Google’s mobile ad business is going gangbusters. In 2011, the company’s share of U.S. mobile ad revenue was 51.7 percent or $750 million, according to eMarketer. It leads mobile display and, with 95 percent of the U.S. ad revenue for the category, crushes mobile search. As the industry gets bigger, Google’s Jason Spero is charged with keeping his company on top. He talks about what’s ahead.
Adweek: What trends do you expect to see in 2012?
To put it gently, businesses were not ready for the mobile revolution. Consumers want more [from] their phones, and we’re starting to seebusinesses understand how to use mobile, to bring people back into theirstores or complement [in-store] shopping with a mobile experience. In 2012, you’ll see a separation of businesses that get it and businesses that don’t.
What are some of the obstacles?
Every business needs to look at the mobile [website] it puts in front of a user. And too many have not made that investment. [We also] need standards with regard to format [and] how user info is used, proper ad serving [and] understanding of how to use location information with sensitivity for privacy.
Local’s a big part of mobile. What’s ahead for you there?
More than a third of [mobile Google search] queries have local intent. People are trying to navigate the physical world, and you design for that. The center of our design for local is on search because it’s being used in maps and from Google.com to find restaurants, movie show times and items in stock. [We’re] layering on to that [local entertainment], finding out how far you are from your destination, and how a user-generated content platform like Zagat relates. We’ve only scratched the surface.
What’s the state of measurement?
The good news is we can measure a lot more than we could a year ago. But what’s fundamental to mobile is the user using the phone as a jumping off point to experiences that, frankly, we haven’t historically needed to track. If someone does a search or sees a coupon on a phone and ends up in a physical store, that’s an enormously valuable experience for the retailer, but not one that we’re very good at tracking. That’s a big priority.
What other mobile signals could you use to reach people?
[On] mobile, people are moving [between] connections. What does it mean if you’re [connecting via] broadband as opposed to cellular? How does location factor in? Time of day means different things whether you’re at work or in transit. I get really geeked out [when I think] what would it mean if someone is moving faster than 3 mph relative to someone who’s …moving slower than 3 mph, which would imply that they’re walking.
How do you think the industry is doing on mobile creative?
I think that the entire industry needs to make an investment in the creative agencies. We haven’t really gotten the best creative minds in digital to really think about mobile. I think this is the year where [that happens].
Facebook is expected to release mobile ads soon. How would you do mobile ads for Google+?
We don’t want to reveal something before we do it. But it’s very clear to everyone that social is going to be very powerful. There’s the “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?” type thing of phoning a friend when you make a decision, and leveraging social signals is going to be an important part of mobile.
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