Mobile advertising is soaring and growing in sophistication, industry analysts say, but the money is pouring into tablets at a much faster rate than their smaller smartphone rivals.
The days when mobile advertising was restricted to SMS text messages are long past, and an array of advanced solutions was on offer at the world's biggest mobile fair, the Mobile World Congress, in Barcelona this week.
Now, mobile owners are being targeted by interactive videos and offers that are tailored to users depending on their tastes and whereabouts as revealed by their online activity.
Tablets, which offer greater screen space, are racing ahead of smartphones in the battle for advertising money, observers say.
According to a forecast by international consultants Deloitte, in 2013 tablets will generate $4.9 billion (3.7 billion euros) in advertising revenue compared to nearly $3.4 billion for smartphones—and the gap is only expected to widen.
Advertising on tablets is set to grow 50-55 percent in 2014, compared to 30-35 percent for smartphones, Deloitte said.
The big change is that the devices can now identify and locate the customer, allowing advertisers to make personalised offers using existing data and information flowing in from the smartphone or tablet.
"If you tap 'beauty products' on a smartphone in the afternoon while you are in the street it is not the same query as tapping it on a tablet while sitting on the sofa in the evening," said Philippe Leclerc, one of the founders of Ad4screen, which operates in about 50 countries.
"In one case you will be sent to the nearest beauty shop, in the other to an online store," he said.
But tablets and smartphones are much more than just a new advertising platform, said Forrester Research analyst Thomas Husson.
"We are seeing a change in consumer behaviour with the mobile which is moving into shopping, banking and travel," Husson said.
Brands have to adapt to the new environment, he said, optimising websites for portable devices and learning to interact with consumers in real time.
"All advertisers are putting money into their websites but they don't decide what device people will use to connect to it," said Leclerc.
Tablets and smartphones are increasingly able to detect the user's position, the speed at which he or she is moving and even the height, paving the way to new services.
"If you arrive in a shopping centre car park we can offer you information about available parking spaces. When you are on another floor we won't offer the same type of service," Husson said.
The new, interactive possibilities opening up to advertisers require a change in culture and specific skills, which mean substantial investments, Husson said.
Importantly, customers must perceive the service as a beneficial, and not as an invasion of privacy, if they are to willingly share their data, he stressed.
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