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IAB Study: Mobile Marketers Are Gung-Ho About Programmatic, But Few Are Using It

Only 27 percent of execs have bought automated ads

Programmatic is still a small industry in mobile. Getty Images

Despite the massive shift toward programmatic buying for online ads over the past few years, only a small group of mobile marketers are using the media-buying tactic, according to a new study from the Interactive Advertising Bureau.

The IAB is releasing its 2015 "Marketer Perceptions of Mobile Advertising" report today, which was conducted by Ovum and is based off answers from 200 marketing executives. This is the third year the IAB has published the report, but it's the first year respondents were asked specifically about programmatic buying.

Seventy-six percent of marketers polled cited mobile programmatic buying as important, and 41 percent said the tactic would help them reach a specific audience. That number is significantly higher than the 27 percent of marketers who have actually bought mobile ads programmatically.

As for respondents who buy programmatic ads aimed at smartphones, 18 percent buy them from private exchanges, 17 percent use open exchanges and some use both.

"It was a little bit of a surprise to us, given the enthusiasm for buying mobile programmatically, that relatively few marketers are actually doing it today," said Joe Laszlo, senior director of the IAB Mobile Marketing Center of Excellence.

According to Laszlo, one of the main reasons mobile marketers aren't pouring money into programmatic is because there aren't many automated ad formats available. For the past year, banner ads have dominated the mobile programmatic space, and those aren't particularly appealing to creative marketers. Instead, Laszlo said marketers need more options for buying rich media and video ads automatically.

The IAB reports that 9 percent of marketers have increased their mobile budgets more than 50 percent over the past two years, underscoring the need for more sophisticated mobile-ad-buying options. And 65 percent of marketers are spending more on mobile now than in 2012.

One-third of the marketers beefing up their mobile budgets pulled the money from other mediums. Print is the No. 1 area where advertisers are cutting their spending, with 58 percent of respondents scaling back. Meanwhile, 31 percent of marketers reallocated TV and digital money to mobile. Twenty percent said they cut into outdoor ad budgets, and 18 percent took the money from radio advertising.

Which connected device will win?
The report also looked at the so-called Internet of Things, and which devices marketers believe have the most potential.

Seventy-three percent of marketers were intrigued by connected TVs, while connected cars piqued 69 percent of participants' interest. Wearables interested 66 percent of marketers.

One reason marketers are most intrigued by connected TVs is they're readily available from well-known names like Samsung and LG, as opposed to burgeoning Internet-driven cars or smartwatches.

But the interest also comes from television's roots as an effective medium for traditional advertising.

"It's an ad medium that [marketers] intuitively get if they've been spending on television," Laszlo said. "Right now there's more question marks around cars and wearables than there are around connected TVs."

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