Believe it or not, mobile advertising actually dates back to the 1990s. At that time, mobile phones had been around for about 12 years. In 1992 a UK test engineer sent out mass text message simply reading “Merry Christmas”. It took some time for advertisers to recognize the value of text advertising, but within a few years they began sending text messages for loyalty offers and exclusive promotions. They used no creative and had no way to target their audience; they simply used plain text. In 2000, the first-ever Mobile Ad Conference made it clear that the future of advertising was mobile…and quite literally in our hands. By 2002, SMS had become the new mass media channel.
Fast forward to 2007, when Apple introduced the first iPhone. This revolutionized the smartphone industry as well as the mobile advertising industry. Although the iPhone wasn’t the first smartphone, it was the first smartphone with Apple’s new operating system. Apple’s OS not only helped consumers simplify their professional lives; it also provided instant, on-the-go entertainment.
Soon smartphone users began migrating from desktop web browsing to mobile web browsing. This was great for advertisers, but the experience was still not so great for users. Initial mobile browser ads were poorly designed, clunky, and ultimately had a negative effect on user experience. This was mainly because advertisers didn’t customize their ads for a mobile screen. They simply changed the size of their existing creative for desktop web browsing, copied, and pasted it to mobile.
Just a year after the initial iPhone release, Apple released the iPhone 3G, and with it opened the App Store. The App Store pushed users from mobile web browsing into mobile apps, and mobile advertising to follow suit. It didn’t take long for developers and advertisers to realize the growing demand of apps. They leveraged this popularity by offering mobile apps free-of-charge to users, but supporting costs with in-app advertising. When features like interactive gaming and GPS made their way to smartphones, advertisers implement these elements into their ads to increase user experience.
Apple released the first iPad in 2010; around the same time the U.S. mobile advertising market grew to 1.45 billion. As smartphone technology continued to improve year after year, so did mobile advertising technology. In 2014, developers began to see the importance of seamlessly integrating mobile ads into apps to create a more refined user experience. Consumers were spending almost 88% of their online time in-app rather than mobile or desktop browsing (think Candy Crush). Ever since, mobile ad companies have provided a wide variety of ad types, such as overlay ads, interstitial ads, native ads, and even video ads.
So, what is next for mobile ads? Well, we’ve actually made some interesting predictions. No matter what the future holds, there’s no denying the history of mobile ads so far has been nothing less than impressive. Mobile advertising will no doubt only become bigger and better.