Mobile sets agenda

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Mobile sets agenda
Mobile sets agenda
By now it's too late to qualify as an early adopter in terms of launching a mobile ad campaign. In 2010, some of the most conservative brands explored the rapidly changing capabilities of the small screen, and the resulting enthusiasm, if not utterly con-tagious, is at least a sign of what's to come. “The reports say that by 2015, there will be more Internet-enabled phones out there than computers,” says Ed Gold, advertising director at State Farm. “We're looking at mobile as the future of digital advertising.”

That's not just talk. State Farm is a charter brand with Apple's iAd network, ponying up an investment “in the range” of $1 million, the entry-level sum required to place ads within the iAd platform, according to multiple sources. Gold says that while Apple “asks for a lot,” the company believes it's getting what it paid for: rich, immersive ads and premier exposure on a cutting-edge platform. “There are always those things that you pay a little bit more of a premium for, versus just buying the cheapest stuff available,” says Gold.

So what exactly is State Farm getting, by way of re-turn, for its iAd investment? That's a little bit harder or at least more complicated to say, and the iAd platform, which was created as a result of a $275 million acquisition of the Quattro Wireless advertising network last January, will not be appropriate for every marketer. In fact, some brands — like Adidas and Chanel — have walked away from iAd after initially signing on. After all, Apple's iPhone is not the only device consumers are using, which is important given that iAd only serves advertising on iOS, or Apple, devices. 

But those consumers using iPhones are an important segment of State Farm's demographic. In November, State Farm launched the NBA All-Star 2011 Sweep-stakes via iAd, which first takes the form of a banner, served across iPhone apps in young-adult skewing cat-egories such as music and sports. Once that banner is tapped, full-screen content appears, and users can enter the sweepstakes (a trip to the 2011 All-Star game in Los Angeles), learn about scores, locations and MVPs of past All-Star match-ups, as well as watch old highlight reels from past All-Star games, without ever leaving the app where the banner first appeared. 

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“We're not driving people to get a phone quote,” says Gold of the NBA sweepstakes campaign. “Success is really about getting people to click on the banner and stay in the content. The more they're involved with it, the longer they stay, the better the experience and per-ception they will have of State Farm. When the time comes to look for auto insurance, they think of us.” 

State Farm works with Draftfcb and Translation in New York for creative services — the latter aiding in the iAd execution — and OMD Chicago handles media buying for the brand. Gold declines to give click rates for the NBA iAd banners, but says the larger mobile platform, not just iAd, has been “quite efficient” in getting consumers to act, compared with other media and other mobile networks.

Take AdMob for example, a mobile ad network pur-chased by Google for $750 million at the end of 2009. With AdMob, Google is “getting a lot closer to what iAd is offering,” but it “gives you a few more choices, too,” says Gold. “You can also do more of a mobile banner-type effort.” 

State Farm uses a variety of ad formats (and net-works) for mobile, including display, search and click-to-call, so iAd isn't one-stop shopping for the company's mobile needs. Insurance is needed by everyone who drives a car or owns a home, “so obviously there's a percentage [of consumers] that are not currently using smartphones,” says Gold. To reach those consumers, the company has partnered with AdMob and Millen-nial Media, a third mobile ad network. Gold says Mil-lennial made sense based on the combination of sites it works with and State Farm's core demographic. 

Millennial, one of the largest independent mobile ad networks, serves ads on more than 5,000 sites and apps, with 80% of the company's overall impressions coming from Nielsen's top 100 sites, according to Erin McKelvey, SVP at Millennial Media. State Farm also works with Alma DDB to reach Spanish-speakers, in-language, on mobile devices, which Gold says has been “very successful” so far.

When choosing the right network, Joe Laszlo, direc-tor of research at the trade group Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB), says too often marketers approach mobile “thinking about the platform first, and their campaign goals and brands second.” If a campaign is primarily oriented toward a direct response or a call to action, ad placement may differ from a branding or awareness campaign. Laszlo, citing a “long-standing truth in advertising,” says brand advertisers in televi-sion tend to cluster around content with the biggest Nielsen ratings, whereas direct response trends more to-ward the late-night infomercial corner of the television universe. That's not so different from mobile, he says. 

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