The practice of recycling creative assets in mobile advertising must end. Some pioneers are taking the initiative.
The creative revolution was a hot topic in sessions and hallway chat throughout the recent Advertising Week here in New York. While there was tacit agreement that all channels are due for a freshening up, it struck me that mobile doesn't just need a creative revolution. It needs creative ignition.
Mobile Industry Does a Great Job of Recycling
Unfortunately what we're recycling is creative, not hazardous trash. Up to this point, we've invested in mobile marketing using a "path of least resistance" strategy.
Because the initial objective has been to grow audiences to critical mass, get brands to buy mobile advertising inventory, and build mobile sites so ads have someplace to drive to, we have relied on repurposed creative as the supply for ad units and site design assets. This has happened mostly because, with so little relative spending up until now, we have wanted to make sure that as much money as possible goes into working media.
The less of the limited dollars that go to producing new creative, the more there will be for paid media and site production. This method has gotten us pretty far, but now mobile has become too big and important and the quality of the creative product has to play in the big leagues.
Nobody Wins Titanium Lions for Banners
It's unlikely that a consumer ever said, "I just can't get that banner out of my head!" The riches and really prestigious trophies don't go to text ads and expandable units with clever mouse-overs. They often contribute to a powerful integrated campaign, but it's hard to believe that any one of them won the hearts and minds of the judges.
I had the privilege of judging a round of the Effie Awards this year. Although the work was outstanding, almost none of it included mobile elements. The ones that did only threw it in as a token nod to hitting all the integrated customer touchpoints.
I look forward to someday seeing a campaign led by a brilliant idea and execution on mobile that's supported with other wise choices of channels and integrated messages.
But banners and the like are only a small part of the creative palate in mobile. It's a medium rich in creative options from interstitials, embedded video, animations, and audio, to some very exciting new capabilities to play with -- accelerometers, GPS, mapping, user-initiated still and video images, click-to-call, and the ability to wake other applications. Motivated creatives could have a field day with mobile applications concocting wondrous environments that haven't existed in any other widely used channel that reaches consumers.
It's 'Us' Not 'Them'
Much of the reluctance by creatives to get involved in mobile certainly comes from the low or non-existent production budgets. But we now need to demand more fully funded mobile efforts so we can create campaigns to reach increasingly mobile consumers.
There's also some understandable misperception among creatives that mobile ad units and environments are limited in their capability, but that's largely because most creatives haven't yet been exposed to what's possible.
We all have a role in improving the creative product though. Marketing strategies, budget processes, measurement schemas, and account leadership must incorporate mobile marketing for the right activities, at the right time, and in the right place. These will generate demand for more effective and contextually relevant creative.
Improved application of creative will impact success rates in campaigns, producing disincentives to go back to recycling tired, used assets just to get campaigns done.
It's Time to Build Momentum Among All Types of Creatives
Some very talented and active creatives are currently working in mobile -- including Richard Ting at R/GA, as well as digital creative teams at shops like Big Spaceship -- that have easily incorporated mobile into their repertoires. These leaders are producing terrific work for brands and independent companies that are marketing in mobile.
These pioneers will continue to breed a culture in which mobile becomes a sought-after tool in any dynamic creative's skill set -- not just among digital creatives, but everyone in the ecosystem around mobile from TV to print to out-of-home and direct. Let's hope even more talented creatives answer the call.
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Eric Bader is a partner in BrandInHand, a full-service mobile marketing and media company that serves global brand marketers, partners with agencies, and assists emerging media companies. BrandInHand's clients span the consumer goods, financial services, technology, and retail industries.
Prior to forming BrandInHand, Bader served as managing director of digital at MediaVest Worldwide. A new media veteran, he was formerly the head of online enterprises at CSTV Networks (now CBSSports) and, prior to that, executive director of interactive marketing at Ogilvy.
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