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Brands investing more in call-based ads on mobile: report

Brands are increasing their budgets to drive calls from mobile ads as consumers increasingly conduct searches via their smartphones, according to a new report from BIA/Kelsey.

The report, ?Call-Based Ads: Eliminating the Unknown from Advertising,? forecasts that the call-based ad market will grow significantly over the next year, driven by the growth in mobile penetration and advances in the analytics enabling marketers to track the effectiveness of call-based ads. In 2011, United States businesses received 34.7 calls per month from mobile devices, including from mobile search, while by the next year, that number will more than double to 80.9 calls from mobile.

?By 2016, there will be more searches conducted on mobile than on desktop,? said Matt Booth, chief strategy officer and program director of interactive local media at BIA/Kelsey, Chantilly, VA. ?Telephone is a natural extension of that and clicking to call is going to become a de faco currency in mobile advertising.?

?On mobile phones, especially with smartphones, you can search, click on a number and it is totally seamless,? he said.

Mobile vs. desktop
The growth from mobile is significantly higher than for desktop, with the report showing that U.S. businesses received 10.9 calls per month from desktop search and SEO in 2011 but forecasting that the number will grow to 13.8 calls.

Additionally, BIA/Kelsey reports that 57 percent of local mobile searches generate a phone call while only 7 percent of desktop searches do the same.

As a result of these numbers, companies are reporting that mobile is driving significant call volume from ads. For example, mobile advertising firm Marchex reports that mobile accounted for 83 percent of the 90 million calls it connected in the first quarter of 2012, with some national brands allocating as much as 20 percent of their digital advertising budgets to generate calls.

Call-based ads include click-to-call ads and all ads that use call-based lead tracking and incorporate a telephone number with the goal of driving users to call the company.

The growth in mobile is expected to result in a dramatic increase in call-based advertising inventory, per BIA/Kelsey. As a result, many companies will move to align their advertising portfolios to accept call-based ad products.

For example, Google recently moved to allow bid separation between online clicks and calls, a move BIA/Kelsey says will likely be extended to mobile.

Valuable leads
BIA/Kelsey?s research also shows that small business advertisers consistently report that a phone call is the most valuable type of new business lead, even more than a personal visit to a store.

The report shows that the nascent advertising business built around generating phones calls for marketers is already big, with $68 billion of the $132.8 billion spent on local advertising across channels going towards driving telephone calls to businesses.

However, while the potential for call-based advertising is recognized, there has not been enough call volume on the Internet to warrant brands allocating spend to this area until recently. What has changed is the growth in mobile phone penetration and better tracking capabilities.

?Two years ago only five percent of small and medium size businesses used call tracking lines but this year the number jumped to 11 percent,? Mr. Booth said. ?They now have enough infrastructure to track the quality and number of calls that come through the channel so that they can make a decision about how to best allocate their ad dollars.?

Final Take
Chantal Tode is associate editor on Mobile Marketer, New York