Three Keys to Mobile Advertising Success

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Wireless advertising is in its infancy, an emerging practice that presents advertisers with unparalleled opportunities. It also presents creative, delivery, measurement and privacy challenges not yet encountered in digital marketing environments.


Advertising to wireless devices gets its fair share of press these days. The number of articles written about wireless advertising over the past six months may even exceed the number of wireless ad campaigns run. Industry conference organizers, not to be outdone, have included wireless advertising on their conference agendas -- often creating entire programs on the subject.


The challenge is whether you can actually deliver on the opportunities. Can you address the obstacles to wireless advertising success? Will you focus more on the consumer, or will you continue to assume what is best for them?


Consumers want to exert influence and choice over wireless advertising. They want to receive value-added information and direction on products and services. They want something dramatically different from what they receive in today's Internet advertising.


Three keys to meeting the needs of wireless consumers, while still achieving the objectives of advertisers, include:


• Obtaining a wireless consumer's permission to receive wireless advertisements.


• Delivering location-specific advertisements and promotions.


• Creating a tighter link between the merchant's products and services, and the advertisement itself.


Permission-based marketing. Wireless devices are personal, portable and wearable. It just makes sense to obtain the permission of wireless consumers before providing them with an ad. It also delivers much better results than ads that are arbitrarily sent to consumers.


Consider these two instances. In late spring, one wireless carrier was blamed for allegedly sending text-based advertisements to consumers without their permission. Consumers did not react favorably. Further, Rep. Rush Holt, D-NJ, submitted a bill to Congress focused on banning wireless spam.


Conversely, a wireless advertising campaign designed by SF Interactive on behalf of its client Red Envelop was delivered to consumers who elected to receive the Father's Day promotion. These consumers subscribe to FusionOne's data synchronization service. FusionOne, prior to the campaign, asked its subscribers if they would be willing to receive the promotion. FusionOne then served the ad to only those subscribers that provided their permission. The result was a sales conversion rate exceeding 10 percent.


Obtaining permission is an additional step in the ad targeting and delivery process. Yet, if done correctly, it can yield a significantly higher response and conversion rate, and build a stronger relationship with consumers than do those ad campaigns targeted without permission.


These opt-in advertising programs alleviate the privacy concerns that arise when consumers receive Internet advertisements without their permission. With such programs, consumers can receive personalized incentives and promotions; advertisers can reach people who are interested in their products or services; and wireless providers can offer added value to their subscribers while growing their revenue stream.


Location-specific advertisements. Location, location, location. The expression is no longer applicable to real estate alone. Mobile devices, by their very nature, are used by mobile consumers, and being mobile means consumers often find themselves in unfamiliar locations. Consumers use these devices to access data - information about local shopping, restaurants, entertainment and other services.


Appropriate local content can be selected and delivered to the consumer in two ways. One, the consumer searches for content within a pre-defined set of geographically organized content. Or two, technology determines the precise position of the device. Alcatel, a provider of wireless technology to carriers worldwide, is one company that assists in this process.


Advertisements can also be selected and delivered using the same two processes. These types of location-based advertisements are extremely valuable. They facilitate direct response by providing the consumer with incentives at the time when they are most likely to be used. For example, when searching for a restaurant, a consumer can be sent an ad for a competing restaurant in the same area or in an area located between the consumer and the selected restaurant.


Location-based advertising outside the wireless environment is a disjointed and cumbersome process. Direct mail, yellow pages and newspaper advertising serve to meet the needs of local merchants. Yet none of these media enable consumers to be reached when they are mobile - moving about in a geography where they are actively looking to purchase goods and services.


Linking merchant inventory with the advertisement. Given wireless advertising's intrusive qualities, highly targeted, relevant advertisements are arguably more necessary in this environment than in any other. Consumers do not want to be bothered with ads that fail to meet their needs, or with ads that promote out-of-stock or temporarily unavailable goods.


Consider a situation when a business traveler arrives at the Denver airport. En route to the Hertz lot the consumer requests advertisements for the Denver area via his wireless service provider. The consumer receives several ads and one is a Hertz ad promoting discounted four-wheel drive vehicle rentals. Hertz had several four-wheel drive vehicles it needed to rent (as each carried a higher inventory cost). The consumer ultimately exercises the wireless incentive and upgrades his mid-size rental to a larger vehicle without incurring additional costs. Rather than advertise all cars at a discount, Hertz can elect to advertise cars that represent a higher cost to the company.


The potential benefits of advertising on wireless devices are real. However, the qualities of the medium, coupled with consumers' preferred usage characteristics, demand a different approach. Consumers must be provided with choice. Advertisers must obtain permission. Highly targeted advertisements must be sent. If these ideals are abided by, then both consumers and advertisers can reap the awards that wireless advertising presents.


• Tim DePriest is vice president of AdForce Everywhere, a division of AdForce, Cupertino, CA. Reach him at tdepriest@adforce.com.
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