Mobile commerce

Mobile Marketers: Just Do Something

CHICAGO -- A running joke in the marketing industry is that every year is the "Year of Mobile," a proclamation often followed with, "but seriously, it is this year." That was still the sentiment at the Heartland Mobile Council’s inaugural Mobile University event this week in Chicago, but attendees were taking a more practical approach to making mobile marketing a reality.

Even without real progress outside of one-off campaigns, optimism for mobile marketing remains high. Mobile marketing spending had already risen by one third in 2009, according to new research from the Internet Advertising Bureau and PricewaterhouseCoopers International . In 2009, companies spent £37.6 million on mobile marketing, a 32 percent increase over the previous year.

This growth is expected to continue well into 2013 when the market for mobile ads alone may be worth $3 billion, a projection that has been given credence by recent big deals in the space. The two largest -- Google (Nasdaq: GOOG)’s acquisition of AdMob Inc. and Apple Inc. (Nasdaq: AAPL)’s acquisition of Quattro Wireless -- have brought interest in the mobile ad channel to an all-time high. (See Quattro Confirms Apple Acquisition, Apple: Ads Get the i Treatment, and Google to Buy AdMob.)

The Mobile Marketing Association (MMA) also put out new guidelines this week, designed to help digital marketing professionals differentiate among the big four US carriers without needing a separate MMA playbook for each.

With progress like this, the landscape is getting more manageable for brands looking to break into mobile, but among the takeaways from Mobile University was that they cannot do it all. Before trying to engage consumers across SMS, apps, the mobile Web, search, and video, brands need to choose one route. And before trying to target consumers down to the individual, one of mobile’s biggest promises, they need to focus on building scale.

“Don't try to boil the ocean,” said Julie Krueger, senior vice president of eCommerce and direct at OfficeMax. “Select a small target. Loyalty club members are ideal and usually pretty forgiving.”

Within this small target, the goal is engagement, according to Jay Highly, president and founder of Pangea Partners, a mobile marketing consulting company. Highley’s resumé includes mobile search engine ChaCha Search Inc. and loyalty marketer Tetherball; so his experiences have made him a big fan of SMS, where he says all the mass is concentrated.

About 1.5 trillion text messages were sent in 2009, creating the opportunity for brands to build text interaction. That’s the direction most are already going today. Although only about 8 percent of budgets at most are allocated towards mobile, within that, nearly 60 to 70 percent is spent on SMS.

That’s because building an app is mainly only good if you’re focusing on Apple, said Gary Schwartz, president and CEO of Impact Mobile and Chair of the IAB Mobile Committee. But even then there’s the "rule of five." He quoted Nielsen data that says consumers download around five mobile apps, then they’re done. Brands need a consistent way to reach consumers that doesn’t end with a download, he noted.

When asked why targeted advertising -- another Holy Grail of mobile -- isn’t a reality yet, Paul Simmons, a mobile solutions specialist from Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT), brought up the software company’s multimillion-dollar deal with Verizon Wireless to exclusively use Bing as the default search engine for Verizon phones. Microsoft also sells Verizon’s on-deck display ads that he says let it target users based on the attributes consumers listed when they signed up with Verizon or based on their location. That being said, it’s not being done.

“The challenge is you still have silos within the company between advertising and CRM [customer relationship management] groups,” Simmons said. “If they came together, it would allow a [targeted] experience to occur.”

Despite the non-trivial issues that the companies in attendance raised, the general theme was that if 2010 isn’t the year for mobile advertising, it is time to do something -- anything -- on mobile to capitalize on a market that is only growing in importance. As Highly highlighted, consumers are ready and waiting for the industry to make it move.

“At the end of the day, you have two choices to make as a brand in mobile,” said Patrick Morehead, head of mobile platforms for ad agency DraftFCB. “Either you’ll provide tools that help the person do something, or provide content that becomes the caulk in between the moments of the day.”

— Sarah Reedy, Senior Reporter, Light Reading Mobile

Sign In