Mobile Advertising 101: Tips for Beginners

Advertisers rushing into the mobile arena should take heed.

Maria Mandel, executive director of digital innovation at Ogilvy New York, advises them to crawl first by deploying SMS (define) messaging; walk, by using banner advertisements or building a mobile WAP (define) site; and then run by offering video or downloadable applications to consumers.

Mandel was one of seven industry executives who offered up mobile advertising tips at an educational program in New York last week called Mobile Ad Degree. The program, attended by over 100 people, was the brainchild of Ad Infuse and M:Metrics, two businesses specializing in the mobile advertising segment.

Mobile advertising solutions aren’t limited to an advertiser’s competency, and each component can be layered into a multi-message campaign. A short code (define) displayed in a TV, print, or outdoor advertisement invites users to participate and learn more about a product or service, or take part in an activity. Marketers then respond to the short code request with an SMS message. The response can contain a coupon, promotion details, a link to a WAP site, or instructions on how to access or download content.

According to M:Metrics VP of Consulting and Senior Analyst Evan Neufeld, 43 percent of U.S. mobile phone users send text or SMS messages, and an even higher percentage communicate through SMS in Europe. High adoption makes it an easy entry point to a mobile campaign.

Display and paid search advertising is another simple way to enter the mobile advertising channel. Advertisers can buy ads on a network such as Ad Infuse or Third Screen Media. Search and paid listings are bought through networks including Medio, JumpTap, and even Google, which recently began porting AdWords listings to its mobile search product.

Whether it’s a landing page or a fully-robust Web site, companies use the WAP protocol so their Web sites can be viewed on handsets and other wireless devices. Still, an even richer way for advertisers to engage consumers through mobile is through downloadable applications. These are programs that often provide convenient access to information, for instance in the form of local directories like Ingenio’s TouchCall for the iPhone, or an entertainment vehicle including games and video content.

“You can’t approach mobile like the Internet or other media,” said Mandel. It’s a personal device. Some of the best ad campaigns offer utility in the form of a useful application or some kind of entertainment such as video or a game, she said. Both utility and entertainment were included in a campaign for DHL created by Mandel and her team at Ogilvy earlier this year.

There are many practical uses for SMS. In one instance, Ansible Mobile enabled U.K.-based retailer Argos to let consumers waiting for out-of-stock items text a product-specific keyword to the retailer’s short code and be notified when the store restocks the item. Additionally, Argos sends coupons offering discounts to customers who’ve asked for out-of-stock products, effectively growing its list for future communication.

One drawback to advertisers looking into mobile: Carriers don’t provide data that metrics-minded advertisers crave to target messaging. Data include demographic and psychographic information, location, and other useful information.

Marketers beyond the trial stage can collect and tag information on consumer behavior and preferences, along with simple demographics to create long-term programs to keep consumers engaged with new products or promotions.

“Clients see mobile as a long-term CRM [customer relationship management] play,” said Kevin Granath, VP of business development at Ansible. He works with clients to develop user profiles, segment, and send SMS messages to smaller, more targeted groups. His clients use a decision tree to more effectively target, enabling marketers to reach consumer segments much in the same way as triggered or segmented e-mail marketing campaigns online.

Products on store shelves and real-world sponsorships lend opportunities for mobile tie-ins. “There’s unused inventory and promotional space,” said Granath, referring to product packaging. “Start a conversation when picking up a bag of chips.” By placing a short code or message linking to a mobile campaign, a marketer reaches consumers at the moment they pick up a product.

Other marketers have created mobile campaigns for the duration of a sponsored concert to provide updates or enrich the experience for attendees. Consumers become involved while physically at the event, or take part in an event through mobile content even when they’re not present.

Ad Infuse and M:Metrics plan to put on their Mobile Ad Degree event in other cities; the next one will take place in London in a few weeks.

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