The small screen that killed the traditional advertising model

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Vodacom mobile media executive, Jason Probert, believes that traditional advertising is in “steep decline”.

He cites a key event in 2009 where internet advertising overtook TV advertising in the UK. Although the claim was at the time contested by the broadcasters, it does indicate somewhat of a “paradigm shift” taking place, right under our noses.

The term “paradigm shift” is possibly one of the most abused terms, used to describe the changes taking place in the information revolution era, but bear with us: This is worth taking notice.

Probert takes aim at the TV, making the strong claim that “people aren’t watching TV anymore”. He backs up this claim with stats from peer-to-peer video sharing service BitTorrent which now boasts more than 100-million active users, generating something like 400 000 client downloads per day.

In fact, BitTorrent is one of the most common protocols for transferring large files, and the service accounted for roughly 27% to 55% of all Internet traffic (depending on geographical location) in 2009.

Probert notes that prime time TV viewing is dropping and people are increasingly skipping ads using their PVRs and TiVos. Probert claims we, as a species, are now processing on average about 3 000 advertising message a day. That’s quite a bit of noise to wade through on a daily basis.

“We need to earn their attention. It’s no longer about shouting at consumers,” says Probert.

Probert feels that the mobile device is at the centre of this shift in media and advertising consumption. Mobile media has incredible reach: For example, more than 67% of the world population has a mobile phone. Advertising these days are “conversations” — and what better place to have an advertising conversation than on a mobile phone.

“But it’s not just about reach, but when you are able to reach people. Mobile reaches people when they can do stuff, when they are economically active, when they are spending and are close to a point of purchase,” says Probert.

Probert feels this will accelerate because of the occurence of something he calls the “Triple Whammy” — the barriers holding the mobile phone back as a medium are disappearing. Phones are getting smarter and more powerful by the day (Look at iPhone and Android phones), prices are on the decline and networks are speeding up.

At the end of last year, Nielsen Online reported that smartphone shipments overtook that of PCs. Nielsen also reported during that same period that mobile internet grew more than 800% faster than of PC internet.

It’s not just hype. Take the word of former Google head Eric Schmidt: “We can make more money in mobile than we do in the desktop eventually… and the reason is the mobile computer is more targeted.

“Think about it: you carry your phone, and your phone knows all about you… we can do a very, very targeted ad. Over time we will make more money from mobile advertising… not now, but over time.”

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