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Upper Middle Class, Females Key to Bridging Mobile Ad Spending Gap


Smartphones and tablets continue to break new consumer technology adoption records.  From earlier research, Flurry found that iOS and Android smart devices have experienced twice the uptake rate compared to that of Internet adoption, and four times the rate compared to that of PC adoption.  Following this unprecedented adoption, advertising dollars are beginning to flow into mobile.  A recent IAB study reported that 63% of top brand marketers have increased their mobile advertising spending over the last two years, and that 72% plan to increase advertising spending over the next two years.

Focused on mobile advertising, this report has two parts.  First, Flurry compares the allocation of advertising spending across various media versus the actual time consumers spend across those same media.   Next, through detailed demographic breakdowns, we share which audience segments are best responding to mobile advertising.  Let’s start by understanding trends in media usage versus ad budget allocation.

The Great Mobile Ad Spending Gap

Mobile Ad Spending vs. Time Spent per Media

In the above chart, Flurry aggregated publicly available data from VSS and Mary Meeker (KPCB), then layered in its own analysis to reflect the growth in app usage we observe.   With our adjustment, we resized the totals for U.S. advertising spending by media and consumer time spent using each media.  From left to right, represented by the green columns, is the proportion of advertising spending across each major media.  TV and Print command the greatest advertising spends in the U.S. with 43% and 29% of the total, respectively.  Web, Radio and Mobile channels round out the balance of media spending with 16%, 11% and 1%, respectively.  Adjacent to the ad spending columns is the amount of time consumers spend by media type, represented by blue columns. TV leads consumption with 40%, followed by Mobile and the Web with 23% and 22%, respectively.  Radio and Print complete the picture with 9% and 6% of usage, respectively.

Comparing where usage and spending vary most, one notes severe over-spending in print advertising and even more severe under-spending in mobile.  Web usage also shows sizable under-investment, relative to platform usage, though not as dramatically as seen on mobile.   In short, despite the fact that mobile advertising is growing, the platform is far from getting rational levels of spending compared to other media.

We believe the main reason for this disparity is that the mobile app platform has emerged so rapidly over such a short period of time.  With the iOS and Android app economy only three-and-half years old, Madison Avenue and brands have yet to adjust to an unprecedented adoption of apps by consumers.  Further, the mobile advertising ecosystem remains nascent, without sophisticated platform tools.  Concepts of audience measurement and segmentation on mobile are still forming, and mobile lacks the kinds of systems that agencies take for granted on the web.  For instance, mobile inventory is difficult to buy in volume, ad networks have yet to be integrated into Demand-Side Platforms (DSPs) and common standards for ad serving, tracking and settlement are yet to be defined.  Just consider that large publisher properties like Facebook have yet to monetize their mobile properties, with many still needing to hire media sales organizations to position themselves to do so.  As the mobile platform matures, and these problems are addressed, mobile advertising is poised to take off in earnest.

Mobile Advertising Audience Sweet Spot

For the second part of our analysis, we measure which audience segments respond best to mobile advertising, leveraging data from our own ad network, AppCircle, as well as publicly available data.  Taking a sample of 60,000 daily active users on iOS, from among a total group of 6 million for whom we have demographic data, we calculated the effective cost per mille (“thousand” in Latin), or eCPM, earned by publishers.   Using eCPM allows us to consider both branding (e.g., CPM) and performance (e.g., CPC and CPA) advertising campaigns in our calculations to get an accurate read on which mobile audiences monetize best.  In the following charts, we display eCPMs by age and gender, household income and educational level attained.  The higher the eCPM earned by audience attribute, the more valuable the audience is to both advertisers, who pay top dollar to reach this audience, and publishers, who earn the most revenue for selling access to this audience.  Let’s start with audience breakdown by age and gender.

Mobile advertising by eCPM, gender and age crosstab

The chart above shows the value of mobile application segments by age and gender.  Males are shown in green and females are shown in blue.  The value above each respective column is the eCPM earned by that segment.  For example, 25 – 34 year old females fetch the highest eCPMs at around $13, driven by underlying high click-through and conversions rates.  In fact, females are the more desirable target audience across most age breaks, tied with men in the 18 – 24 year old age range, and exceeding them at 25 and older.

