The Keys to the Mobile Kingdom

While the mobile advertising marketplace is certainly alive, is it really helping and enhancing consumers’ day-to-day life? Last week, I offered some thoughts on the current state of the North American mobile advertising marketplace at the NextMedia: Monetizing Digital Media conference in Toronto.

According to a recent M:Metrics study, 11.2 percent of mobile phone subscribers in the United States use mobile browser for information purposes. This number, while still low, shows steady, yet slow growth.

Mass media’s adoption and promotion of content and services, is helping to increase mobile services’ useage. To sustain this growth, users need content and services that are beneficial, enjoyable, and most important, reliable. Without reliability, we’ll lose the trial users, who are essential to mobile’s growth and the mobile base will continue to grow at a slow pace.

During the presentation, I discussed some recent mobile experiences that everyone could somehow relate to. Considering the audience was comprised of content developers, media execs, and advertising organizations, it was a great opportunity to encourage a consumer-first focus on the mobile experience.

Bob Pittman, former chief operating officer of AOL Time Warner, was known for saying content is king. While I agree, when it comes to mobile, the customer should be king. While we all enjoy idle mobile access when waiting in an airport, doctor’s office or even in a meeting, it’s still important to remember that mobile is used as an “on the go” and “I need it now” device. For instance, when I’m standing outside a sold-out movie theater, I want to see locations for another theater, not a mini-banner ad for toothpaste. Therefore, content developers, providers, and advertisers should be encouraged to think experience first.

What makes for a better experience?

Local There are plenty of location-based services options for mobile devices. We can get restaurant, movie, and retail information along with driving directions and more. However, the biggest problem when it comes to local, is that consumers generally don’t know where they are to begin with.

Once consumers have an on-ramp, they are more likely to drive on the highway. Location-based services should focus on solving this problem first and with the recent inclusion of GPS technology in mobile phones and devices, the industry is very slowly solving this problem. Google last week announced it has updated its mobile maps application to be “location aware.” Instead of relying on GPS, the mobile application will approximate your location based on the cell tower providing your current data connection. In some cases, like highly populated cities like New York, this will estimate your location within 1,000 feet. In more rural places with fewer cell towers, it may be less accurate. Is this service 100 percent reliable? No. But if anything, it’s better than being completely lost.

Social As I’ve mentioned in previous columns, social networks and their API (define) services make it easier than ever to mix, match, and mash content across platforms. For mobile, this makes perfect sense. While there are pedabytes of content on social networks, your mobile needs and current location provide a strong context to sort and consume this data. Instead of going through an endless list of restaurants in Chicago, wouldn’t you rather pick from a list of restaurants that your friends have recommended? Providing mobile content and services based on social content will go a long way to making your services more reliable.

Relevancy As we all know, the mobile device is the one thing you won’t leave the house without. Because of the device’s personal relevancy, services and messages should be directly relevant to the user’s life — not randomly sent. So, in the case of advertising, advertisers must understand that their messages (such as opt-in text programs) must deliver day-to-day value. When a phone vibrates in someone’s pocket, it better be relevant, not another ad for toothpaste. Mobile advertisers won’t be competing for share of market, they’ll eventually compete for “share of pocket.”

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