Mobile’s Dominance Means There Are No Channels, Just Screens

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And then there were just screens. After years of digital marketers talking about television, desktop, laptop, tablet and smartphones, we have come to a turning point. In the first half of the year, and for the first time, PwC and IAB UK figures show that more digital display budget was being spent on mobile (GBP802m) than PC and tablet (GBP762m). In total, digital spend is up 16%, while mobile digital spend is up 56%.We’re spending nearly half of our media time on mobile — and in fact, when you break it down, women are actually spending just over half their media time on smartphones, and with Millennials, the devices are taking up nearly two-thirds of their attention. Put very simply, if you’re wondering when the mobile-first world starts, the answer is that it already has. If you want to be more precise, it happened for different media owners at different stages, but as a whole, the first half of 2016 is when smartphone attention and the accompanying advertising budget overtook desktop and tablet.

So are we not now at a stage of not needing to talk about different channels? Isn’t a television just a really big screen and a smartphone a small one, with desktop and tablets in between? Sure, the spots available to advertisers will change from one screen size to another — and so too may the creative, depending on the size of the spot and whether we’re talking about a video with high production values or a call to action to grab bargains in today’s sale.

However, the channels are just screens, aren’t they? If you’re thinking that the desktop is a better place for video, think again. Video accounts for 30% of desktop spend, but 37% of mobile marketing budgets. So the widespread availability of WiFi and 4G means that connection speed is rarely an issue. What may be an issue is marketers needing to adjust how they think about an industry that has been divided into very clear, concise channels based around the device the message is due to be viewed on.

There are obvious creative considerations to adjust a campaign to be appropriate for different size screens, but that’s all we’re talking about now — differently sized screens. There is no desktop, mobile, laptop, television and tablet — just differently sized windows through which consumers are peering into their digital worlds.

This column was previously published in the London Blog

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