Is 2013 the Year of Mobile Video?

Back in October my colleague Joe Laszlo predicted in a column that 2013 would be the “year of mobile measurement.” I’ll respectfully disagree with him, or at least amend his prediction, and say that in addition to measurement, 2013 will be the year of mobile video. EMarketer forecasts that there will be over 73 million mobile video viewers in 2013, an increase of almost 20 percent relative to 2012. Cisco expects that by 2016 two-thirds of worldwide mobile data traffic will be video content. Given that advertisers always want to be where audiences are, this skyrocketing mobile video adoption bodes well for its future as an advertising medium.

The IAB Mobile Center released a new piece of research last week that follows the mobile video usage of approximately 200 U.S. mobile phone users. Over a two-week period they answered a few brief questions every time they watched a mobile video clip, building up a diary of entries, and a snapshot of mobile video usage. The findings are fascinating, and shatter the preconceived notions that some hold about mobile video.

A naïve view holds that mobile video is just something people use at random moments in their day, when they have some time to kill. That it’s unplanned and only necessary when there’s no better screen available. Our research paints a very different picture. In fact, U.S. mobile phone users access mobile video throughout the entire day, with usage building steadily to a peak in the evening, during “TV prime time” hours. Most mobile video usage (63 percent) takes place at home, and a surprising amount takes place in the presence of the TV or the PC. And consumers are more likely to say they watched something they planned to than to say it was a random clip to kill some time.

Another naïve view is that mobile video is a lonely medium, viewed by consumers in isolation. In fact, while the mobile phone is inherently a personal device, mobile video is viral video. Almost every single consumer in our panel (92 percent) shared mobile video with others, and 49 percent shared video weekly or more frequently. Sharing occurs mainly (56 percent of the time) by social media, but also (44 percent of the time) by physically sharing their device with people nearby. Texting, emailing, and YouTube are also significant sharing channels. Marketers and media companies alike can benefit from the viral, shared nature of mobile video.

The third mistaken idea about mobile video has to do with consumers’ attitude toward advertising. You might assume that people hate video ads on mobile, when it turns out they are fairly neutral and open-minded about them. Some more facts:

  • 44 percent of the interactions in our study included an ad, typically a very short clip.
  • Consumers don’t love mobile ads, it’s true, but 23 percent like them, and 30 percent are neutral toward them.
  • Given a choice, short video spots at the start or the end of content are preferred, as are ads that have some relevance, preferably to the video clip the consumer is watching, or else to some combination of demographics, location, brands, or viewing history.

One thing that is beginning to be clear, though, is that advertisers really like mobile video. Video is a great medium to capture attention and get a message across. With added interactive features it becomes incredibly powerful and effective. The numbers are booming and our whole industry is taking notice.

But, like any young medium, mobile video has some growing pains that need to be overcome, and some misconceptions that need to be addressed. The IAB Mobile Center stands ready to help with this, however we can. In fact, IAB is already preparing to unveil the Digital Video Rising Stars ad units and we’re developing a new working group for mobile digital video. Sure, there will be more to come as well, and we look forward to working with companies across the industry landscape to make sure that 2013 really is the year of mobile video.

Mobile Video image on home page via Shutterstock.

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