The future of advertising is decidedly mobile and increasingly conversational, according to Mary Meeker's 2016 Internet Trends report.
The Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers (KPCB) partner released her highly-anticipated annual forecast last week, pointing toward a mobile-first, data-rich and video-heavy path forward for online advertising. The report comes at a time when advertisers are dealing with challenges on several fronts, particularly the fast-growing adoption of ad blockers among digital natives.
As consumers have more choices available to them, advertisers must come up with inventive solutions to engage their target audiences in personalized, timely ways. And with the proliferation of new technologies and a treasure trove of data to tap into, the industry is rethinking the skills that are essential for marketing success in 2016 and beyond.
According to Meeker's report, the answer to many of these problems begins with mobile. Here are the 11 most important takeaways (and charts) from the report.
1. Global internet user growth is slowing
Meeker's research found that global internet use is finally slowing down, while smartphone usage worldwide has continued its steady upward trend, driven by the Asia-Pacific market. This not only implies that mobile is the new frontier for growth, but that the potential for new, untapped audiences is greater abroad than in the U.S.
2. Led by mobile, U.S. online advertising is growing
Thanks to mobile, online advertising in the U.S. is seeing strong growth. While desktop advertising isn't going away, it's increasingly a mobile-first world. The faster marketers adapt their strategies to that reality, the better off they will be.
3. Google and Facebook continue to dominate the market
Compared to the scale of Google and Facebook, all other Internet advertising companies seem somewhat trivial. Combined, the two companies own 76% of advertising revenue in the U.S. — and that figure is growing. Although Facebook trails Google in total revenue by a quite-sizable $20-plus billion a year margin, the social network has seen a faster growth rate (59%) compared to the search giant (18%). Still, all other advertising companies fall behind Google, both in their growth rate and total combined revenue. The data shows the power of platforms like Facebook and Google that have access to vast amounts of data and offer precise targeting capabilities.
4. The $22B missed opportunity in mobile
Despite a near-consensus in the trade press that mobile is the way forward, the most striking slide in Meeker's report reveals that marketers are still missing the mark on mobile — by $22 billion. As the chart shows, advertisers are allocating the bulk of their spend (65%) on traditional mediums like print, radio and TV, while users are spending nearly half (47%) of their time online, particularly on mobile. Time spent outpaced ad spending on mobile by a wide margin (13 percentage points) revealing how far behind marketers are lagging on the mobile trend.
5. Ad blocking is gaining momentum
As the debate over ad blocking intensifies, Meeker points out a new report by PageFair and Priori Data that shows the depths to which the technology is being used on mobile. In its report, PageFair revealed that one-in-five smartphone users now have ad blockers installed on their mobile browsers, while use of the technology on the mobile web shot up 90% in 2015. If advertisers don't start getting ads right by putting the user experience first, these figures will only become more pronounced.
6. Younger consumers value authenticity
As a slew of surveys have shown, Gen Y and Gen Z consumers put a premium on authentic, personalized and organic brand experiences. Research has also shown that millennials welcome relevant targeted ads. Meeker's slide deck puts an emphasis on what these other reports have attempted to do: to explain that younger audiences shouldn't be seen as just an age group, but rather as a diverse set of consumers with unique interests, values and priorities.
Not only do hyper-targeted native ads on social media work well with younger consumers, Meeker's research shows that visually-driven networks like Facebook, Snapchat and Instagram perform best with that demographic as well. As the largest generation in the U.S. today, millennials' spending power is expected to continue to grow significantly in the next decade and impact buying and marketing decisions for companies across the board.
7. Video is evolving
Video is evolving, quickly. Over the last 100 years, the medium has gone from traditional linear TV to on-demand, live and online. In the process, it has become a strong channel for intimate, direct, real-time communications. Today, new players—particularly, Snapchat and Facebook, with nearly 10 billion daily video views each—are moving aggressively into the market with new offerings that enable consumers and brands to create and promote their own videos (even live), and provide marketers with intriguing opportunities to reach those consumers.
8. Video ads must be short, fun, genuine — and in-context
When it comes to video ads, there are four main attributes that the success stories share: They're authentic, entertaining, short and they fit into the consumer's context. Meeker's report outlines how Snapchat's "3V" advertising — using vertical videos in a full mobile screen to tell a story — is perfectly tailored for the mobile viewing experience and helps brands see higher engagement. Meeker sees Snapchat as holding an advantage over other video platforms, given its trifecta of personal messaging, user-generated content and professionally-produced, semi-live video content.
9. Live streaming sees its star rise
Live video is quickly emerging as an advertising medium, one that already appears to be highly rewarding. In her slide deck, Meeker calls out the surprise sensation of Candace Payne, a.k.a. Viral Chewbacca Mom, as an example of how user-generated live video content can prove to be a marketing force, providing retailer Kohl's with over 150 million views. The top-performing Snapchat Discover channels average six to seven minutes of time spent per Snapchat user per day, according to the Internet Trends report. Sponsored content like Taco Bell's Cinco de Mayo Snapchat Lens, which set record viewing numbers, shows the potential benefits of using semi-live video to engage with audiences.
10. Image-sharing is growing fast
Not to be outshined by video, image-sharing is ticking upward across all social platforms, including Snapchat, Messenger and WhatsApp. Image-based platforms like Pinterest are benefitting from online shoppers who rely on images to search for, discover, shop and sell products. As Meeker points out in her slide deck, this trend hints at new monetization opportunities for image-based apps.
11. Coming soon: a messaging revolution
Consumers may have griped when Facebook forced them to download a separate app for Messenger, but as chatbots and messaging apps gain traction, they could become the main point of interaction for consumers, replacing the home screen on smartphones. Three of the top four global messaging apps are Facebook-owned (Messenger, WhatsApp and Instagram) while competitors like WeChat, most popular in Asian markets, are quickly gaining momentum.
As these apps diversify beyond direct messaging into mobile payments and customer service, this medium is quickly becoming central to the future of advertising. Add on the continued proliferation of mobile devices and advances in voice search, and Meeker expects that search will quickly evolve from text-based to more image- and speech-based forms. If Meeker's predictions pan out, expect conversational commerce via messaging and voice search to become the norm.