2018 Predictions: Taboola

David Murphy

In the first of a raft of Predictions pieces to get you thinking about 2018, By Adam Singolda, founder and CEO of Taboola, argues that it’s not mobile-first any more, it’s mobile-only. So what’s next for 2018?

TV advertising is an incredible vehicle, and for a long time we’ve been waiting for that moment when digital grew bigger than TV, to prove to advertisers (and ourselves) that digital can be a true play as an alternative or extension for TV marketers.

2017 will be remembered as the year it happened: digital is the world’s number one advertising environment. And the key driver of this growth won’t come as a surprise to anyone – mobile.

According to eMarketer, mobile is expected to take a 36 per cent share of this year’s digital ad spend in the UK alone; making up £7bn of the overall £11bn pot. Next year that figure will rise even further to just under £9bn.

The reason behind mobile ad growth is self-evident: it’s a combination of access and shift in user behaviour. Anyone can now access the internet with a small device, and not only that, we like using mobile a lot. It’s where consumers now spend the majority of their time. In 2017, UK adults spent almost two hours each day on their mobile devices — more than desktop and laptop — and smartphones have been the preferred method of web surfing for several years.

So mobile is crossing that tipping point, where there are enough eyeballs, enough inventory, enough scale and it’s going to continue to grow. What does that mean for the advertising ecosystem? Which formats should brands focus on? What works and what doesn’t? Let’s take a look at the mobile outlook for 2018.

We know apps like Facebook, Snap, Twitter and others are getting tens of billions of dollars a year of mobile advertising budget. When you look at Asia Pacific and the open web, native apps are the main driver for mobile growth, which means brands have to know how to work and perform in environments that are not as intuitive when compared to mobile web or desktop.

Mobile video will reign supreme
While mobile is growing, an Achilles’ heel of this screen is lower rates than desktop, meaning publishers that see mobile growth usually trade higher volumes for lower RPMs (revenue per thousand impressions) and brands more often than not convert better in desktop versus mobile. Saying that, thanks to social companies, we do see massive growth in video as a scalable mobile monetisation opportunity that works. Video in mobile is a format we’ve become used to, and consumers have grown to love– as such video has become the fastest-growing mobile ad format.

But that is only the beginning. From a creative perspective in the next few years, the popularity of on-the-move video content is only set to keep rising: by 2019, 72 per cent of all online video viewing will be conducted via mobile. Much of the creation of these videos will be down to enhanced hardware capability. With greater processing power, smartphones will offer sharper pictures and enhanced sound, as well as the capacity to integrate technologies such as augmented and virtual reality.

From a brand and publisher perspective, enhanced creative possibilities on mobile will also pave the way to reach audiences more efficiently, with far superior content.

Adding the above, both in terms of video being a great experience in mobile as well as the fact that more types of video will be created in mobile by consumers, mobile video will be the fundamental facilitator of open web growth, as today there is massive scarcity for brand safe, quality inventory for brands, outside of the walled gardens.

Publishers and advertisers who get ahead in mobile video will be the ones to unlock the valuable growth opportunity, as well as learn new user insight alongside video scale in mobile. I suspect video views in the open web on mobile will be bigger than YouTube in years to come.

Streamlining the user experience 
Despite the convenience and popularity of mobile, one major issue exists that must be resolved for the medium’s full potential to be realised: the quality of the user experience. It is a particular challenge for the open web, where consumers are repeatedly bombarded with ads and widgets that make screens feel overcrowded — and if ads obscure content unexpectedly, the experience can be highly irritating too.

This, in part, explains why Facebook and Google currently dominate the digital advertising space; accounting for 54 per cent of UK digital ad revenue — their mobile experiences are fast, relevant and beautifully rendered.

In 2018, we can expect to see more platforms, including Google, emulate in-feed/social type ad experiences by placing highly relevant and unintrusive ads integrated as part of the platform, not littered throughout. And in doing so, we should see an improved mobile experience across the board, helping secure a sustainable future for publishers and brands outside of the confines of walled gardens.

We’re entering a mobile-only era, and just as no one is renting DVDs anymore and on-demand video is the norm, for some users there was never any other type of internet to begin with than mobile. As a result, it’s vital for us all, publishers, advertisers, and tech companies alike to strengthen our mobile execution and enjoy the growth that’s coming.

While mobile is not small, we’re actually still in the early days of capitalising on it in the right way, and those that perfect it now will have a competitive advantage in years to come. Think of the early travel advertisers that bought AdWords 15 years ago, or the early social content companies that made social work in scale.

The future is here, and it’s mobile.