotional offers and drive app downloads. Among these are Travel, which moved up on both the U.S. and International Top 10 lists, and Retail & Restaurants, which grew 956 percent year-over-year to keep the number one spot on the Top 10 U.S. Advertising Vertical ranking. The vertical also moved to the number eight position on the Top 10 International Advertising Verticals.

Local matters

Another key trend that came across in the recent report is the aggressive push by brands and marketers to use local market targeting to deliver location-linked (and therefore actionable) advertising. A major objective of these campaigns: increase awareness of local campaigns and drive customers to brick and mortar business locations and outlets.

In the SMART Q2 report we learn that the number of advertisers using targeted audience reach methods (specifically demographics and location) now represents almost half (45 percent) of the total.

This is very different from the way marketers leveraged mobile two years ago. The 50th report from Millennial Media connects the dots to confirm that brands are not just running mobile campaigns; they are leveraging the unique capabilities of mobile to deliver us offers we can appreciate because they are relevant to our daily routines and location.

mobile targeting trends

Specifically, usage of Demographic Audience and Local market Audience targeting has grown from 1 percent to 20 percent.

Our mobile day and activity

Clearly, location-linked campaigns are driving results. But brands and marketers should also think about ‘timeliness’. If you thought that mobile is what we reach for when we are on the go, then think again.

Mobile is increasingly an integral part of our daily routine. Consumer research from InsightExpress and married with Millennial Media data gives a new view into our ‘mobile day’, which starts at 5 am EST (a time when people in both the U.S: and Europe are ramping up for the day’s activities).

Millennial Media has identified three categories of behavior:

  • Mobile mornings (5am – 12amEST): This period is characterized by above average network spikes in content such as weather, traffic, local news, health, fitness and productivity.
  • Mobile workday (9am – 7pmEST): Network traffic is ramping up as time zones come online and get down to business. During this time the content we access (and the advertising we will see) is associated with verticals including: travel & lifestyle, shopping & retail, business & finance, e-books & reference.
  • Mobile prime time (7pm – 12 pmEST): We are winding down after a busy day and network traffic shows a shift to social interaction and content, and entertainment.

This dovetails with InsightExpress’ recent digital consumer portrait study. It confirms my hunch that mobile is indeed (and quite literally) becoming the remote control of our lives (to borrow a phrase here from my esteemed friend and colleague Alan Moore).

InsightExpress reveals that about 40 percent of the time we spend on our mobile devices is in the home. Combine that observation with Millennial Media’s breakdown of our mobile day and it’s clear that mobile is replacing some channels. But the opportunity is in advertising that harnesses mobile to amplify these channels. Think about the fit between mobile and TV (for voting, shopping and checking trivia, research, etc) and you can see where this is going.

Campaign actions & video

So what happens after the click? Brands are becoming more sophisticated in their choice of post-click calls to action— and the way they engage with customers.  In fact, this 50th report shows significant growth in the number of campaigns aimed at driving app downloads (up 667 percent), from a mere 3 percent to 23 percent.

mobile calls to action

Other campaign actions include:

  • Visit site (up 247 percent)
  • Place call (from just 1 percent to 37 percent as more verticals grasp the mobile opportunity to generate leads)
  • Watch video (up 200 percent)

It seems the more things change, the more they stay the same. Mobile video advertising — an advertising format packed with interactive elements that goes one better than the TV commercials to encourage real engagement — is familiar to us — and catching on. In Q2 alone the number of customers that selected an interactive element on Millennial Media’s video ads doubled. Moreover, more customers purposely selected the replay button (2x more than any other button, by the way). No doubt these numbers will continue to grow as smartphone penetration increases and more people share what they like. Think of all the cool spots that went viral via YouTube and you can see where this is going.

4 Qs for Erin (Mack) McKelvey

Mack McKelveyMillennial Media (@MillennialMedia) is my source for a regular dose of stats and developments. However, within Millennial Media it’s Mack McKelvey, SVP, Marketing, who stands out for her ‘coverage’ of mobile industry events, insightful comments and dry wit. I caught up with Mack to delve into the data and distill the key trends.

You can follow Mack and her invaluable observations on Twitter (@mackmckelvey).

MG: 50 massive mobile reports documenting what Millennial has been seeing since March 2009. Wow! Tell me a little bit about your reports and help me navigate this huge stock of data.


Mack: Sure. Although we’ve produced numerous special reports like, “State of Apps Industry Snapshot” and “State of Mobile Advertising”,  we have three core reports: SMART, Mobile Mix: The Device Index and the Mobile Intel Series.

SMART was the first report we released and it has been tremendously well received by the advertising community, including brand marketers, agencies and the media. SMART looks at data like the top advertiser campaign goals, trends in mobile targeting, post-click actions, and deep dives into various mobile ad verticals.

Mobile Mix is aimed more at publishers, developers and mobile trend watchers: It primarily reports on key trends in mobile devices, mobile operating systems, mobile manufacturers and connected devices, like the iPad or Sony PSP.

Finally—our Mobile Intel series is an initiative we have launched in partnership with comScore.  Based on comScore’s observations — and married with our own network data and client campaigns — we produce deep vertical guides designed to help advertisers navigate the space.

50th smart report coverMG: Let’s focus in on the 50th report. What stat and/or trend has surprised you the most, and what are the overall implications for brands/marketers?

Mack: Because this was our 50th report, we decided to go back and look at how mobile has evolved since our first report back in March 2009. Rather than call out one stat, I’d say the trend that stood out the most was just how much more sophisticated mobile advertising has become in the past few years.

For example, we saw that in Q2 of 2011, 37 percent of campaigns gave consumers the option to “Click-to-Call.” Back in Q1 of 2009, only 1 percent of campaigns did this. This is a fascinating stat, because it shows that marketers are taking an action that is completely unique to mobile marketing, and finding ways to implement it into their campaigns.

Another great example is the rise in local market targeting. In our first S.M.A.R.T. report, under 2 percent of campaigns used local market targeting. Today, that number is up to 20 percent. Mobile has become a great channel for advertisers to reach local consumers, and advertisers are certainly reacting accordingly.

MG: You mentioned during your last webinar that we are finally past ‘Mobile 101’. Can you give some examples of how mobile has evolved?”

One of the easiest ways to see the evolution of mobile is by looking at all the different ways advertisers are executing campaigns. In terms of targeting, campaign goals and post-click actions the variety we see in the campaigns on our network is huge. This shows that advertisers are building specific campaigns to uniquely hit their objectives.

Additionally, the device landscape has changed dramatically. Connected devices like tablets and MP3 players make up 17 percent of all the impressions on our network, and advertisers are using these devices to add new levels of depth to their campaigns.


MG: Who are the biggest adopters of mobile advertising today, and how might this change in the next 12 months? Are there verticals that are more active in mobile than others?

Mack: We believe that we are actually past the “adoption” stage, and mobile is becoming a required component of campaigns for nearly every vertical. We actually saw six different verticals experience triple digit growth year-over-year, including the finance vertical, which grew over 1000 percent. In the next 12 months, we expect advertisers from all verticals to continue to find creative ways to leverage mobile for their particular industry.

Editor’s note: Millennial Media doesn’t just draw from campaign data. It also posts campaign examples that show how brands are leveraging mobile. The company frequently updates the campaign summary page on the Millennial website. .And you can check out video demos of campaigns on YouTube page at

If you would like to be considered for this series (or suggest someone you admire), then reach out to me directly (@peggyanne). Next is the series: David Berkowitz talks mocial and social commerce.


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