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Mobile Spending Is Growing Like Crazy, but Where Is It Going?

IAB says smartphone ads generated $31.9 billion in 2014

Marketers are throwing more money into mobile ads, but which type is best? Photo: Getty Images

Mobile advertising grew 65 percent last year to become a $31.9 billion global industry, according to a new report from the Interactive Advertising Bureau. Those numbers bode well for ad networks and vendors touting new types of native and social promos, and there's no doubt 2015's figures will increase. But which areas of mobile are getting the most money?

The data from IAB, IAB Europe and IHS Technology found that spending on mobile display ads shot up 88 percent from 2013 to 2014, reaching $15.1 billion. That's 47 percent of total mobile ad spend.

There's a small catch with the IAB's definition of mobile display, though. The trade group classifies display ads as any promo viewed on any app or mobile website, which includes video, rich media, social media and banner ads.

To be clear, this is the third year the IAB has dug into the mobile ad market globally, and it's reported its numbers the same way each year. The definition made sense when banners dominated how brands spent smartphone and tablet dollars, but the growth in mobile over the past year means that practically any type of social or branded content buy can be deemed "mobile."

The IAB's numbers don't specifically break out how much money went to banner ads versus the native or social spend, but it's fair to assume that a good chunk of it was allocated to behemoths like Facebook and Twitter.

Big-name publishers, on the other hand, continue to rely on static banners squished at the top and bottom of apps to monetize their traffic.

The IAB's findings paint a glowing picture of the state of mobile advertising, but they don't show marketers which areas of display they should actually spend money on.

Outside of display, the report found that search generated 46 percent of advertisers' mobile spending, or $14.7 billion. Revenue from mobile messaging apps grew 13 percent in 2014 to total $2.1 billion in ad spending.

The U.S. in particular is driving a healthy amount of the uptick. North America's revenue reached $14.3 billion last year, equivalent to a 77 percent year-over-year jump. North America made up 45 percent of global mobile spend last year.

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