This Year’s 10 Biggest Shifts, Shake-Ups and Surprises in Mobile Marketing

For social giants and brands alike, everything changed in 2014

Fueled by new ad formats and acquisitions from Facebook, Twitter and brands, mobile marketing finally began to step up to its potential this year.

From messaging and video to ultra-targeted ads and simplified shopping, smartphones and tablets became a major focus for most digital brands players in 2014.

Numbers from researchers back up this year's advancements. EMarketer forecasts that mobile brought in $32.71 billion globally this year, outpacing the combined newspaper, magazine and radio spend in the U.S. Meanwhile, Forrester Research expects mobile to grab 40 percent of online display ad budgets by 2019.

Here are 10 of the biggest moves that made waves in mobile this year:

Mobile Video Becomes an Ad Format of Choice

After much speculation, Instagram unveiled sponsored videos this year, with Disney, Lancome and Banana Republic as the first names to test the ads.

Similar to its approach with picture promos, Instagram vets each video ad to make sure that it's a fit for the platform.

Facebook-owned Instagram also hit 300 million users this year, cementing its appeal for social-savvy brands. According to data from Simply Measured, 86 percent of Interbrand top 100 brands had an account by the third quarter of this year.

Meanwhile, Twitter and Tumblr built new video tools geared at mobile users. And in July, Yahoo acquired mobile firm Flurry to beef up its video offerings.

"We're starting to see industries such as consumer-packaged-goods and entertainment studios that have traditionally been slow to shift budgets to mobile, now investing in mobile video content, as it allows for richer, more engaging advertising experiences," said Guillaume Lelait, general manager at mobile agency Fetch.

Twitter Embraces Social Commerce

Eighty-five percent—or $272 million—of Twitter's revenue came from mobile during the third quarter this year.

In September, Twitter rolled out a buy button that marketers can plug into their tweets to drive sales. Twenty-five brands, including Home Depot and Burberry, were the first to test the feature, pivoting it slightly away from a news site to a direct-response platform.

Twitter's buy button is one of several big advancements in social and mobile commerce this year—Buzzfeed and Tumblr rolled out similar features this year.

Beacons Catch On, But Risk Backlash

Apple first launched its iBeacon technology in 2013, but it gained a lot more attention this year thanks to campaigns from big-name brands like Walgreens, Urban Outfitters and Marriott.

The location-based tech, which sends ads to shoppers' smartphones, has also re-upped brands' investments in mobile apps this year.

And according to Doug Rozen, chief innovation officer at Meredith Xcelerated Marketing, the push notifications that beacons send out are perceived more like advertising than brands realize. "Being triggered by inactivity, by location or by calendar, they are becoming viewed by consumers as ads more than marketers are treating them as such," he said.

Facebook Atlas Opens a New Trove of Data

Facebook's new Atlas ad server gives advertisers access to data about its 1.3 billion users.

Mobile advertising has long been held back by its lack of cookies, used to target ads on desktops. With the launch of Facebook Atlas, the social site hopes to push past that challenge by running digital ads outside of Facebook that tap into data about its users.

Mobile Payment Goes Mainstream With Apple Pay

Apple gave mobile payments a big boost this year with the launch of the iPhone 6 and digital wallet service Apple Pay, boasting the participation of brands like McDonald's, Nike and Target.

In November, the Cupertino, Calif.-based company revamped its iAd business by signing deals with tech companies. Apple's new ads will incorporate Apple Pay, giving marketers a better chance at figuring out if a mobile ad actually persuaded someone to buy a product.

App Installs Become Ad Gold