Mobile Advertising 2.0

We filter our air and water. We filter our conversations by the water cooler. The FCC filters our TV content. Parents filter the Internet. Pop-up blockers filter out unwanted ads. Anti-spam software filters email. DVRs help TV viewers filter advertising. Clearly, we live in a cluttered, polluted world in which nearly every medium offers marketers an opportunity to put a message or offer in front of a consumer (even if it can be bypassed).

Mobile devices — mobile phones and PDAs — are one of the last great frontiers. Pure. Unspoiled. Un-spammed. I have a filter on my Blackberry that allows me to receive messages from senders I’ve selected, but not others. The very notion of unwanted advertising streaming through my Blackberry is abhorrent. Mobile devices are the ultimate opt-in medium. They’re a great way for marketers to connect with users — if that’s what users want. And that’s the key. How should marketers approach the medium?

First, the facts:

  • People do more than talk on their phones. Sophisticated mobile users utilize branded content and non-voice services. In fact, 40 percent of wireless subscribers pay an extra fee for branded content and non-voice services. Those services include text messaging, instant messaging, gaming, and accessing portal services, and the numbers are higher than you might expect. According to M:Metrics, roughly 12.8 million U.S. mobile subscribers access Yahoo wirelessly each month. AOL, MSN, and Google also have roughly 7-8 million mobile users in the same period.
  • Some people are receptive to advertising on their mobile devices. According to an In-Stat report, roughly 20 percent of mobile users surveyed said they’d be receptive to some form of advertising on their mobile devices. Most respondents, though, seem to feel as strongly as I do about intrusive mobile advertising. Said David Chamberlain, senior analyst at In-Stat, “[Respondents] did seem to understand the tradeoffs [of giving information in exchange for free services] because they were vehemently against any intrusive or unsolicited messages of any sort…. In fact, this survey generated by far the largest number of comments we’ve ever seen. People HATE the idea of unsolicited ads, which made the acceptance of opt-in advertising even more remarkable.”
  • Mobile video has arrived. Did you know there have been over 15 million video downloads on iTunes in just a few months? Growth in this area is explosive. Every time I read an industry publication, I see more stories about major networks or studios porting their shows and full-length movies to mobile devices. TiVo is even jumping into the fray. It’s launched TiVoToGo, a service that allows subscribers to move TV content to their PCs or their mobile devices, such as iPods and Sony PSPs. How long will it take for advertisers to either advertise directly on mobile devices or offer to market to consumers in exchange for paying for some of these content services? It’s already beginning to happen. Jeep and Axe were the first to take the leap and place video ads on the MobiTV network that streams live TV onto cell phones.

Last year, we hired Craig Daitch, a mobile marketing expert, to join our other emerging-media specialists who keep us ahead of the curve. I talked to Daitch about how marketers should approach the medium. Here’s an overview of what we covered:

  • Offer exclusive content. A wireless campaign is most effective when it offers exclusive content for wireless devices. Anyone can offer ring tones. It’s the unique content, such as exclusive mobile images of new brand concepts, that drives interest and calls them out in other media (email campaigns, newsletters, Web site, etc.).
  • Make it useful and timely. Think about what’s handy and helpful to have on a mobile device. We worked on a campaign last year with Sprint and Food Network that enabled Sprint customers to download shopping lists for their Thanksgiving dinners to their mobile devices. Talk to non-Sprint customers aware of the promotion, and you’ll probably get a “Sprint envy” reaction.
  • Clearly define objectives. Generally, one of two business objectives drives successful mobile experiences: incremental revenue or brand intimacy. In terms of revenue, other channels just can’t get there. Can you imagine paying $1.99 every time you wanted to change the background on your desktop? What about $0.99 every time you want to change your Windows greeting or IM chime?

    On the intimacy factor, a text message usually takes priority over almost any other form of communication. Consider this: When you last received a Blackberry alert in a meeting, did you stop to check who sent it? During a conversation with a colleague, how many times did you look at your mobile phone? Maybe it’s a bad habit, but I do it all the time. We haven’t yet been saturated with mobile spam, and that contributes to our prioritizing wireless messaging over voice. All this plays into what mobile media can do for campaigns.

Although mobile marketing has been out there for a while, we marketers have new territory to explore. Video offers fantastic opportunities for engagement. Consumers already bypass their filters for highly useful content (e.g., timely alerts) and will do so for rich, exclusive, compelling content. Let the best content win!

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