Mobile Advertising by eCPM, Household Income (HHI) 

Breaking out eCPMs by household income shows that income ranges from $60,000 to $100,000 are the most valuable, with $100,000 to $150,000 also performing very well.  For mobile advertising, there appears a strong correlation between affluence and eCPMs. This squares with earlier analysis from Flurry that found households with iOS and Android smartphones are, on average, 50% more affluent ($44,000 average U.S. household income vs. $66,000 average U.S. smartphone household income).  Smart device owners are, on average, more affluent and more educated.

Mobile Advertising eCPM by Education

Similar to household income, we find that those who attained higher levels of education are more valuable segments in terms of eCPM generation.  Those with a bachelor degree fetch the highest eCPMs, close to $8.00.  The second most valuable segment are those even more educated, having earned a master degree or higher. 

The Cream-Skimmed Smartphone Upper Middle Class

As a total snapshot, our analysis shows that females and males, between the ages of 25 and 34 years old, who have higher levels of disposable income and a bachelors degree or higher, more strongly interact with mobile ads.  Leading sociologists William Thompson and Joseph Hickey define this class as “the rich” or “upper middle class,” comprised of highly educated salaried professionals whose work is largely self-directed.  Typical professions for this class include lawyers, physicians, dentists, engineers, accountants, professors, architects, economists and political scientists.  

What bodes best for the outlook of mobile advertising is the quality and quantity of the audience that not only uses smartphones and tablets, but also interacts with ads on these devices.  Based on our analysis, revealing that the most sought after segments already interact most with mobile ads, a key ingredient required to realize the promise of mobile advertising is the introduction of mobile ad platforms that can segment publisher audiences and enable targeting by advertisers to reach segments of their choice.  Like online, which is infinitely more measurable than Print, Radio and TV, mobile advertising is poised to grow radically with the introduction of scalable, data-driven solutions that put advertisers and publishers in control of their own destiny.  Actionable data and well-built platforms are the keys to unlocking Madison Avenue spending.

Super Bowl 2012: Nothing Curbs App Usage Except Madonna


The Super Bowl is an American phenomenon, now largely considered a de facto American holiday.  As a premier media event, it regularly attracts record-breaking audiences.  This year, Super Bowl XLVI became the most watched television program in history, drawing an audience of 111 million viewers according to The Nielsen Company.  Prior to this, the record was held by last year’s Super Bowl, which itself had overtaken the number one spot held for twenty-eight years by the final episode of M*A*S*H.

The Second Screen

Also breaking new ground this year was the concept of the "second screen," which illustrates that while watching TV (the first screen), people often interact with second screens such as smartphones and tablets.  To keep viewers focused on the first screen, marketers increasingly are exploring ways to complement the first screen experience with the addition of hash tags, QR codes, voting and more.  Among the most ambitious is Shazam, a music and media discovery service, which worked with ad partners such as Toyota, Best Buy, Pepsi, Bud Light and Fed Ex to drive additional second screen interactions related to advertising via the Shazam mobile app.  During the halftime show, for example, viewers could get the setlist, buy music and download mobile apps from the artists.  Shazam reported millions of audio tags as a result.

Aside from a handful of innovators like Shazam, Flurry believes that the second screen is still largely more disruptive than complementary to first screen viewing.  If a consumer is not paying attention to the television program in front of her, she is likely using an application to post social updates or play games.  For example, if a Super Bowl ad isn’t holding a viewer’s interest, playing another round of Words with Friends is a likely activity.  Monitoring app usage provides Flurry the ability to understand this tightly-coupled relationship between the first and second screen.

Massive Second Screen App Audience

For this report, Flurry tracked U.S. app usage, per second, over the course of Super Bowl XLVI, mapping application session starts to each television spot aired, game time segment, the halftime show, and more.  We further studied behavioral differences between males versus females.  With Flurry Analytics in over 160,000 applications, the company detects app usage on more than 90% of all iOS and Android devices per day.  Let’s start by comparing how many people used apps during the Super Bowl to the number who watched the Super Bowl.

