Digital Consumer Ads: The Eyes Have It (Craig Douglass On Consumers)

by Craig Douglass  on Monday, Nov. 4, 2013 12:00 am  

Craig Douglass

“Jeepers creepers, where’d you get those peepers? Jeepers creepers, where’d you get those eyes?”

You remember the opening lines to the 1938 standard, with lyrics by Johnny Mercer. Sure you do. Although cheesy and antiquated, the song could very well state the modern-day goal of today’s consumer advertisers as they shift images, messages and impressions to mobile platforms via smartphones. They are relentlessly in search of one thing (or two): eyeballs.

Over the years, consumers have added the content on desktops as one of their sources of news, information and entertainment. Along with television and, to a lesser extent, print, consumer eyeballs are now fixed on more communication platforms than ever. The most impressive shift, however, is from desktops to smartphones and tablets. And advertising dollars are following.

In fact, the Interactive Advertising Bureau, an entity composed of more than 500 leading media and technology companies, recently reported that revenue from mobile-device ads and searches more than doubled in the first six months of 2013, reaching $3 billion in advertising spending. The increase was 145 percent over the $1.2 billion measured during the first half of 2012. Overall Internet ad and search-related revenue, including mobile devices, surged 18 percent, reaching $20.1 billion for the first half of this year.

“Mobile advertising’s breakneck growth is evidence that marketers are recognizing the tremendous power of smaller screens,” said Randall Rothenberg, CEO of IAB.

Power indeed. According to, Facebook was the recipient of a mobile consumer advertising campaign during this past summer sponsored by Nilla Wafers cookies. The cookie marketer posted on its Facebook page recipe ideas and fanciful uses of the cookie, received more than 350,000 “likes” and increased retail sales in July alone by 13 percent.

Eyeballs aren’t just reading static messages, boxes or banner ads. More and more, consumers want the robust experience contained in digital video. This form of embedded video ads, which is part of display advertising, racked up revenue of $1.3 billion during the same six-month period, a 24 percent increase compared with the same period in 2012.

“Digital has steadily increased its ability to captivate consumers and then capture the marketing dollars that follow,” IAB’s Rothenberg said. Clearly the total marketing mix is evolving and now includes Internet banner and search ads on desktops, smartphones and tablets, interactive digital video, traditional print, radio and television. Television still commands the lion’s share of total consumer ad dollars.

The trend emerging is that of consumers expanding their access to advertising messages rather than totally leaving one medium for another. Technology is allowing marketers to track or follow consumers where they are through GPS, if the consumer allows it. For instance, targeted ads using consumer behavior vis-à-vis purchasing preferences will appear on a consumer’s smartphone when they enter a certain store. Once in the store, an ad relevant to that particular store might pop up on the consumer’s smartphone and even offer a discount coupon for whatever product or service the store is promoting.

Eyeballs are multitasking as well. While mobile users are spending more time with smartphones rather than exclusively watching televisions, recent anecdotal evidence reveals it is not at all uncommon for individuals to be in front of the evening’s weekly TV sitcom, drama or news program, while checking Facebook, surfing the net or watching a YouTube snippet. Viewers are also using smartphones to expand their knowledge of historical or current event references on TV programs as they watch. And when they Google a particular subject, mobile advertising appears. The technology is pervasive.

Although digital consumer advertising messages are wide ranging, the top advertising subjects, accounting for 46 percent of ad revenue, are retail, financial services and automotive. Across the board in ever-broadening categories — including email marketing, classifieds and directories, banner ads, digital video and search ads — consumers are becoming more comfortable with and adept at using the new technology that’s right in front of them, in their hands and on their minds.

So watch where you’re going, because advertisers are betting you’ll follow your eyeballs and go where you’re watching.

Craig Douglass is a Little Rock advertising agency owner and marketing and research consultant. He is president of Craig Douglass Communications Inc.



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