With the iPhone 5 now out of the bag, the discussion about mobile in recent weeks has focused on the potential of new hardware and platforms. But it’s the growing ubiquity of smartphones that has Zephrin Lasker, the founder of mobile advertising platform Pontiflex, so optimistic about the mobile’s potential for the SMB market. “It’s amazing the anyone with $100 dollars in their pocket can have something so powerful,” Lasker told me in an interview Tuesday. “Yes, you need new platforms, but you need them not just to be available for the elite and that is very much happening.”
And local advertisers appear to be responding. According to a survey conducted by Borrell Associates on behalf of Pontiflex, 72% of small and medium sized businesses said they plan to maintain or increase mobile ad spend over the next twelve months. Of the SMBs surveyed that plan to increase mobile ad spend, 32% plan to increase spend by 11-20% over the same period.
Much of the survey reinforces what we already know – namely, that location targeting is a big value driver for SMBs and web sales models like cost-per-click and cost per impression will not fly in a mobile environment. The survey also found that 46% of SMBs would be interested in a self-serve option for mobile advertising, which is good sign for the entire local marketing space.
“For all the different services that are being pushed at SMBs, I still haven’t heard anything that works as well as search,” Lasker said about positioning mobile within in the SMB market. “But mobile isn’t just search and Google knows that — that’s why their [cost-per-click] is down over the last three quarters as people move to mobile.”
Long the darling of tomorrow, mobile advertising has struggled to close the gap between sell-side inventory and buy-side demand as brand advertisers remain hesitant about shifting budgets to such a fragmented channel. But the emphasis on ROI and targeting, which is slowing the migration of branding dollars to mobile, could lend to a more rapid uptick in the SMB market as local advertisers look for an alternative to search with mobile.
“Mobile is creating this unique opportunity where you can combine identity and location,” says Lasker. “[This opens] new pricing models that couldn’t have easily been done on a desktop.”
Lasker says that Pontiflex has seen good pickup from usual suspects like retail, but also lots of activity from less talked about verticals like personal fitness and yes, even dog walking.
Steven Jacobs is Street Fight’s deputy editor.