Mobile Marketing: An Agency Perspective

Check out this great ad from Optimus in Portugal, which demonstrates the viral power of mobile. A woman discovers a beached whale and, via mobile, sends video and picture messages to all her friends. This results in a large gathering, and, somehow, they actually manage to push the whale back into the ocean.

A stretch in terms of plausibility, perhaps, but the story illustrates the power of this highly personal, immediate, and intimate device. The mobile phone, unlike any other medium, has been able to merge lifestyles and consumers together. It’s one-to-one dialogue from friend to friend and, ultimately, brand to consumer. (The ad, by the way, demonstrates the power of 3G mobile data).

This column has focused a lot on wireless media types and case studies, so I thought I’d highlight the agency perspective on mobile marketing by talking with Mobile Marketing Association (MMA) board member and Isobar’s VP mobile, Gene Keenan. I spoke with Keenan about brand perceptions, mobile successes, and overall inhibitors to mobile channel growth.

Keenan agrees mobile turns advertising, once static, is now interactive. Mobile can turn traditional exposures, such as billboards and print, into instantaneous consumer engagements. Consumers needn’t remember a call to action from a traditional media type. They can immediately connect to the brand, wherever and whenever. Mobile will continue to have a tremendous effect on traditional media channels as it helps revitalize each of these media, turn it interactive, and in a way blur the lines between what is and what isn’t digital.

Industry conferences and published case studies are a great start in educating brands on the mobile channel’s power. Keenan feels the industry needs more transparency from an overall effectiveness and traceability perspective. Studies like MMA’s “Mobile Marketing Effectiveness” research and other leading industry studies will be key to providing solid quantitative data on the medium’s power.

Mobile is often viewed as very abstract and tough to get one’s arms around. Although the industry has created a baseline set of rules and guidelines, each vendor in the community will outline its method for engaging the brand, often in very different and sometimes confusing ways. If the brand understands its goals from a specific campaign, finding and selecting the right partner should be fairly seamless (just don’t get overwhelmed).

There are three inhibitors to brands engaging the mobile channel at the agency level:

  • Where does mobile fits in an agency, in offline or digital? In many cases, agencies establish mobile-specific divisions or practices to get around this issue.
  • There’s a lack of hard data on what works and what doesn’t. Today, agency statistics vary widely, depending on campaign type, cross media integration, and so forth. Greater transparency is required to see broad scale adoption (as mentioned earlier).
  • Mobile is abstract — and changes the model for consumer interaction. As an advertising industry, we’ve been geared toward interruption or campaign-based advertising. With mobile, we’re moving away from a push model toward a pull model. Consumers are now in complete control of their interaction with the brand. Consumers now form and dictate the relationship. This is outside many advertisers’ comfort zone.

The goal is to create new models that work for mobile, not merely to move models that have been applied to other media types. This is the challenge for agencies and their brands, and one they’re stepping up to.

What does Keenan see as the future of mobile? Due to increasing popularity of social networking tools, such as My, Keenan believes the killer applications will be those that merge lifestyle applications and services with consumer experience. Ideally, this will be a world in which it’s difficult to separate lifestyle from brand. A good example of this is the iPod. There are many MP3 players in the market today, but with the iPod you don’t buy the product, you buy the lifestyle. Try separating the two. You can’t.

According to Forrester Research, mobile marketing adoption rates continue to increase, with 43 percent of U.S. marketers using, piloting, or expecting to pilot mobile marketing in the next 12 months. So if you haven’t already engaged the mobile channel, try it. Adding mobile to your mix isn’t a case of experimentation, it’s one of refinement. That means launching a mobile program, then continuing to refine based on your target demographic and overall campaign goals.

Related reading

A QR code which leads to the URL for the ClickZ article about QR codes. Meta.