Despite the rise of digital advertising, advertisers still spent over $130bn last year on television advertising. Of the tens of billions of dollars advertisers are spending on digital ads, a very small portion, perhaps as little as $1bn, is being spent on mobile ads.

But those figures aren't stopping Razorfish's Mobile Practice Lead, Paul Gelb, from making a bold prediction: "I think mobile ad spend will overtake television." And he isn't talking about decades from now; he believes mobile could surpass television in the coming years.

Adweek has the details:

Mobile, [Gelb] explained is the first truly mass media. His exuberance didn’t stop there: There are over three times the number of mobile subscribers as there are TV subscribers, he said.

Globally, it’s the most adopted technology and media channel in history. The engagement rates are higher. And inventory, thanks to 24-hour access to users, is unmatched.

Gelb's comments are timely in light of a study (PDF) conducted by European mobile ad network madvertise, which found that "smartphone users are watching television at the same time as surfing the internet on their mobile devices."

But even if we accept, for argument's sake, that mobile is eating into consumer attention during prime time, and that mobile is a more 'engaging' medium, is it really realistic to believe that mobile ad spend will exceed television ad spend anytime soon?

Probably not.

There are plenty of reasons why television ads will remain popular, and why television ad inventory will command a steep premium over its digital counterparts. TV ads are liked by consumers and they work just as well today as they did nearly two decades ago.

Throw in the fact that advertisers are comfortable buying television ads (it's unlikely you'll ever be fired for buying a prime time 30-second spot), and it's clear that they aren't going anywhere.

Mobile ads, on the other hand, may have some theoretical advantages, but it's clear that advertisers aren't yet ready to throw tens of billions of dollars at them annually. The inventory (not the medium) simply isn't that attractive right now.

Of course, while it's fun to compare and contrast channels, and to pretend that there's a zero sum competition taking place between them, savvy marketers understand that the real story is the power of well-executed multichannel campaigns. For mobile to win with advertisers, it doesn't have to surpass television, it simply has to work with it.

Patricio Robles

Published 22 July, 2011 by Patricio Robles

Patricio Robles is a tech reporter at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter.

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Comments (1)


Harry Connor Jr.

Well balanced article. This statement says it all. "For mobile to win with advertisers, it doesn't have to surpass television, it simply has to work with it." I have featured it on my blog.

about 7 years ago

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