Tuesday, June 23, 2009

It is not if, it's when

It is not a matter of when mobile advertising really takes off, it is only a matter of when. Just check out these two quotes from two of the biggest players in the internet and advertising world:

“In a few years mobile advertising will generate more revenue than advertising on the normal web.” Eric Schmidt, Google CEO (2008)

“Mobile is the most overhyped thing that I have ever heard of in the short term but the most under hyped thing that I have ever heard of in the medium term.” Sir Martin Sorrell, WPP Chief Executive (2008)

Therefore I was delighted to be invited to speak on a panel at the IIR Mobile Advertising Amsterdam conference last month. There was some complaints that it was the same old same old, however, I still found useful facts, inspiration and much to ponder upon.

I was there to introduce the importance of knowing people's intentions – both for providing useful services but also as a way to make services more appealing to advertisers. Since if you know people's intentions you can offer advertisers a chance to influence them.

It is interesting to note that in the mobile sector one of the few services to be maturing and generating significant revenues is turn-by-turn navigation, and this is a service that deals with clear intentions, i.e. intentions to get from A to B. This knowledge is enabling them to provide preference-based, contextually relevant advertising, i.e. where is my next preferred service station. Could it be that services that can clearly identify their users’ intentions have a better chance of succeeding?

So what other key things stood out during the conference:

Mind your PPPs

The three Ps (Privacy, Preference, Permission) came up again and again. The idea being that you need to obtain all three from people before you can feed them advertising. And it turns out that many European mobile operators are busy creating opt-in databases of users willing to receive advertising in return for benefits.

This makes perfect sense since the mobile is a particularly personal devise that advertisers need to treat with the greatest respect. These same criteria should be applied to the web in general and I am wondering when a PPP component will be integrated into browsers, so that ad feeds can provide more personal and contextually relevant adds.

Click through and creativity

Thomas Curwen, a market planning director, introduced the notion that the obsession with click through is damaging to mobile internet since it underplays the importance of brand awareness and attitude shifting that can be obtained from more conventional "impression-based" advertising.

Another theme of the conference – also forcefully pointed out by Paul Berney (Managing Director EMEA, MMA) – is that currently the mobile industry is not making enough effort to engage with agencies. And Curwen also made an easily missed point that currently advertising "creatives" are just not excited by the perceived potential of mobile advertising – particularly for winning awards. Blyk (the service that provides free mobile usages in exchange for personalized ads) showed some of the most created mobile adverts and campaigns I have seen.

Mobile web browsing is different

One of the biggest problems highlighted with mobile advertising has been the lack of accurate statistics of mobile web usage that the media planners and buyers need. And it was interesting to hear about the GSMA MMM (Mobile Media Metrics) project for sharing data between the UK's top mobile providers in order to deliver more useful information about mobile and mobile internet usage.

Data presented by Nielsen showed that not surprisingly news, sport and weather are popular web sectors for mobile users. Also, it is important to bear in mind that mobile internet is accessed at different times of day than desk bound usage. Again it is not surprising that around 60% of respondents said that they use mobile internet while traveling; however, about 50% said that they use it at home – which suggest that it is becoming easier for them to engage with their mobile device than it is to sit down at a computer. There are also peaks around lunchtime and some restaurant campaigns in London have used this fact to great success.

The Four Rules of Engagement

Jonathan McDonald was both a great host and a significant presence at the conference. He gave a fluid and engaging presentation that was half prep talk and half a imploration to the industry to pay attention both to ancient aspects of human behaviour and the the impact of the modern fluid, transparent nature of the internet. The days of marketers not playing straight are numbered due to the speed which negative information can spread around the web through blogs, Twitter, etc.

I was particularly inspired by his Four Rules of Engagement that he effectively agures should be applied to all aspects of life but in particular to marketing:

The Rules of Engagement:

1) Transparency of Offering (make it crystal clear)
2) Relevancy of Communication (not assumed, but assured)
3) Value of Incentive (not necessarily monetary)
4) Ease of Interaction (make it intuitive)

Read more about how to apply these in this excellent blog entry.

The iPhone Effect

We all know about this so I will just show these stats to remind us about the effect of an intuitive interface, reliability and unlimited data plans.


Mobile ad spending may currently only be about 1% of radio spend, however, this was also the case with internet advertising around ten years ago. However, it is predicted that mobile internet will develop much faster. And don't think of mobile internet in terms of screen size and connection speeds, think of it in terms of context of use – in particular location and time.