2015 – The Year Agencies Will Take In-app Advertising to the Next Level

Becky Doles

Who would have the audacity to even think they could predict what is to come in mobile app marketing? One of the fastest growing and dynamic markets to ever exist on this planet and some blogger thinks he can play Nostradamus? …the nerve.

Well, I’d like to give it a try anyway and not just because the first full week of 2015 is a fun time to speculate about the year ahead. More because a rough consensus has coalesced around what to expect from the future of mobile app advertising and yet no one seems very sure about how to actually get us there. By simple virtue of the mobile marketing space being the hottest in the world, 2015 is bound to be a pivotal year. So to avoid being caught flat-footed, it is worth taking some time to think about how the year ahead might take shape.

Stating that mobile app advertising is the future is more than mere speculation.

We can see a clear trend that is all but common wisdom at this point, apps’ share of users’ time on mobile devices are eclipsing traditional browsing. And this trend only stands to get stronger. For one, advancements in deep linking between apps is quickly diminishing the user experience advantage the web once held – there is no longer a reason to assume users need a browser in the future to navigate around the internet. Secondly, the march toward more wearables and the creation of an internet of things seems all but inevitable at this point. Barring a major disruption to this dynamic, the trend toward a greater percentage of our media consumption going through mobile apps is all but certain.

So perhaps anticipating the future isn’t quite so audacious in this situation, what does require some speculation though is how we get from where we are now to where we are inevitably going. Just because in-app (or at least app assisted) advertising will be the norm in a not too distant future, doesn’t mean it will be easy for businesses to adjust. Some of us out there aren’t too young to remember consumer business’ less than graceful migration to the web coming from a pre-internet world. Eventually brands regained their leadership position against some savvier first movers but the transition was far from seamless – those awkward teenage years apparently aren’t easy for anyone.

Hurry up. Wait for major brands. Then get ready to hurry again.

Today we are seeing the early signs of a similar adjustment happening for mobile app marketing. Just how B2C businesses took some time to come to terms with the importance of their website to their business, they need to come to appreciate how their mobile app can directly drive revenue in the future instead of being looked at as secondary marketing tool. What I find most fascinating to watch this time around is that for as quick as major brands were made to change course and adopt new strategies when we finally all agreed that the internet wasn’t just a fad, it may end up looking like an eternity compared to the tiny window available to marketers to adjust their focus to a mobile app centric world. Along with being much faster, you can count on the next shift being equally more frenetic than last time too.

What will make the transition so quick is that the technology to support this change is already being built. Unlike how the tools we depend on today were hard to even imagine before the shift to the web was underway, the tools required for the switch to apps are out there, marketers need only adopt them. I’m by no means suggesting there aren’t major advancements still to come, just that the future channels and the tools needed to make efficient use of them are here now. Mobile games and other mobile first companies were (by necessity) the first to understand the changing landscape and created the market for the tools we are building today. They now serve as the example to follow and will continue to hold the pole position for making the most of these new channels in the foreseeable future. The big question is when a critical mass of major brands will also wake up to this reality and trigger an all out stampede. Not if, mind you, when.

Don’t worry too much, if you are a marketing leader for a major brand, there is still some time left before you can expect to find yourself in the dreaded position of being firmly and unimpeachably “behind the curve.” Too many major brands still treat their mobile app as little more than another marketing tool – instead of the primary channel they should use to interact with their customers in the years ahead. As long as this is the case, the user acquisition and re-engagement app marketing metrics that should drive business decisions will be seen as just another piece of a much larger puzzle. Most spending precious cycles trying to just shoehorn the needs of the mobile app into an already overloaded stack rather than doing the important work of migrating. As long as enough other major brands have not implemented an app strategy that embraces the future to come, a gap will remain.

Who will lead brands over the hump?

This gap, opens up a ton of opportunity. The lack of institutional knowledge around mobile app marketing provides an opening for someone to serve as the bridge. And I expect agencies are best positioned to offer that bridge. Mobile first companies have shown us all the way but very few major brands are among these first movers. If you are looking for a harbinger of things to come, look no further than Fetch, based in the UK, proving agencies have tremendous capacity to guide brands that are ready to get serious about mobile. More brands are bound to take note, which is why you should expect to see agencies do huge business for them in 2015.

Even as the already lofty expectations for mobile app marketing continue to grow, I still can’t imagine the hype cycle to quite yet peak in 2015. That can happen only after enough major players make the splash that mobile advertising channels are capable of producing. Agencies are well positioned to be the ones that help brands make that happen. Once a few do, expect a slow trickle quickly become a deluge.

By the time the ball drops next year, brands still may not need to have fully adopted in-app advertising as their primary channel and a mobile app first strategy. But, if they haven’t at least dipped their toe in by then or retained the services of mobile savvy agency, don’t be surprised to see them have a very rough 2016.


Becky Doles

Becky is the Senior Content Marketing Manager at TUNE. Before TUNE, she led a variety of marketing and communications projects at San Francisco startups. Becky received her bachelor's degree in English from Wake Forest University. After living nearly a decade in San Francisco and Seattle, she has returned to her home of Charleston, SC, where you can find her enjoying the sun and salt water with her family.

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