Forecasts Don't Matter, Consumers Do

At this point, there are tons of mobile ad forecasts in the market. Most of them are wrong. Why? Because they're too high level, have too few X variables or are insufficiently focused on the right assumptions and "levers." But it's also just difficult to predict the future and the rate of growth. Recall the early (and wildly inaccurate as it turned out) Forrester and Jupiter e-commerce numbers. 

There are generally two objectives for forecasts: planning and PR. If one is using a forecast for internal planning purposes it needs to be as accurate (read: conservative) as possible. By contrast, if one is trying to raise money or gain exposure, one needs to make the biggest splash possible. Thus the forecasts that offer the greatest growth, the biggest "hockey stick," are the ones that show up in conference and investor presentations.

Often the firms that are putting out the forecasts are equally seeking publicity or to promote something. So there's an inherent bias toward inflation. If forecast B is smaller than forecast A it won't get coverage; so it must be larger or more sensational in some way. This is not true for all firms across the board. For example, I would also say, from having spoken to Noah Elkin at eMarketer before he put out their US mobile ad forecast, that he was trying very hard to be cautious and sensitive to all the issues. 

But for all the love the media show them, mobile ad spending forecasts in the end just don't matter. They're just fodder for discussion and industry conferences. (I suppose they matter to investors in public companies who are speculating about the future.) But in my view they don't matter because consumers have already established mobile and the mobile Internet as an essential marketing medium. It's done. It's here. Stop telling the "every year is the year of mobile" joke. This IS the year of mobile -- for consumers at least. 

Those marketers that embrace it in earnest will benefit, those that "wait and see" will lose out on first-mover advantages. No debate. The only questions now involve "how" and not "why." Those that continue to ask why don't get it.

All brands should have an iPhone app. Period. This is even more true for companies that run loyalty programs. They must also consider building apps for other smartphone platforms: Android, BlackBerry, Windows Mobile and Palm. (Nokia outside the US). All online publishers should have sites optimized for mobile. All marketers should be considering how they can integrate their traditional campaigns with mobile and should have an SMS strategy. SMS should not be neglected

On the Internet many marketers still have not caught up to consumers. This is especially true in the local segment: marketers still don't "get" local and how consumers interact with the Internet. Consumers don't care about marketers, their sophistication (or lack thereof) or their strategies. Consumers care about finding deals, deciding where to go and what to do and communicating with others. Mobile is already becoming a more central part of those activities and will only continue to gain. 

Regardless of whether growth in mobile ad spending is 15% per year or 51%, marketers and publishers need to get on board. The train is leaving the station.