Game On for Mobile Advertising

The mobile market has never looked better for advertisers, according to the results of the first of a series of new research studies produced by media communications agency UM London, writes Martin Conway. Dubbed Phone:Smart, the study highlights the phenomenal growth in the public’s reliance on mobile solutions, with gaming and applications particularly booming in volumes of usage.

“It’s been said before, but this really is the ‘year of the phone’,” Yvonne O’Brien, managing partner, research and insight at UM, commented today at the formal launch of the study’s findings, in the agency’s London office. “The number of smartphone users has doubled in the past two years, representing 25 per cent of the market, and there has been an increase in the amount of time they are spending accessing the mobile internet. This isn’t just limited to iPhone users; the trends are similar for Android and Nokia smartphones. The mobile has become the remote control for our everyday lives.”

Six months in the making, the study draws on interviews with more than 1,000 mobile users, drawn from UM’s 10,000-strong panel, spanning all age groups and categories of user – from ‘innovators’, 86 per cent of whom boast smartphones, to ‘laggards’, who represent a 4 per cent smartphone share. The study reveals that entertainment has become a major consideration for mobile users, with 47 per cent of the database claiming to use their devices for this end, compared with 44 per cent using mobile internet as an information tool.

As well as utilising the likes of free sponsored ringtones and app downloads, the report says that advertisers would be advised to consider free sponsored games when developing their marketing strategies. The study highlights the fact that mobile users are “becoming obsessed” with gaming, primarily to fill time and while away boring journeys and/or commutes, and 72 per cent of those interviewed claimed to play games on their mobiles.

In terms of downloads, gaming even appears to be outpacing demand for more traditional, information-based apps; when asked what types of mobile apps they had downloaded, games came out on top with 55 per cent, while GPS, news and shopping apps represented 32 per cent, 29 per cent and 10 per cent respectively.
“Gaming’s not restricted to the 16-34 year old demographic; it has increased in popularity across all age groups, and isn’t confined to the traditional ‘shoot’em/beat’em up’ games that used to be popular in the home,” said UM London research and insight director, Claire Sowerby. “In fact, of those who participated in the study, the over-55 year old age group held the largest tally of active mobile gamers, with just under 40 per cent of users within this category claiming to play games once a month. In contrast, the group total of active mobile gamers in the 16-34 year old bracket was just over 20 per cent.

Obviously, demand for games varies, with teens more likely to opt for time-killers like Angry Birds and Boom Blox, leaving older users to select more cerebral challenges – for instance, Sudoku, or newspaper-affiliated crosswords, Sowerby  explained – although this pattern is not set in stone. If mobile marketers wish to take advantage of the growth of gaming, they should be prepared to research the preferences of their target audience, be these for Tetris or Mafia Wars, in order to achieve the biggest impact.

UM London also noted that, while most mobile users are likely to be content with one or two feeds, regular users will download a far greater number of games, as a result of having completed old favourites, or simply for variety.

The Phone:Smart study predicts that the popularity of gaming is unlikely to abate, although it may stabilise in the next few years, depending on advances in augmented reality-style offerings, and subsequent demand for these enhanced features. UM London points to the popularity of QR Codes in Japan and S. Korea, enabling shoppers to virtually ‘trial’ brands of lipstick or shaded contact lenses prior to purchase, and predicts that these could also gain prominence in a market that clearly takes its entertainment seriously.