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Mobile rising online exclusive: Industry experts share their thoughts on mobile marketing

Online Exclusive

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.

Louis Gump, VP of mobile, The Weather Channel

Q: What kinds of questions do you get from marketers about mobile?
They want help understanding what mobile advertising or mobile marketing is. Next, they’ll ask, “How do I do it?” That is, how do I create these banners, a microsite, or a true mobile Web site. And lastly, “How do I achieve my goals?” You have properties like ESPN and The Weather Channel, ad networks and wireless carriers. All of them bring different things to the table, and companies need to figure out how to achieve their program’s goals.

Q: Is there a shortage of inventory in mobile?
A: When you hear about shortage of inventory, it’s usually code for “Can I get enough reach?” There is plenty of inventory when it comes to the mobile Web and possibly an honorable mention for SMS. In video, there is constrained inventory although it’s growing. If I read my report correctly, Nielsen reported 37 million unique users on mobile Web in January. It may not be as big as TV or the PC, but it’s growing. We certainly have some issues to address but the reach is enough to be very effective. 

Q: How should marketers spend their money on mobile marketing?
A: Occasionally, when you get people who are first-time buyers they’ll say they have this amount of money, let’s say $50,000, to spread over 10 months. Well, you’re welcome to do that but we think if you want to achieve some sort of impact/frequency, marketers should concentrate their dollars in a smaller amount of time. If you’re spending a million dollars you could spread it out but if you have $100,000 to spend you should use it in a short period to achieve impact.

Q: What do you think about the impact of the iPhone on mobile marketing?
I think the iPhone is just as big as the most hyperbolic stories have depicted, and I tend to be pretty reserved on comments like that. But if you look at the awareness that has been cause by data usage and the mobile Internet because of the iPhone, it has changed the market. It has had a massive impact and it’s only going to grow.

Q: What are your projections about mobile marketing a year from now?
My projections are rapid growth in mobile Web page views; rapid growth in the use of text messaging – the volume is up 400% over the past few months, which is stunning; and I would be remiss if I didn’t mention video. We recently launched video from the mobile Web in addition to the video that we’ve been offering for a few years on Sprint and AT&T and we’re introducing ads there. My conclusion is that there will be more and richer ad products and a lot of new advertisers doing this stuff – because we’re seeing them knocking on our door right now.

Mike Baker, VP and head of head of Nokia Ad Business

Q: How has mobile advertising grown in breadth?
In this industry, the first vertical to embrace the channel were the sellers of mobile consumables such as ringtones and wallpapers — those items that are purchased and used on the phone itself. But we’re now seeing an increasing number of other brands moving from test budgets into dedicated allocations of their media spend into this channel. This would include auto, consumer packaged goods and financial services, to name some of the early adopters.

Q: What is the relationship between mobile marketing and online marketing?
Mobile advertising is perhaps a cousin of online display advertising, but we’re also focused on really defining what this device does and the consumer who’s using it.  [We want to find out] what does this allow you to do as a marketer that can’t be accomplished through other media such as the PC.

Q: Does the type of phone, or geographic location, affect how ads are distributed?
We run across all devices, not just Nokia devices. We’re a little bit atypical in the Nokia world in that we’re device agnostic. But that said, our ad units do render differently depending on the handset population in a particular geography. In the US and Western Europe, we’re more focused on rich media — we have a higher instance of people taking pictures and sending them to friends, or they are accessing the mobile Internet through the browsers on their phones, so we’re inserting ads within those activities. In the emerging markets, such as India and China, we’re leveraging SMS, and inserting simple text links in the peer-to-peer messages, because there’s a lot more activity in simple text messaging.

