Mobile isn’t a traditional medium

People don’t understand the real function of mobile media or mobile advertising. Clients, analysts and reporters constantly ask me for the name of Sapient’s mobile media expert or what percentage of a client’s budget should go to mobile media. This notion is ridiculous because if you see mobile as just another place for your ads or another line item in your media plan that says “mobile,” you have it all wrong.

Most marketers interpret the term “media” as a medium to deliver or push your adver­tising. However, this is undermined by one simple truth — mobile is not media. Mobile is a point of interaction between a brand and a consumer. At this point you may be thinking, “Well, a TV spot is one-way advertising and that is media, right?” Not necessarily. The key word here is interaction — and I mean the two-way kind.

Mobile, e-mail and even the good old tele­phone are amazing tools for starting and continuing a conversation. They should not, however, be used as a medium to solicit one — that is called spam. Think about the people that indiscriminately hand out fliers to pedestrians to promote nearby restaurants and “blowout sales.” These low-tech efforts are generally met with indifference, anger and sometimes even open hostility. These tactics fail because “marketers” are forcing ads on consumers without any regard for the potential customer’s context.

Now tell me something: aside from the 10 cents it costs for consumers to receive the ad, what is the difference between these guys and a company blindly shooting out SMS messages to a list of its customers?

The mobile device is, arguably, the most personal of all communications devices. Therefore, using it to deliver unwanted mes­sages is potentially fatal for a brand. For mobile marketing to work, it is absolutely critical that ads be delivered in such a way as to be viewed as non-obtrusive to recipients while also adding value that is specific to who they are.

According to a recent Nielsen Mobile survey, only 10% of mobile users said they would be willing to accept mobile ads — so marketers would be well advised to adhere to the basic fundamentals of a sound adver­tising campaign during the infancy of this new marketing channel: targeting, timing and personalization.

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