Could Mobile's Ad Spend Top TV's?

The group of those who are bullish on mobile and its place in the marketing mix grows every week. And these executives aren’t betting on a gut feeling. They have been convinced by real results. Initiatives have moved product, raised brand awareness and engagement, and given marketers more confidence in mobile marketing and advertising. As a result, more money is moving into the mobile channel.

Meet Paul Gelb of Razorfish, who redefines what it means to be bullish. (Disclosure: Razorfish is a Hipcricket client).

In an interview with Adweek, Paul, the agency’s mobile practice lead, was quoted as making the mother of all mobile predictions.  “I think mobile ad spend will overtake television,” he stated.

To put that into perspective, you need to know that a cool $131 billion was spent on television advertising in the U.S. alone last year. By comparison, JP Morgan predicts that mobile ad spend will reach about $1 billion in the U.S. in 2011.

The reasons for Paul’s optimism? He bases it on what he sees and knows about the industry. As he told Adweek (and has outlined in presentations), mobile is the first truly mass media.

Mobile beats TV on reach. Paul points out that there are over three times more mobile users than there are TV viewers. And mobile is the brand communication channel. Put another way, mobile is the most adopted technology and media channel in history with high engagement rates and 24-hour access to users.

What’s more, Paul believes that the rapid adoption of mobile is setting the stage for a dramatic shift in the advertising spend. “If you’d predicted then that smart phones could outsell PCs and that people would spend an hour a day on their phones, no one would have believed you,” he said.

And even if some remain disbelievers, the number of brands convinced of the power of mobile is on the rise. Driven by increased client budgets Razorfish’s mobile practice has grown to 45. “We can’t staff as quickly as we want,” Paul said.

In the 12 years that I spent working in advertising and PR firms, I did not see agencies increase headcount if they didn’t have the client work to back it up. The agency model is to win business, then staff against it. I’m not privy to Razorfish’s mobile revenue, but I do know they are very active and certainly wouldn’t staff up wildly in the hopes of winning business.  As for Paul’s prediction, he certainly has good reason to believe mobile will be huge. I also know that mobile’s going to be big, but forecasting too far out is problematic for me.

(first appeared on MobileGroove