The advertising and marketing industry has been going through some rapid changes over the last 20 years. The rise of the Internet era has led to a divergence of consumer attention away from traditional forms of media towards more digital forms. While being connected to the Internet via personal computers was a significant shift in and of itself, the increased connectivity that smartphones have enabled is creating an even more dramatic shift as the speed and relevance of smartphone advertising and marketing campaigns have become increasingly important.

Today, people are connected to the Internet at any time and from anywhere on their smartphones.

The Growing Importance of the Smartphone

Back in the summer of 2004, The Economist magazine published an article describing the changing nature of the advertising and marketing industry, calling the current period “one of the most disorienting periods in its history.” Traditional forms of advertising and marketing are no longer delivering due to the increasing diversity of media and the emergence of new technology, most notably the Internet.

As people spend more of their time going online to shop, be entertained, and seek out a variety of digital information platforms like computers, tablets, and mobile phones, the traditional forms of advertising and marketing such as television and print forms have been displaced. Today, people are connected to the Internet at any time and from anywhere, and it is primarily the smartphone that is responsible for this ubiquitous connectivity.

According to Pew Research, 81% of Americans own smartphones, up from just 35% in 2011. Especially among younger adults, today "roughly one-in-five American adults are smartphone-only internet users."

The Smartphone Effect

This shift towards increasing smartphone usage means that advertisers and marketers will have to shift their strategies and campaigns to accommodate for mobile. For instance, companies without a mobile-friendly website risk losing valuable exposure on Google Inc.'s (GOOG) web search queries because Google changed its algorithm so that more mobile-friendly websites have priority placement for search queries made on mobile devices.

Another important point for marketers and advertisers is the fact that smartphones are not only receivers but also transmitters of information. Smartphones have become huge repositories of information on individual tastes and preferences. This means advertisers and marketers have the ability to be much more specific in their ad and marketing campaigns, and able to offer more relevant messages to different types of groups or individuals.

While this means that consumers are now expecting this increased relevance from brand advertising, it also means that consumers expect relevance when and where it is needed. Consumers are increasingly consulting their smartphones to help them make everyday decisions. For example, 69% of smartphone users look for travel ideas while waiting in a line or for the subway, and 82% of users turn to their phones when deciding whether or not to buy a specific product while standing in the store. In these moments, the speed and relevance of advertisements are of utmost importance for brands to make an impression that will influence the decision-making process of potential consumers. 

The Bottom Line

Smartphone usage will continue to grow and understanding how and when consumers are using them is crucial for companies’ advertising and marketing campaigns. As smartphone data collection and analysis technology become more sophisticated, the speed and relevance of ad and marketing campaigns will be significantly more important. If the competing brand can reach consumers with a relevant message at the precise moment when it is needed then they will have made that crucial first impression, and other brands will continually try to play catch up.