Is mobile really, well, mobile?

It’s hailed as the most intensely personal communication device ever delivered into the hands of mankind, the device that people shop with,work with, jog with, party with, sleep with. It’s promise for marketers is as the magical tool that can deliver the right message to the right person at the right time in the right place.

Now it’s apparent that “the place” most often happens to be the living room sofa, according to a new study sponsored by AOL and BBDO.

More than two thirds of mobile phone use (68%) occurs in the home, says research conducted by InsightsNow during June and August. What’s more, consumers spend nearly half of their cell phone hours engaged in “Me Time,” a largely home-based activity.

“The conventional wisdom is that mobile is about geo-location and targeting on the go, but what we discovered flies in the face of this,” said AOL VP of Consumer Analytics and Resarch  Christian Kugel at a presentation of the study results during Advertising Week in New York.

Some 1,000 smartphone users agreed to produce week-long diaries for the study, recording video commentaries of what they were doing with their phones at given times and why. Through Arbitron’s Mobile Trends Panel, the study also captured more than 3,000 mobile “moments” that segmented activity according to the needs and motivations of participants.

The AOL/BBDO analysis identified seven distinct “mobile motivations”: “Me Time” (which claims 45% of total phone time); “Socialize” (19% of phone time); “Shop” (12%); “Accomplish” (11%); “Prepare” (7%); “Discover” (4%); and “Express Myself” (2%).

Marketers appear proficient at reaching customers during some of the smaller windows of mobile phone usage that create the most impact. The study found that 47% of ads delivered during the Accomplish period were effective, as well as 37% of those seen by consumers during Express Myself times. Only 20% of effective messages, according to the study, were delivered during Me Time.

“Mobile is often not about mobile. It’s not about apps, it’s not about geo-location. What it is about is delivering Me-Time experiences to people when they are in a relaxed mind-set,” said BBDO CMO Simon Bond. “You have to entertain them, make them laugh, appeal to relevant interests.”

Bond used the introduction of the Just Dance 3 video game by Ubisoft in the United Kingdom last Christmas as an example of mobile marketing that hit the Me-Time sweet spot. Mobile phone messaging invited people to take four different videos of a person doing dance moves and then pick a song from a list in the message. The system creates a composite video of the subject dancing in time to the music that the customer could then post on Facebook. Some 19 million videos were created, according to Bond, resulting in 4 million Facebook posts.

“The weight of attention in mobile marketing tends to swing in the direction of the latest technological advance, but we need to reground mobile,” Kugel said. “The problem is that technology tends to define the agenda, not consumers.”

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