Mobile Advertising History – From 2.5 Pound “Brick” to Multi-Billion Dollar Industry

by GameHouse

Mobile advertising is one of the fastest-growing industries in marketing worldwide, but along with looking ahead to our bright future, it’s worth reflecting on where we’ve come from and how we go to this point. Think we missed an important milestone? Please add it in the comments section below.

Here are a few major milestones in mobile advertising history:

  • 1973: The first portable phone handset was invented at Motorola by a team led by project manager Martin Cooper. This first “mobile phone” weighed 2.5 pounds (1.1 kg). Cooper said that he was inspired to create a mobile phone by watching TV’s “Star Trek” and seeing Captain Kirk’s communicator device.
  • 1993: The first online banner ad was sold to a Silicon Valley law firm by a website called Global Network Navigator.
  • 1993: Apple develops the Newton MessagePad, a personal digital assistant (PDA) that had a similar design and user interface concepts that were later incorporated into the iPhone.
  • 1994: HotWired, a website that was owned by Wired magazine, became the first online publication to sell large quantities of online display ads to corporate advertisers. AT&T was one of the first big companies to buy online advertising through the HotWired site.
  • 1994: The IBM Simon, the first modern-style “smartphone” to combine phone and PDA functions, was introduced. The Simon could send faxes, e-mails and pages, and also had various features familiar to present-day smartphones such as calendars and games.
  • 1994: The first person-to-person SMS text message was sent in Finland. SMS would go on to become the most widely used form of communication in the world, with 2.4 billion people sending text messages as of 2007.
  • 2000: The first mobile advertising conference convened in London, hosted by the Wireless Marketing Association.
  • 2000: Google launched Google AdWords.
  • 2002: Research in Motion (RIM) introduced the BlackBerry, which became widely popular as the first mobile phone optimized for wireless e-mail use. By December 2009, BlackBerry had 32 million subscribers.
  • 2006: Admob launches its mobile advertising platform, backed by $47.2M in funding
  • 2006: Mobile advertising platform company, Millennial Media, is founded
  • 2007: Apple introduced the iPhone. It’s easy-to-use touchscreen and efficient web browsing experience set a new standard in smartphones.
  • 2007: Google got into the smartphone game by launching the Android phone. With open-source software, Android has become one of the most popular competitors to the iPhone and a favorite of many app developers.
  • 2009: Google buys Admob for $750-million.
  • 2010: Apple releases the first iPad.
  • 2010: Apple releases its mobile advertising platform, iAd
  • 2010: According to eMarketer, the size of the U.S. mobile advertising market increases to $1.45-billion.
  • 2011: 8 trillion text messages have been sent worldwide.
  • 2012: Smartphones have become one of the fastest spreading technologies in history, with 50% of U.S. mobile phone users (and 40% of the U.S. population) now owning smartphones.
  • 2012: As of the end of 2011, Apple has sold 55 million iPads and over 150 million iPhones. In less than 4 years, the company has sold a greater number of mobile devices than all the Mac desktop computers it sold in 28 years.
  • 2012: Facebook launches mobile ads on the Facebook mobile app, which is used by over half of the site’s 850 million users to access the site.

The mobile marketing industry has made gigantic leaps since the early days of the 2.5 pound “portable handset” and early smartphones that could not access the Web. Mobile devices have gone from being prohibitively expensive business tools or gadgets for tech enthusiasts to being everyday consumer items that are woven into the fabric of people’s daily lives. The mobile advertising industry is finding new ways to reach consumers and connect them with relevant offers based on their interests and geographic locations, making for more efficient and effective marketing.

What’s your take on this? What do you see as some of the biggest milestones and “unsung heroes” in the history of mobile advertising? 

By Ryan Morel

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