The gap between the hype and the reality of mobile advertising and marketing is narrowing thanks to consumer uptake of smart phones, 3G technology and adoption of technical standards that will make provisioning and creating campaigns easier. And while there's no doubt that mobile is the next disruptive technology, the battle for control and the quest to find the nexus between targeting, formats and offers has yet to be decided.
The antagonists are carriers who control the pipes and the pricing, marketers who need to decide what to sell and determine consumer tolerances, content providers looking to monetize their efforts, browser developers seeking to improve their capabilities to enrich the mobile experience and advertisers looking to leverage mountains of potentially useful targeting data. Into this mix add the Mobile Marketing Association touting the latest revision of its technical and creative standards and mobile ad specialists, like Ping Media, looking to expedite the process and accelerate ad agency acceptance of mobile as a viable medium worthy of integration into big brand budgets.
Consider these signs of progress, mostly surfaced in a new report from ContentNext Media entitled:" The Changing Mobile Industry: What it Means for Media Executives" written by Lauren Rich Fine and Galen Vaisman.
- AT&T, Sprint, Verizon Wireless and T-Mobile, who control roughly 80 percent of the 270 million US mobile subscribers, 84 percent of the population, agreed to new standardized marketing guidelines which should make wide scale campaigns easier to do
- Mobile ad revenue is expected to grow to $200 million globally according to the Yankee Group. We are getting closer to a critical mass of early adopters who can convince the next wave of marketers to give mobile a try.
- The number of mobile banner ads served by BuzzCIty in Q1 2009 was UP 38 percent over Q4 2008. We are getting traction on banners, experience in couponing and are launching significant numbers of text/SMS campaigns. We are getting pretty good at quizzes, polls and contests and synching mobile media with print, broadcast and online messaging efficiently.
- The US mobile content market grew 38 percent in 2008 and mobile entertainment (gambling, porn, games, music, TV) was up 28 percent. This evidences a big change n how people think about and use their phones.
- Smartphone sales will reach 13.5 percent of new handsets sold this year with new introductions from Apple, RIM, Nokia and Google capturing the attention of the marketplace .iPhones and Blackberries have dramatically changed the way consumers think about mobile phones and have accelerated consumers trust in mobile media. The 27,000 iPhone and iPod applications have created a new market for content, especially games which account for 1 in 4 downloads. The next step is to leverage this trust and the "cool" factor to better understand what customers want, when they want it and how best to give it to them.
- 40-45 percent of mobile phone customers access the Internet on their device, a number that should steadily increase as experience improves, costs come down and Obama's infrastructure plans get going. As browsers get better and bandwidth becomes more accessible, video will bloom and location based targeting will take hold.
But in spite of these hopeful signs, there are still significant challenges to realizing the dream of having your life in your pocket. And these gating factors are serious:
1. Carriers Control. They own the pipes; they decide what gets sold, they do the billing and compile the data. They have their own agendas in terms of public policy and revenue generation. They promise highly selective targeting but don't really have the systems in place to dice and slice the data. They are big robber barons with key allies on Wall Street and Capital Hill so there's no avoiding them.
2. Seeking Standardization. Markets blossom and explode when devices, applications and services are inter-operable. That means everybody uses the same standards and infrastructure so that anyone can send or sell anything to anyone. At the moment and for the foreseeable future, the players have divergent economic interests that will prevent this. And while we are seeing parallel app stores springing up, we won't get a hockey stick uptake until all apps are available to all customers using all devices. This will be several big battles and several years hence.
So what do we do till then?
Learn from Shira Simmonds, president of Ping Mobile, a leading mobile campaign management firm. She argues that using a middleman allows marketers to finesse carriers' provisioning issues and accelerate the process of getting and using branded short codes. She also argues that keeping it simple, using proven formats and taking a test-and-learn approach will ease brands into the medium and give them the leeway to explore different creative strategies while they gauge the interests and tolerances of their customers.
For Shira, mobile advertising begins with the 6 "Do Nots”...
Do NOT be sneaky. Be open and transparent in all your mobile identification. There is nothing to be gained by attracting customers under a false flag.
Do NOT spam. Use double-opt-in names and be aggressively CAN SPAM compliant
Do NOT under estimate potential security issues. Mobile media is the Wild West and hackers and malevolent players are abundant. Assume that someone will attempt to hack you.
Do NOT over complicate things. Consumers are good for 2 interactions. Use them wisely. Test variations on sweepstakes, contests, polls, quizzes, games and couponing; all of which have proven themselves effective. Assume that smart campaign planning requires a 6 month ramp-up and a thoughtful integration with other media channels.
Do NOT expect too much from mobile micro-payments or location based and GPS targeting anytime soon because of the legal and technical issues yet to be resolved.
Do NOT be put off by Shira's commandments.
An aggressive advocate of mobile advertising she sites great response rates for travel, retail, food and restaurant clients and expects real estate, automotive and CPG accounts to embrace mobile campaigns before too long. She is seeing mobile experimentation with older demographics, even while younger people dominate current campaign and she cites the low cost of mobile as a reason to test-and-learn sooner rather than later.
Mobile media is on the move -- not quite zero to sixty in 8 seconds -- but these developments are making consumer acceptance and campaign execution much easier day by day. With available Sherpa’s like Shira its well worth looking into mounting your maiden mobile marketing campaign.