What’s Next in Mobile – Customization and Choice

As digital media becomes ever more personalized, customized – and, of course, monetized – so too does the mobile market. This month marked the announcement of two new projects that meet these desirable objectives and offer some intellectual nourishment for media strategists looking for the next mobile innovation to enhance their clients’ campaigns.

Interactive online video platform Veeple has made great strides in offering Web-based clickable video solutions to digital marketers and media buyers. Naturally, the company has now set its sights on mobile. Veeple, in conjunction with mobile software solutions company Nellymoser, has announced the launch of what it calls the first interactive video on a mobile device – initially for the Droid – in an effort to afford marketers the ability to engage mobile users the same way they would online.

Using its existing video creation platform, marketers can develop clickable videos – either existing videos enhanced with clickable icons and hotspots or new videos that incorporate a call to action into the storyline – that, when accessed through the Droid device, can be interacted with just like their counterparts online. More interesting still is that the videos can feature a clickable overlay that mimics a Web browser (in essence, a “video browser”), allowing users to navigate to additional information while the video is in progress.

It’s the power of interactivity that culminates in higher engagement rates on the third screen, says Scott Broomfield, CEO of Veeple. “In a traditional model, when you play a video on your cell phone device, your site disappears. With our model (the user) sees semi-transparent buttons that allow the advertiser to put his site inside his video.”

The technology’s early adopters include a major national retailer and a popular women’s fashion and lifestyle magazine. The latter is experimenting with a clickable video in which a celebrity carries a branded purse that the user can click to get more information and the option to buy. The magazine is currently comparing engagement rates for users who view and interact with the video through the magazine website vs. through a Droid.

Now let’s say your client wants to complement his mobile video campaign with a branded mobile app and is questioning how best to engage consumers. Consider the strategy now being employed by the “most popular branded app of all time”: the Virtual Zippo Lighter, created by mobile entertainment agency Skyrockit (formerly Moderati).

To commemorate receiving over 10 million downloads in less than two years in the Apple App Store, Zippo has monetized its app by allowing consumers to buy custom Zippo skins directly through their mobile phones. “The fans of the Virtual Zippo lighter have been telling us that they want a way to get more skins,” said Jon Vlassopulos, CEO of Skyrockit. In response, the agency helped the brand to make product customization even easier.


In addition to free skins, the app offers premium skins for purchase from such artists as Bob Marley and The Who, and such lifestyle brands as Harley-Davidson and Vans. The skins are available in a section of the app called “Just My Style” that encourages users to use the skins to express their personal style and tastes.

What’s so fascinating about this effort is the way in which Zippo is using customization and choice to enhance the user value of its app. Like Veeple’s technology, Zippo’s move reflects the direction that advertisers are increasingly taking with their brands; the more they can encourage interaction and facilitate customization, the more likely it is that consumers will form a loyal and lasting affiliation with the advertiser. While Veeple is allowing advertisers to give consumers a choice of next steps with its multi-linked video browser (instead of forcing them down a single navigational path), Zippo is giving its fans a choice of products that allows them to customize their lighters. And all of it is being done for the benefit of mobile consumers.

A lot has been written of late about the importance of choice in digital advertising and marketing. The “Ad Selector” tool employed by publishers like Hulu continues to make headlines as the Holy Grail of digital marketing – the solution poised to improve brand/consumers relations by giving consumers a choice that allows them to customize their advertising experience. As mobile takes this same route, through innovative tactics like those offered by Veeple and employed by Zippo, the third screen is destined for the same fate.

If customization and choice are indeed the vehicles that successfully create a new “consumer-approved” digital marketing model, then it looks like the mobile market has a formidable head-start.

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