The two advertising titans in Facebook and Google both continued to show strong growth in revenue due to the increasing power of mobile advertising. Mobile ads are dominant, and these two behemoths are pulling the world along with them as they demonstrate the marketing force behind mobile.
Mobile has become the most popular way to access the internet worldwide for the first time, surpassing desktop computers, according to data released by StatCounter. Their figures show that 51.3 percent of all web visits came from mobile devices, compared to 48.7 percent of web visits from desktop devices. The balance is still with the desktop in the US, though, with 58 percent of visits from desktops versus 42 percent from mobile. Still, it’s easy to see that as the trend continues, mobile will become the primary way to access the internet even in the US.
Facebook delivered extraordinary results for its third quarter, with $7.01 billion in revenue and a very impressive $2.379 billion in profit. Comparing the results to the same quarter last year, Facebook saw revenues go up 59 percent, with profits up 160 percent over the same quarter last year. Of that total revenue, $6.8 billion came from advertising, with 84 percent (or $5.7 billion) from mobile.
Compare this to the Facebook of days gone by, when revenues from games like Zynga’s social games made up the bulk of Facebook’s revenue. Facebook successfully transformed itself into an advertising engine, first on desktop and now on mobile. The company has compiled over $26 billion, plenty to fund its research efforts on things like Oculus, and providing inexpensive internet access to the world (over 40 million people have now connected through Internet.org).
Facebook accomplished all this with its 1.79 billion monthly users, which has grown 16 percent since last year (and nearly 5 percent this last quarter). Daily active users were up 17 percent over last year to 1.18 billion. On mobile, Facebook is doing very well: 1.66 billion mobile monthly active users, up 5.7 percent from last quarter, and 1.055 billion mobile-only users.
One other notable fact for marketers about Facebook’s results is that desktop ad revenue grew 18 percent from the same quarter last year due to Facebook’s success in thwarting Adblock Plus and other ad blockers.
Facebook’s chief financial officer David Wehner said, “On ad blocking, in terms of the impact I would just point out that this quarter we had 18 percent year-over-year desktop revenue growth. If you look at recent quarters, it was about half of that growth rate on a year-over-year basis. So that increment, that acceleration in desktop revenue growth is largely due to our efforts on reducing the impact of ad blocking. So that’s what led to the acceleration of desktop revenue growth.”
Meanwhile, Google, now known formally as Alphabet, also turned in impressive financial results. Overall, the company reported revenue of $22.4 billion, up 20 percent over the same quarter last year, with net income of $5.06 billion. Both numbers handily beat analyst estimates, with the net income 27 percent higher than the previous quarter.
Clicks on Google ads increased 33 percent over last year’s quarter, the fastest growth in the last four years. Mobile is driving these strong results, where Google controls 95 percent of mobile search results (compared to 78 percent on desktop PCs), according to Merkle. Analysts estimate that more than half of Google’s revenue comes from mobile ads. Cost-per-click, though, fell 11 percent year-over-year, while paid clicks grew by 33 percent. Cost-per-click is dropping, but Google is boosting the number of clicks—and analysts wonder how long both of those trends can continue.
Google’s shift in revenues from desktop to mobile was a sharp one—eMarketer estimates that last year about 60 percent of Google’s ad revenues came from desktop, while this year it’s about 50/50. By 2018, eMarketer expects that Google will drive 60 percent of its revenues from mobile ads, at least in the US. On a worldwide basis, Google is already getting nearly 60 percent of its advertising revenues from mobile.
Google is also seeing strong growth in YouTube ad revenues, with growth this year expected to top 30 percent to hit over $5.5 billion worldwide. “Google’s accelerating ad revenues have been driven by capitalizing on usage and marketing trends like mobile search, YouTube’s popularity and programmatic buying,” said eMarketer senior forecasting analyst Martín Utreras.
Google’s essential appeal to advertisers “is simple and is resonating: our mobile properties like search, YouTube, maps and Google Play are where people turn when they’re actively interested in something,” said Google CEO Sundar Pichai during the earnings call. Pichai characterized Google’s position in the online world to the glory years of network television. “Our services are prime time for the mobile world.”
While the digital ad business is growing handily for Google and Facebook, Re/Code reports that the rest of the digital ad business is shrinking, as noted by Jason Kint of Digital Content Next, a trade group for digital publishers. He estimates that Google had 60 percent of the ad market’s growth over the past year, and Facebook had 43 percent—adding up to 103 percent, meaning the rest of the market got smaller. Those numbers are taken from Facebook and Google’s public statements and IAB’s numbers from a survey.
Mobile is becoming the key path for people going online, especially around the world. As the smartphones are dropping in price, their appeal is reaching the billions who could not afford more expensive devices—and had never dreamed of owning a computer. The growth in mobile is happening in India, in Southeast Asia, in Africa—and that’s driving the growth in the advertising business as well.
Marketers are gaining unprecedented reach for their goods and services, with incredible amounts of data along with that reach. Increasingly, access to those markets is running through Google and Facebook, though other players like Snapchat seem to be doing well. Google is best at capturing purchase intent with search, while Facebook is best at the other end of the marketing funnel generating brand awareness.
Marketers should focus on these two ad leaders for the foreseeable future, unless some serious changes start to shake down.