"Times is tight," one of my coworkers says. And a lot of companies don't have the budget or staff to innovate within the mobile space. As media professionals, we must be scrappy to get around this obstacle. Unfortunately, a big mobile-centered push probably won't happen, but maybe this is for the best. When there isn't a lot of funding to go around, marketers must be creative to reach consumers. And the best way to start is by implementing small bits of mobile as part of larger efforts.
The Federal Reserve predicts that unemployment will reach 10.1 percent and stay there into 2010, and consumers are responding. According to the Pew Internet & American Life Project, 22 percent of U.S. adults have cut back on mobile service in the past year to save money. In another recent study by Strategy Analytics, 48 percent of the heads of household surveyed said that if they were forced to cut their spending they would drop their mobile data service completely. Although we somewhat understand why this is happening, it's important to gain a better understanding and look at how we can respond to these effects.
Everyone is doing more with less. Companies are looking at their budgets and staffs to find efficiencies. As advertisers retrench, mobile may get short shrift. A Forrester Research study called mobile marketing "stagnant," and in a survey of advertisers, the research company found that mobile marketing adoption still hovers around 30 percent, with fewer marketers expecting to adopt mobile this year than in previous years.
The industry is responding with better value. Apple and AT&T have dropped the iPhone 3G's price to just $99. Verizon has offered a free second BlackBerry with the purchase of a first one, a move that pushed $100 million. So though mobile data services may be an area consumers want to cut back, many find that a device that offers Internet, GPS, and camera to be worth the money. Even those sticking to more basic plans are downloading things like ringtones and wallpapers and sending texts and picture messages.
Think Small and Scrappy
Even if the budgets are falling for emerging channels as those around you retreat to their core, it's still possible to keep testing, learning, and innovating in mobile. You just need to be scrappy about it. If you want to get involved in mobile but the budgets aren't there right now, there are still some ways to test. You don't need to build an expensive mobile application as the first step in a mobile campaign. And despite what some may tell you, you don't need to spend $100,000 to do it. That's a good round number to start with, but some one-off tactics will get things started for much less.
Sneak on Some Mobile Extensions
With all ad budgets in retreat in online display, television, and print, media vendors are willing to go the extra mile for dollars. On the flip side, media buyers are looking for ways to extend their brands and surround content. Mobile can fit the bill. Get your target rating point (TRP) goals in the buyer's market in television, then invest remaining dollars in mobile extensions. For example, if you buy ads on-air for a sporting event, check to see if the mobile Web site or app is available for sponsorship. Chances are it is and it will be cheap, almost a rounding error on your buy. Adding a text-message call-to-action short code to your print buy can be very inexpensive, and many magazines and newspapers partner with companies that can handle the sampling and fulfillment very inexpensively.
Keep an Open Mind
Time is money. That's even more true in a recession. Everyone's working double to make up for shrinking workforces. Still, it's easier to stay ready than to get ready. Follow the marketplace even if you don't think you'll be activating in mobile any time soon. Mobile media sellers can contact potential clients with an informational and research oriented pitch instead of the hard sell. Buyers can take a meeting to learn something even if you don't plan to be active in the space. Building relationships and staying informed now means you'll be ready when opportunity comes.
Times is tight, but those who find ways to innovate now by being scrappy and open-minded will have a head start down the road.
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Davis Brewer is lead strategist of emerging channels for Spark Communications. As the lead strategist, Davis manages the robust expansion of all Spark client activity in the digital advertising space.
He acts as a client resource for the agency's digital futures practice, providing insights and analytics as well as risk management, for the latest emerging advertising opportunities in the digital media space. In this dual role, he continues to oversee his existing list of forward-thinking clients.
Davis began his career at an online advertising agency in San Francisco at the height of the dot-com boom. He quickly became a successful agent in the digital commerce arena after moving back to Chicago, armed with the unique perspective of a bubble-burst veteran.
A pioneer of behavioral targeting online, Davis was named a 2006 Rising Star in "DiversityBusiness" magazine. He received his degree in English from Dartmouth College.