Point of view: Mobile madness

Byron Sharp
Ehrenberg-Bass Institute

People love their screens, from the giant TVs on the walls at home, to the iPad on the sofa, or the smartphone in their pocket. More and more hours with eyeballs on screens – most of which are now mobile screens that grab snatches of attention throughout the day, filling in minutes that were previously out of advertisers' reach. This potential has got a lot of marketers excited.

Remember the first wave of advertiser excitement about mobile phones? Back in the days before smartphones, when phones had tiny text screens? I recall hearing a rather deluded conference presenter tell of a 'deprivation study', that is, asking consumers what they would least like to live without. Mobile phone was high up the list, TV was low down the list – the implication was given that TV was dying and that mobile advertising was the future. Some in the audience actually lapped this nonsense up. And back then, mobile advertising meant ringing consumers or sending them a text message. As new media, these have gone pretty much nowhere, while TV advertising is as strong as ever. Yes, people don't want to be without their phones, but that's so they can talk to friends and family not read advertisement text messages.