Flurry SuperBowl App vs TV AudienceSize resized 600

The left-hand column shows the number of users Flurry estimates launched applications in the United States between the hours of 3:15 and 7:15 PM PST on Sunday, February 5.  During this four-hour window, in which the Super Bowl was played, Flurry estimates that nearly one-third of the U.S. population used an application.  Compared to Nielsen’s estimate that 111 million people watched the Super Bowl this year, the two audiences are similar in size.

Flurry SuperBowl AppStarts perSecond V4 resized 600 

The chart above shows estimated app session starts in the U.S. per second.  Studying overall trends reveals a highly correlated, inverse relationship between app usage and game, halftime and commercial events.  Generally, app usage increased steadily over the first three quarters of the game, showing the challenge in holding peoples’ attention over several hours.  However, because this year’s game was close throughout, including an exciting fourth quarter finish, app usage remained relatively checked.  Noticeably, app usage declined significantly during the last part of the fourth quarter. The most clearly visible change in app usage occurred during Madonna’s half time show, where app usage remained consistently low for the longest, sustained period of time.  From this, we conclude that Madonna strongly held viewers’ attention on the first screen and was a major draw for the Super Bowl this year.

Looking more closely at the details, we see that key moments like the coin toss and kick off were paired with decreases in app usage.  Additionally, we found that advertisement popularity could be inferred from rises or declines in app usage.  For example, if app usage increases during an ad, we conclude that it did not hold the consumer’s attention.  While there is the possibility that certain advertisements encouraged the use of an app, this was not the norm.  Studying male versus female usage differences, we found that 62% of overall app usage during the game was driven by females.  Flurry also found that women, on average, paid more attention to advertisements, and drove spikes in app usage upon return to the game after commercial breaks.

Flurry Super Bowl App Game Usage

In this chart, we isolate app usage during broadcast game time only.  All breaks for advertising have been excluded.  This chart displays a clear pattern of usage by quarter.  To create the chart, we took an average for app usage across the entire game, and then for each quarter.  Starting on the left-hand side, app usage was lowest during the first quarter.   The second and third quarters show increases in app usage, as we assume peoples' attentions waned over the long course of the game.  The fourth quarter, however, shows a decline in usage due to the game’s close finish, which drew attention back to the first screen.

Flurry Super Bowl App Usage During Advertising

In this chart, we isolate app usage to only those times when advertisements were aired.   Again, consumer fatigue played a role in attention paid to the first versus second screen.  Even with a close Super Bowl game, viewers paid far less attention to ads during the second half.  This would suggest that when buying ad times, advertisers should focus on Q1 and Q2 ad slots.  Not shown on the chart, pre-game ads, as early as 20 minutes before game time, also held consumer attention well.  Half-time, outside of Madonna’s half time show fared worst for holding consumer attention.  We speculate that people were either taking a bathroom break or looking for information and/or content on their phones related to Madonna or other artists that appeared in the show.

Flurry Super Bowl Ad Rankings

Finally, Flurry ranks ad Super Bowl ad performance.  During the times app usage spikes, we assume ad fail to appeal to the viewer.  Conversely, if app usage declines during a TV spot, we assume that the first screen is where the consumer is focused.  For each ad, Flurry counted the number of app sessions starts.   We then divided that number by the number of seconds in the ad, to get an average number of session starts per second.  This gives an apples-to-apples comparison for comparing varying ad lengths.  Below, we share rankings for Overall, Male and Female user groups.  By our count there were over 100 ads from pre-game through post-game. 


Flurry Super Bowl TV Ad Rank Overall


Flurry Super Bowl TV Ad Rank Men


Flurry Super Bowl TV Ad Rank Women 

The relationship between advertisers and consumers continues to change, with apps playing a key role.  In a year when the industry is anticipating major moves from companies like Apple and Google around interactive television, app makers and marketers will need to learn and adapt.  In the meantime, we know that Madonna still has the power to make you put your phone down, at least for a while.


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Flurry is the leading mobile measurement and advertising platform that is optimizing mobile experiences for people everywhere. Flurry's industry-leading Analytics software sees activity in over 400,000 apps on more than 1.3 billion mobile devices worldwide, giving Flurry the deepest understanding of mobile consumer behavior. Flurry turns this insight into accelerated revenue and growth opportunities for app developers, and more effective mobile advertising solutions for brands and marketers. The company is venture backed and headquartered in San Francisco with offices in New York, London, Chicago and Mumbai. 

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