by Irfon Watkins, CEO with Coull
Back in early 2013, Deloitte’s Consumer Review found that 72 per cent of people in the UK owned a smartphone, growing by 14 per cent in less than a year. Ownership was the highest in those aged 25-30 at 89 per cent, with those aged 16-24 (otherwise known as ‘Generation Z’) closely following on 85 per cent ownership. Perhaps most interestingly, more than half (54 per cent) of the baby boomer generation of 54 to 65-year-olds now own a smartphone too. I think it is fair to say we’ve long passed the tipping point in smartphone adoption.
What this research shows is that high-powered digital mobile devices are now ubiquitous with consumers in the UK, and both publishers and advertisers need to sit up and take note.
Apart from a few noteworthy exceptions (such as The Guardian), publishers have generally been found lacking in their mobile strategies to date.
Digital has been integrated into existing campaigns in a piecemeal fashion, often with little thought to coherency or relevancy.
“The good news is that I think 2014 will change all that”
In particular, I think next year will be a landmark year for online video advertising, predominantly within the context of mobile devices.
On the surface, online video advertising has never been more successful.
Pre-roll video inventory is regularly sold out and brands are supposedly reaching an ever-growing audience.
The problem is that this delicate dynamic is unsustainable.
Online video advertising is built on unsustainable, out-of-date models that aren’t geared up for mobile devices, adding up to a future that is both uncertain and untenable.
The fact is, video ad models in their current format are no longer relevant.
In fact, the future of video advertising is contextual, not personal.
In 2014, publishers will start to mine their vast repositories of inert content and turn it into a dynamic source of ongoing revenue, framed particularly within a mobile context.
Existing video content becomes new inventory, creating an entirely new revenue stream at no extra cost to the publisher.
If this is done in a manner which is optimised and targeted for smartphones and tablets, publishers will suddenly benefit from a whole new audience.
But online video advertising on mobile devices isn’t the only trend we’ll see come into its own next year.
Here are another three trends that will make waves in 2014: -
Superfast mobile internet
It has been promoted to within an inch of its life this year, but next year will be the year when 4G goes mainstream.
Widespread roll-out of the hi-speed mobile internet service by multiple operators will bring ultrafast data downloads to the masses.
It will revolutionise consumer access to, and consumption of, online video, heralding in the age of instant and consigning the much-maligned buffering circles to a thing of the past.
Ad integration into digital strategies
As I mentioned above, this year  will see a slew of publishers concentrating on getting their mobile strategies right.
In doing so, we’re likely to see a new approach to online advertising too, with more usability and integration.
Those at the forefront of innovation will develop a robust mobile first strategy on top of their digital first strategy, ensuring that their readers’ experience is as good on mobile devices as it is on the desktop.
Advertisers themselves are allocating ever greater portions of their budgets to digital formats, and we can expect to see the mobile portion continue to rise next year.
As such, the experience has to be great, with the ad experience integrated seamlessly into the content experience.
Video will come in from the retail cold
Retailers and brands have generally relied on display ads until now.
However, with the vast new audience offered by the proliferation of mobile devices, 2014 will be the one where online merchants finally recognise the value of video as one of the fundamental sales channels.
With the widespread arrival of high-speed mobile internet in the UK in 2014, consumers will have greater access to online video than ever before, making this medium a need-to-have for anyone in e-commerce.
These three trends will combine to change the face of video advertising, as well as the way in which both publishers and advertisers view mobile.
2014 looks set to be a fascinating year.
Irfon Watkins is currently CEO with Coull. Irfon’s career began when he left his native Wales for London to join punk group The Groovy Pineapples. When the band soon split, one of Irfon’s bandmates bet him he couldn’t get a job in computers. He managed to win the bet, with his appetite for sales landing him a job in sales from which Irfon progressed to become sales director at Dell. He then moved to Florida, from where he led the acquisition and running of six software companies across Africa and Europe. Following this stint, he felt online video was the next great medium and that passively watching it wasn’t good enough. It was this idea that eventually came to life as Coull.