Forrester: Cautious Marketers Wait for Others to Take First Mobile Ad Steps

  |  March 29, 2007   |  Comments

On the other hand, marketers are rapidly hopping on the bandwagon of social media advertising, a report finds.

Mobile data use has doubled since 2003, but today's enterprises are, for the most part, ignoring mobile as a marketing channel, according to a new report by Forrester Research.

On the other hand, marketers are rapidly hopping on the bandwagon of social media advertising, according to Forrester. "Adoption of social media has grown significantly in the past 12 months," says the report, which is called "Interactive Marketing Channels to Watch in 2007."

Last year only 13 percent of marketers were dipping their toes into blog advertising and only 10 percent were experimenting with RSS, the report found. "Today, 40 percent of marketers are using or piloting RSS while 34 percent use or are piloting blogs," it says.

Nevertheless, marketers are playing it safe by sticking with e-mail and search for most of their interactive efforts. The researchers painted a picture of over-cautious, if not cowardly, marketing departments that watch and mimic each other instead of experimenting with unproven channels, such as mobile.

When asked what would convince them to spend marketing dollars on mobile-enabled sites, mobile text messages, branded microsites, podcasts, in-game ads, RSS and other emerging areas, most of the companies questioned said "proof of use."

The Forrester analyst who wrote the report, Brian Haven, doesn't try to hide his distaste for marketers' skittishness about trying new channels until doing so is proven safe. "This is the Catch-22 of all emerging technologies or ideas -- no case studies exist until someone is willing to experiment with something new," he wrote. "But Bulova, Sun Oil (now Sunoco), Lever Brothers (now Unilever) and Procter & Gambel didn't let this stop them from sponsoring the first commercial television broadcasts in 1941."

For the report, Forrester queried marketing personnel at 170 companies from five industries with marketing budgets of varying sizes. It said the companies were "split in their attitudes toward marketing technology spending. Only 14 percent of the companies said they were "very aggressive" when it came to investing in marketing technology while 39 percent considered themselves "not very aggressive," says the report.

A whopping 97 percent of the companies use e-mail marketing or are piloting a program or planning one for this year, says the report. Ninety one percent are doing the same with search marketing programs, according to Forrester.

Coming in next in terms of popularity is online advertising in the form of static or interactive banners, and while 75 percent of the companies said they are using or piloting that type of ad, Forrester expected there to be more. The figure represents "a surprisingly low adoption rate for the medium that has been the foundation of online marketing for nearly 10 years."

Then there's mobile and games. "Despite the buzz around mobile and game marketing, adoption of these channels is low," laments the report. It says only 13 percent of marketers use mobile text message ads and only 11 percent bother advertising on wireless application protocol (WAP) sites.

The report shows that only seven percent of marketers are trying campaigns in the strange new world of virtual reality games such as Second Life. Again urging marketers to be a little more daring, Haven cited a successful campaign in which Starwood Hotels "built a Second Life version of its new Aloft hotel, gained PR value and saved time and testing costs by applying the virtual customer feedback to the construction of its real hotels."

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