Q: What are some of the more recent challenges in mobile advertising?
The challenge has shifted from addressable audience reach — we’re starting to develop critical mass in terms of handset penetration, use of the mobile browser or text messaging — to how to effectively plan and execute plans on this device that solve a sales problem. The marketing industry is struggling to understand what this medium is good for, what it does better than any other medium, how to plan a campaign conceptually that is engaging and successful on a mobile device, or how to connect the mobile device to more traditional points of customer conversion, like the Web site or the store. So, interestingly, we have more of a conceptual barrier to adoption than a technical or audience-limited one.

Q: Why should brands look into mobile marketing?
Mobile’s biggest strength is its ability to drive consumers to action at a physical point of sale. It has ability to leverage the mobility of the consumer and to actually prompt them to action in terms of going towards purchase of a product — it requires consumers to leave their chair.

Bryon Morrison, president, Ipsh

Q: How do you think mobile marketing is perceived right now?
I think people in the industry have been watching this and saying this is the year for the last seven years. We began Ipsh in 2001 and we certainly have been a part of driving and defining the industry. We’ve reached the point where marketers know that mobile should be considered part of the marketing mix just like any other area.

Q: Can you describe Ipsh’s role?
Ipsh is a full-service mobile marketing agency and that alone is kind of blazing new ground. Most people consider the medium to be just about text, but really there are so many other channels available such as WAP, or mobile Web; proximity-based channels such as Bluetooth; the growing movement of the social aspect with widgets; the media consideration, of course; and then there is opt-in databases, which adds a whole new CRM level. We really serve as mobile architects, with a solid understanding of each of the channels and how to get the most out of each of them.

Q: Where are your clients at in terms of knowledge of the mobile channel?
Most of the clients we work with are committed to the medium and know a little bit about it. They aren’t interested in one test, they’re interested in optimizing the medium. They have already established that they have mobile budgets and they want to incorporate a learning strategy over time. They know that mobile can play a role as a supporting cast member or a star in some situations, so mobile is considered in every campaign they do.

Q: At what level do you think mobile marketing will have expanded by next year?
A: I think that the dominant brands will appear in mobile this year. Companies that really understand the medium and have made it part of their business are going to invest in an intelligent way and reap the benefits. This is probably the most powerful opt-in medium that has hit the market. And it’s really a great opportunity for marketers to have an understanding of building and growing relationships in an advertising medium.

Patrick Moorhead, director of emerging media, Avenue A/Razorfish

Q: Do you expect the demand for mobile to continue to grow?
I’ve had conversations about mobile with almost every client in the agency. They’re asking the right questions and they’re all trying to figure out strategy. I think everyone realizes that they have to be there. Consumers are more mobile than advertisers, which seems obvious. But that’s really sinking in to our clients now. Every consumer is mobile so there’s a reason and a way for nearly every brand to be involved in mobile in a valuable way.

Q: What are clients looking for in a mobile campaign?
They don’t know in most cases what they’re looking for. In 2007 we didn’t either, really. But now clients are asking better questions that are more focused about what they want to do for their audience. They’re really trying to get their head around how mobile works. ‘Can it have an impact on my business and if so, what kind of impact?’ Consumers want one of 2 types of functionality from advertisers on their phone: They either want tools that allow them to do something or they want content experiences which allow them to kill time effectively. Almost every category has something to offer in one or the other.

Q: What are some challenges of working in the mobile space?
In mobile we have to get to know the hardware. That’s been a challenge for our agency to get smart about handsets and their capabilities. There’s such variety out there. That type of consideration doesn’t exist online. Another challenge has been understanding the best way to use WAP. It’s been stigmatized as being less graphically rich and not as robust. But now the design community is coming around. If you accept WAP as framework and you design towards it as opposed to trying to get it to conform to what you want to design, you can achieve some terrific results.

Q: Do you think some companies are trying to cram too much into their mobile sites and campaigns?
Yeah I do. When clients get hysterical and wrestle with the complex technology they tend to associate it with the closest relative of the family. ‘Mobile doesn’t seem that diff from online so let’s just take it from one platform and kind of jam it into another technology,’ which just doesn’t work.

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