Alumnus Bill Halpin, of Google, says mobile technology is 'disrupting' other industries

By Tara Schoenborn

October 8, 2014
Alumnus Bill Halpin, of Google

Your breath shortens. You are isolated. Your fingers feel helpless without a screen to hold. Your fear feels irrational, but you have no way to quell it. You have what Bill Halpin, leader of Google Web Ads, would call “Nomophobia,” or the fear of not having a cell phone.

Halpin ’88, G’95, G’05, spoke at Newhouse on Oct. 6 as part of the Eric Mower Advertising Forum. His talk focused on the rise of mobile technologies and what it means for the future of advertising everywhere. This is Halpin’s second visit as part of the Mower Advertising Forum.

To begin, Halpin offered up statistics and graphs that illustrated that 30 percent of all Internet traffic is now on mobile devices. He also stressed that North America and Europe are not the only regions experiencing this increased mobile growth, but Africa and Asia are also seeing rapid expansion in mobile device usage. In the past year, he says, mobile usage in Africa increased from 18 percent to 38 percent. For many, Halpin says, it’s their first-ever connection to the Internet.

Halpin predicted that by 2017, 85 percent of all literate adults will have a smartphone. That number is higher than the number of people with access to clean drinking water, he says. He says mobile technology will continue to disrupt other industries. For example, mobile usage already outweighs television usage, which is already changing the reach of television advertising. Even when people are watching television, he says, many are also looking at another screen – a phone, tablet or computer.

Using this knowledge, Halpin says advertisers should remain optimistic about using mobile. While he acknowledges that more money is still spent on print ads than mobile ads, Halpin says this gap will close soon. He gave the example of online retailer Zazzle, which has a beautiful mobile presentation. He notes that ads should have a “call” button to make it easy for consumers to contact the organization right away, like Starwood Hotel’s ads.

He also says attribution and funneling, or tracking which messages worked from the very first click, are important because they provide more in-depth information about the consumer that can be used for marketing.

To tie his presentation together, Halpin presented a project he worked on at Google with Nike’s World Cup campaign. After doing research on Super Bowl trends, Google and Nike worked together to create “moment-ads,” which played within one second of a sponsored athlete scoring a goal or winning a game. The ads played in 15 countries on three platforms, he says. 

By directing viewers to, Google secured about 2.4 million interactions with the site. While Nike’s competitors bought advertisements that were locked in regardless if the team in the ad won or loss, these mobile ads gave Nike the ability to turn its campaign on or off based on team achievements. That gave Nike an advantage in reaching its target audience, Halpin says.

Tara Schoenborn is a senior public relations and political science major.