Dubai: It’s best for global marketers not to miss the mobile internet bandwagon. Or they won’t stand much of a chance in winning even a split-second in the attention spans of the young.

Welcome to the world of the mobile-first generation. A mobile-first consumer is one who does up to 90 per cent or more of his or her web consumption via a mobile device.

By 2018, the young ones in the world’s largest ad markets are going to spend more time accessing the web via their mobile devices than on all other competing devices combined. In fact, this is already the case in Saudi Arabia and Mexico, according to findings by media-buying giant ZenithOptimedia and GlobalWebIndex.

The markets that currently have the highest penetration of mobile first users across all age groups are in the Middle East, with Saudi Arabia’s share being 11 per cent and the UAE’s at 8 per cent.

Among the Top 10 global advertising markets, Brazil should be the first to reach the ‘mobile tipping point’, which is how ZenithOptimedia defines the transition in the web-watching preferences of 16-34 year olds. It should do so next year itself, while China and Japan — the world’s second- and third-largest ad markets (ZenithOptimedia’s Advertising Expenditure Forecast September 2015) — should reach the point in 2017.

The US and Germany, the first and fifth-largest in ad spend, will cross the point in 2018, and the UK, currently the fourth biggest, in 2019.

The first of the top 10 advertising markets to reach the ‘mobile tipping point’ is Brazil. By 2016 Brazil will see its population of 16-24 year olds spend more time accessing the web via mobile than all other devices. South Korea and Argentina will also reach the mobile tipping point next year. China and Japan will hit the tipping point in 2017. the US and Germany will pass the tipping point in 2018 followed by UK in 2019.

“Today’s 16-24 year-olds are already online via mobile for more than three hours each day, showing just how much smartphones have already changed the game,” said Jason Mander, Head of Trends, GlobalWebIndex. “However, by 2018, our forecasts shows that the time they devote to mobile will outpace all other devices combined — a significant tipping point which will herald the arrival of the truly mobile-first consumer.”

The study tracked responses from GWI’s panel of 200,000 web users across 34 countries.

Marketers, at least the fleet-footed ones among them, have gotten used to the idea of seeking out audiences via a mobile. Already in the UAE, local brands such as the Burj Khalifa and du are squaring up against competition from global names in making their presence felt on Instagram. And many of the brands are using the video format to make a pretty picture say it for them.

Globally, the mobile-first user averages 3.59 hours a day on the mobile web, with 23 per cent of respondents in the ZenithOptimedia study suggesting that they had bought a product via the mobile within the previous one-month period. The most popular mobile web activity is using a social networking service, at 44 per cent. This was followed by checking out the weather (38 per cent) and taking in an online video (22 per cent), “which has significant implications for marketers investing in content programmes”, according to ZenithOptimedia.