Stefanie Tannrath, CEO of Universal McCann Germany: Is Audience-First the New Mobile-First?

MMA Germany
MMA Germany
Published in
4 min readFeb 18, 2021


Mobile-first is going strong. We know this intuitively, just from looking at the world around us, and even though we know mobile ad spend is soaring, people sometimes still think it’s underrepresented. Recently, Stefanie Tannrath, CEO of UM Germany, told MMA Germany audiences that her research suggests that isn’t true.

Stefanie Tannrath, CEO of UM Germany

“If we look at the mobile share of the digital ad spend, it’s increasing every year, heavily,” she says. “But, and I think that is the common understanding…that it’s highly underrepresented.” However, since 2014, the share of mobile ad spend has been steadily increasing, and that reflects user behavior — especially in 2020.

Mobile by the numbers

Smartphone ownership has increased by 11% over the last five years. At the same time, mobile internet usage has increased by 26%. In 2020, Stefanie estimates, “it’s at 95%, which is really strong, and 87% of people actually use their smartphone to access the mobile internet.”

And when we look at the internet usage in comparison across all devices, she says, then smartphones have also overcome stationary laptops or desktop PCs, by a significant margin. “So, the smartphone is the first device to access the internet with 79%, followed relatively closely by laptops, but all other channels, or other devices are kind of far behind.” COVID-19 even forced reluctant older generations to fully embrace the mobile web and the convenience and utility of apps.

Meanwhile, Gen Z, forced to stay at home turned to a wider array of devices, moved away from mobile-first. “But COVID has also, as you all know, changed the way that we go shopping,” says Stefanie. “And I think that is probably one of the biggest growth opportunities in terms of mobile commerce and social commerce.”

Even while losing traction with some heavy users, mobile has come out of 2020 as a clear winner. In fact, she says, UM’s client campaigns are “67% mobile and 33% desktop.”

Forget mobile-first

The growing dominance of mobile may seem to reinforce the idea that all campaigns — all content, for that matter — must be mobile-first. However, Stefanie thinks the data actually suggests something else.

When you consider the full picture, Stefanie says, the share between desktop and mobile — at least among UM’s client portfolio — “reflects user behavior a lot better than official numbers might suggest.” With this data in hand, her team plans “audience first” campaigns. Stefanie says, “We have to go where the audiences are. So, we do not plan ahead based on any predefined mobile shares. We basically plan based on audience delivery. So, based on the individual target audience behavior based on the individual campaign, the ad slots are being filled and it doesn’t matter the device.”

Still, Stefanie says, there are ways the numbers may, in fact, be slightly skewed. “We obviously still have an inventory problem. So, availabilities are still much higher on desktop devices, and that skews the share towards desktop a little bit. So, there is still potential and obviously, all kinds of apps and services which are more or less 100% mobile app — for example, Tik Tok — drive the mobile share more and more as you’ve seen in social channels.”

Audience-first: Spotify for dogs

When you think of mobile as a device and not a channel, Stefanie says you can put your audience first and think more about creating great content than focusing on desktop versus mobile.

“Spotify launched the first-ever pet playlist in the German market and wanted to advertise that,” she says. Spotify’s pet playlists are designed to keep your pets company when you’re not home and are specially designed to help calm them in your absence.

“And the only thing that is maybe dearer to the Germans than the smartphone” is their pets, says Stefanie. “So, we launched the first-ever Snapchat lens that will actually recognize your dog.” Previously, Snapchat had only recognized human faces. “So, you couldn’t do the funny effects with your dog.”

By using the channel in the way it was intended, you are able to unleash creativity and meet users where they are. “And then it doesn’t really matter. Is it mobile or not, it’s much more about creativity, and about reaching the audience in a way that is relevant for them.”

To get an even deeper dive into UM’s data and what it tells us about the state of mobile in Germany, check out the deck for the entire talk.



MMA Germany
MMA Germany

Mobile Marketing Association's German Local Council strives to stimulate the growth of mobile marketing and its associated technologies in the country.