To integrate or not to integrate - that is the question that marketers, brands and agencies are still debating at CES 2013, held in Las Vegas. While online publishers are increasingly pushing for multi-platform buys across mobile, tablet and desktop, there continues to be a wide gap between the mobile first (or mobile only) crowd and those who put their efforts into fully integrated marketing campaigns that reach across platform and device.
The answer for most is somewhere in the middle, but that certainly doesn't help brands get the most effective return on their ad spend. The meandering quest for the right mix of marketing and advertising to tablets, smartphones and desktops is nothing new, but the potential audiences available in each channel has shifted dramatically.
"We say human first instead of mobile first, and sometimes we say context first," said Alastair Green, executive creative director at Saatchi & Saatchi subsidiary Team One.
During a panel discussion about tablet and smartphone advertising at CES, Green noted that his agency commands about $50 million worth of mobile advertising building, creation and execution. "We're actually creating one experience but it can go in so many places," he added.
"The concept of a tablet first or tablet-only entity doesn't work," said Harry Kargman, founder and CEO at the mobile publishing platform Kargo. "What we're seeing is that you have to be a cross-device company."
When Grace Dolan began working on mobile search at Google around three years ago, the phone, tablet and desktop were too simply defined by their use cases, she said. "What we're learning is it's more about the context and we can learn about context with GPS, location and other signals. The device itself is one of many signals," said the head of Google's mobile search solutions in North America.
Agencies, marketers and publishers all need to understand how these devices are being used, or when users are shifting from one to another, said David Berkowitz, VP of emerging media at 360i, a digital marketing agency.
Mandar Shinde, director of mobile monetization at AOL, said that once the industry moves beyond all the confusion caused by disparate formats, mobile will no longer be seen as a buy, but rather a differentiated media and positioning strategy as part of a fully integrated campaign. He added that at least 15 percent of AOL's users don't go back to the desktop, and the percentage is even more profound on certain AOL properties.
"There's a fundamental disconnect in how dollars are being spent," Kargman added. Most agencies are focused on desktop advertising, but that potential pool of online users doesn't always represent the largest potential audience for brands. "Most media companies have 35 to 40 percent mobile usage, but it's quickly becoming 50-50," he said.
Jonathan Weitz, the moderator of the panel and partner at IBB Consulting, said mobile advertising is forecast to reach $10 billion by 2015. Although mobile advertising will still be smaller than cable, broadcast and web advertising, with a 35 percent growth rate in mobile it won't take long for the tables to turn.
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Matt Kapko has been writing about mobile since 2006, before it became cool. Based in Long Beach, CA, he has covered mobile entertainment, digital media, marketing, and advertising for several business media outlets. A former editor and reporter for RCR Wireless News, paidContent, and iMedia Connection, Matt is a regular freelance reporter for ClickZ. You can follow Matt on Twitter at @MattKapko or drop him a line at email@example.com.