- There were a lot of things in 2021 that shifted the mobile landscape. We’ll dig into a few of them specifically. But if you were to do a retrospective of 2021 in mobile, what would be your key themes?
With an advertising bias, I’d have to start with the continued shifts driven by Apple into tracking control and transparency for consumers. IDFA privacy changes with IOS 14.5 captured a lot of attention, but I didn’t expect it would have as significant an impact on advertising as I’ve seen it have in the second half of the year – particularly on audience-first advertising platforms like Social.
From a consumer perspective, and with the continuation of the COVID-19 pandemic, there is the obvious – mobile devices are more important than ever before: serving as our information, entertainment, and functional outlet for activities stifled by more work-from-home and pandemic limitations. Our attachment to our mobile device has only gotten stronger over the past 2 years – however, the functionality of location-based data we were all excited about with mobile device targeting a few years ago is not really utilized as we all thought it might be due to stay-at-home trends during the pandemic. That said, I think it’s just forcing us to rethink and be more open to how Apps, content, and advertising can thrive in a mobile-first environment.
- Clearly one of the biggest changes in 2021 was around the new focus on data privacy – particularly with Apple’s App Tracking Transparency. How do you see data privacy continuing to evolve in 2022 and beyond?
I likely dismissed it as being as impactful back in the Spring, but it’s significant. The real impact of collating and keeping audience targeting lists accurate and up-to-date is truly just starting.
It creates more opportunities both for privacy-compliant alternative audience targeting solutions and for Consumers to maximize their value exchange for services.
While Apple is clearly leading in this current data privacy effort, I hope there will be more industry progress on a broader data consortium approach. What’s interesting is the impact of Apple’s shift on the ‘walled garden’ networks, which will only continue to evolve in industry-friendly ways instead of providing more influence for Google, Facebook, and Amazon. Government regulation in EMEA and APAC is interesting, but I don’t believe a fractured approach across borders helps move the solution forward. The next 4-5 years will be interesting, with opportunities to get this right as an industry… or wrong through confusing Consumers even more with how their personal data is being used.
- Another trend we saw was consolidation within the mobile ad market – with many companies combining different parts of the ad stack.. How do you see this “rebundling” of ad companies affecting the market moving forward?
The past few years has seen an interesting restructuring in the mobile ad market, with new partners forming in unique and interesting fashions – Digital Turbine and Ad Colony being a great example of this.
Part of this ‘rebundling’ is certainly borne out of opportunity – restructuring like-minded businesses into unique offerings that maximize investment. Building on the theme of privacy compliant alternatives to ‘walled gardens’, expanding options for advertisers to find audiences at scale is always of interest.
Mobile is always an arena that thrives on innovation – new capabilities, new ad units, new territories for content and capability. Rebundling may always help quickly react to emerging opportunities, but I feel mobile ad capabilities will only continue to innovate with new entrants into the marketplace and new opportunities for existing solutions in the near future.
- The pandemic has been part of our reality for almost 2 years now. What do you feel will be the lasting impacts of COVID on the mobile industry? Any changes you foresee happening if/when we come out of the pandemic?
I think we’re all ready for the pandemic to be done. My full-throated endorsement: Please get vaccinated.
The biggest impact of the pandemic on mobile is quite clear: we’re more reliant on our mobile device and the outlet it provides due to the pandemic. Ironically, though, we’re not leveraging all the features our mobile device can provide while we’ve been stuck close to our pandemic ‘homebase’ – specifically location-based data co-mingled with contextual, content-based, or affinity-based signals that advertisers love to maximize.
That said, Apps and Advertisers that have maximized this opportunity of the past two years will be better positioned than their competitors in the post-pandemic world. Since we all rely on our mobile device for primary content and entertainment delivery, we’ll quickly see an expansion of this into new and interesting formats – with more novel augmented reality content and functionality that helps us get out and explore and connect our communities more. We already leverage mobile for a wide variety of payments and key transactional items like transportation, and I feel we’ll only continue to shift more interactions to mobile – like tracking our healthcare, voting, and wider community participation.
- Putting on your visionary hat, what will be the big mobile trends of 2022?
Generally, I feel programmatic-based activation within digital investment will become more of a priority in 2022 – as more advertisers continue to ramp-up activity post-pandemic and tailored messaging to targeted audiences becomes standard. Connected/Advanced TV is a key driver of this, but I wouldn’t underestimate the impact of the most important mini-TV device that is our mobile phone in this transition. This prediction may seem dated from 2010, but I feel the biggest loser in this shift will be social media investment.
Data privacy will continue to be a key focus for Apple and Google – and I hope the value exchange marketplace for Consumers to share their data becomes more transparent and open in return for services and relevance in unique and interesting fashions.
Finally, the form factor of mobile is certainly changing – foldable screens and wider devices will only raise the opportunity for interesting partnerships, content, and ad capabilities across devices. To say the least, I’m looking forward to the next several years in mobile.