Playboy has given new meaning to getting someone's phone number. The iconically risqué brand, famous for its bunnies, parties and founder Hugh Hefner, is using mobile marketing to keep the party going. With its Playboy Club, a social network for those aspiring to be a part of the action, Playboy is using both mobile Internet — also known as WAP (Wireless Application Protocol) — and text messaging to encourage interaction. Its most recent endeavor, the “Miss Playboy Mobile 2008” contest, was a model search in which women competed for the title and men voted at the Playboy mobile site.
“We wanted to test mobile as a channel to motivate people and to hit both men and women,” says Ed Lang, SVP and general manager of mobile at Playboy Enterprises Inc. “Our goal is to highlight the aspirational highlights of the brand and ‘the good life' on the device that consumers always have with them.”
Playboy's campaign is just one example of what brands are doing these days to tackle the open playing field that makes up mobile marketing. According to CTIA — The Wireless Association, mobile marketing has become close to a $1 billion business, with 1 billion text messages sent per day in the US and 70% penetration of mobile use in urban areas. Mobile marketing is projected to grow from $708 million in overall revenue in 2007 to $2.2 billion in 2012, according to JupiterResearch.
“There are many choices for message delivery, and I think it will continue to evolve.” says Gary Roshak, VP, mobile advertisers and publishers at Yahoo, of mobile marketing's future. The company recently launched some new mobile offerings of its own, including the mobile site Yahoo Go 3.0; OneConnect for mobile communications; and OneSearch, a mobile search tool that clusters findings.
The adoption of Internet-enabled phones, like Apple's iPhone, means the mobile Web is quickly becoming a place where marketers want to run banner and search ads.
For example, Yahoo recently worked with sponsor Jaguar North America on mobile campaigns that ran on Yahoo's mobile Web site. The luxury car manufacturer ran banner ads that were developed especially for the NCAA basketball championships. Users could click on the ad to be directed to a microsite for the car that featured a video and photos.
“It wasn't just a partnership between us and Jaguar, there was [Jaguar's] agency, the mobile developers and vendors. The mobile ecosystem brings together a bunch of folks,” Roshak adds.
Mobile works best with other channels
Industry experts share their thoughts on mobile marketing
Expanded and extended content from our April 14 mobile marketing special, featuring four leading experts spanning the breadth of the channel. Click here to read.
Multichannel efforts, experts say, are essential to mobile marketing. “Mobile works best when it is integrated into a multichannel campaign,” says Laura Marriott, president of the MMA. “Mobile is best at converting consumers on the go, so campaigns should focus on tying the [consumer's] location to the offer.”
As the medium grows, the playing field is similar to the Web 15 years ago — the potential seems endless. “While the majority of brands haven't started in the mobile space, those that have been there for a while are getting more sophisticated,” Marriott says. “These brands are turning toward productivity and entertainment.”
Text messaging, including text-to-screen (when a text message is sent to a video screen, such as at a live event) and text-to-win (customers are invited to text in a code for a chance to win a prize), is the most basic form of mobile marketing, and is the most common — since the majority of consumers know how to use text messages.
Some of the latest developments include opportunities to check account balances and search for prices when shopping, as well as mobile couponing, mobile video, point-of-sale scanning, ticketing, micropayments, click-to-call and out-of-home mobile — in which a consumer can interact with a billboard or a barcode to scan for a free download or offer.
“Mobile is a unique way to connect with consumers,” says Tom Daly, group manager, strategy and planning, global interactive marketing for The Coca-Cola Company, and chairman of the board at the MMA. “Marketing Coke to someone who is walking past a convenience store is a great way to connect at the point of purchase.”
In 2003, Coca-Cola began its global mobile marketing efforts with a campaign in Germany that targeted teens. The multichannel campaign, which included TV, print and in-store messaging, offered consumers free downloads of wallpapers, ringtones and games via their phones, and gave away a total of 6 million downloads.“The goal was to leverage the mobile device to target younger audiences with an offer that was unique to mobile,” Daly explains.
According to Michael Winter, media director of the New York office of Omnicom-owned Agency.com, mobile is a “wide open space” that the entire industry is trying to figure out how to approach. “Companies are doing a lot of testing,” he says. “There are so many opportunities on the publisher side, on the provider side and on the advertiser side.”
For example, grocery chain Kroger is wading into the mobile coupon space, recently starting a campaign with consumer goods partners Procter & Gamble, Clorox, Del Monte, General Mills and Kimberly-Clark. Through a downloadable application, the program offers coupons through the mobile phone and lets users personalize their profiles. In addition, when a user is in the store with their loyalty card, the Kroger's mobile function locates which deals apply to them and automatically subtracts the discounts at check-out.
On the carrier side, Virgin Mobile is letting users interact with ads in exchange for free services through a program called Sugar Mama. The program targets 13 to 34 year olds, has 675,000 registered users and has been used by a variety of partners, including Subway, Playstation, Foot Locker and Dr. Pepper.
“You have to cater the experience [to the consumer] and offer something that is uniquely mobile,” says Scott Kelliher, Virgin Mobile USA's director of mobile advertising.
Mobile forging new partnerships
As the mobile marketing channel begins to grow up, there are many different kinds of vendors and agencies working in the space. Playboy, for example, is working with Quattro Wireless on its mobile Web efforts, while Kroger is working with Cellfire on mobile couponing. AndAgency.com is trying to meet with as many partners in the mobile space as it can, which now include publishers such as Reuters on the publisher side and Enpocket on the vendor side.
“There are so many players in the market right now with so many different offerings, but I think as we evolve out of the infancy phase we are going to see some convergence as the leaders in the space begin to emerge,” Winter predicts.
While mobile marketing is still only a small part of advertising spend, it is increasing, Winter adds. “Most Agency.com clients move money away from display ads to do mobile testing, as it is still difficult to convince anyone to take budget away from traditional media,” he explains. Average mobile budgets for Agency.com clients, he says, have shifted from 2% of overall spend last year to 7%-10% this year.
As the channel blossoms, it is not without its challenges. One issue is the learning curve. Both brands and consumers often don't know what is possible. To address this, marketers are trying to educate consumers about features and to make them simpler to use.
“Even though the device is ever-present, it is going to be a while before the consumer is ... engaging with the brand all day, so the interactions have to be quick,” Winter says. “The campaign should be about immediacy and urgency.”
Another challenge is that measurement is not standardized — a common issue faced by other marketing channels, including the strongly established e-mail channel. “We need to develop a standard way to measure response rates for the industry, because at this point every operator has their own way to differentiate ROI,” says Marriott, who adds that the MMA is working on a plan to define common metrics including terms such as “impression” and “click.”
The industry self-regulates its best practices as well as its metrics. Among other things, the MMA recommends a strict opt-in process for the mobile phone. The organization also encourages marketers to be clear in their messaging and make sure consumers understand if they are signing up for a subscription, as costs are sometimes incurred on the part of the consumer.
Despite the challenges, Marriott believes that the mobile world is an open playing field. “Mobile will become the first screen, since it is a way to reach the consumer with relevant messages in the moment where they are,” he says.