Mobile sets agenda

By now it’s too late to qualify as an early adopter in terms of launching a mobile ad campaign. In 2010, some of the most conservative brands explored the rapidly changing capabilities of the small screen, and the resulting enthusiasm, if not utterly con-tagious, is at least a sign of what’s to come. “The reports say that by 2015, there will be more Internet-enabled phones out there than computers,” says Ed Gold, advertising director at State Farm. “We’re looking at mobile as the future of digital advertising.”

That’s not just talk. State Farm is a charter brand with Apple’s iAd network, ponying up an investment “in the range” of $1 million, the entry-level sum required to place ads within the iAd platform, according to multiple sources. Gold says that while Apple “asks for a lot,” the company believes it’s getting what it paid for: rich, immersive ads and premier exposure on a cutting-edge platform. “There are always those things that you pay a little bit more of a premium for, versus just buying the cheapest stuff available,” says Gold.

So what exactly is State Farm getting, by way of re-turn, for its iAd investment? That’s a little bit harder or at least more complicated to say, and the iAd platform, which was created as a result of a $275 million acquisition of the Quattro Wireless advertising network last January, will not be appropriate for every marketer. In fact, some brands — like Adidas and Chanel — have walked away from iAd after initially signing on. After all, Apple’s iPhone is not the only device consumers are using, which is important given that iAd only serves advertising on iOS, or Apple, devices. 

But those consumers using iPhones are an important segment of State Farm’s demographic. In November, State Farm launched the NBA All-Star 2011 Sweep-stakes via iAd, which first takes the form of a banner, served across iPhone apps in young-adult skewing cat-egories such as music and sports. Once that banner is tapped, full-screen content appears, and users can enter the sweepstakes (a trip to the 2011 All-Star game in Los Angeles), learn about scores, locations and MVPs of past All-Star match-ups, as well as watch old highlight reels from past All-Star games, without ever leaving the app where the banner first appeared. 

How to navigate a mobile ad buy

Navigating a mobile ad buy can be confusing for even the most astute marketers. Michael Becker, co-author of Mobile Marketing for Dummies and MD at the MMA, answers some common questions. Click for his Q&A.

“We’re not driving people to get a phone quote,” says Gold of the NBA sweepstakes campaign. “Success is really about getting people to click on the banner and stay in the content. The more they’re involved with it, the longer they stay, the better the experience and per-ception they will have of State Farm. When the time comes to look for auto insurance, they think of us.” 

State Farm works with Draftfcb and Translation in New York for creative services — the latter aiding in the iAd execution — and OMD Chicago handles media buying for the brand. Gold declines to give click rates for the NBA iAd banners, but says the larger mobile platform, not just iAd, has been “quite efficient” in getting consumers to act, compared with other media and other mobile networks.

Take AdMob for example, a mobile ad network pur-chased by Google for $750 million at the end of 2009. With AdMob, Google is “getting a lot closer to what iAd is offering,” but it “gives you a few more choices, too,” says Gold. “You can also do more of a mobile banner-type effort.” 

State Farm uses a variety of ad formats (and net-works) for mobile, including display, search and click-to-call, so iAd isn’t one-stop shopping for the company’s mobile needs. Insurance is needed by everyone who drives a car or owns a home, “so obviously there’s a percentage [of consumers] that are not currently using smartphones,” says Gold. To reach those consumers, the company has partnered with AdMob and Millen-nial Media, a third mobile ad network. Gold says Mil-lennial made sense based on the combination of sites it works with and State Farm’s core demographic. 

Millennial, one of the largest independent mobile ad networks, serves ads on more than 5,000 sites and apps, with 80% of the company’s overall impressions coming from Nielsen’s top 100 sites, according to Erin McKelvey, SVP at Millennial Media. State Farm also works with Alma DDB to reach Spanish-speakers, in-language, on mobile devices, which Gold says has been “very successful” so far.

When choosing the right network, Joe Laszlo, direc-tor of research at the trade group Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB), says too often marketers approach mobile “thinking about the platform first, and their campaign goals and brands second.” If a campaign is primarily oriented toward a direct response or a call to action, ad placement may differ from a branding or awareness campaign. Laszlo, citing a “long-standing truth in advertising,” says brand advertisers in televi-sion tend to cluster around content with the biggest Nielsen ratings, whereas direct response trends more to-ward the late-night infomercial corner of the television universe. That’s not so different from mobile, he says. 

“When you’re trying to build your brand or build awareness, context matters a lot,” says Laszlo. “With direct response, you want to cast the net very widely.” Typically, mobile ad networks have a percentage of premium publishing partners, and a longer tail of sites that wouldn’t be considered premium. Marketers will want to know what kind of publishers a network can supply. As mobile ad networks continue to compete for market share, some will go bigger and wider, favoring quantity and others will use fewer, premium publishers. 

Matt Snyder, founder and president at MediaMob, a mobile agency with a client list including Mercedes-Benz and Best Buy, says marketers should consider the total media mix for a campaign when deciding which mobile ad network to use. “If you’re going mobile exclusive, that’s Millennial Media, Jumptap or iAd,” says Snyder, formerly a senior director of business development at Quattro Wireless. The benefits of working with MSN, Yahoo or AdMob, on the other hand, are that advertisers “can really do some diverse and blended campaigns, where you’re hitting on all points,” including online advertising, says Snyder.

Another important consideration, according to Paran Johar, chief marketing officer at Jumptap, a cross-platform mobile ad network, is the ability to serve ads across mobile devices and platforms. “Never in the history of advertising have advertisers bought an operat-ing system or a handset or a hardware. They buy audience,” says Johar, alluding to Apple’s iAd network. “If you only focus on one device, you’re missing out on a big part of your audience.” 

Jumptap, which offers 61 targeting parameters for advertisers and sold out all of its inventory in Q4 2010, according to Johar, serves ads on sites including E! Online, Fox Mobile and several Hearst Magazine mobile sites. Jumptap, like Millennial Media and 4Info, serves ads across many mobile device platforms. (Rep-resentatives from Apple did not respond to calls or e-mails requesting comment for this article.)

“Agency folks tell me that they still need to educate marketers who may be overly focused on one particular platform just because it’s cool, not necessarily be-cause that’s the kind of device their audience owns in large numbers,” says IAB’s Laszlo.

On December 8, Kellogg launched an Android and iPhone app for Special K, the first ever mobile app launched in support of any Kellogg brand. The app, called myPlan, targets weight-conscious women in their 20s to 40s, and features a two-week weight loss challenge, including customized meal plans, a shopping list function, and daily motivations to stick with the plan, according to Snyder. MediaMob partnered with the brand’s AOR, Leo Burnett and media giant Starcom  MediaVest Group for the campaign. 

Jesper Lund Jacobsen, associate director for the Spe-cial K brand at Kellogg, described the launch as “a new touchpoint for the whole [Kellogg] company.” In addi-tion to the app, Kellogg selected Millennial Media and AdMob for a mobile banner campaign in support of the app, backed by a “heavy investment in the whole mobile space” beginning in January, just in time for new year’s resolutions, according to Jacobsen. 

“It’s not just a low budget [campaign] to test out mo-bile; it’s really a heavy impact effort,” says Jacobsen, adding that the decision to go into mobile was easy, but deciding “what to bring forward was more complicated.” Jacobsen declines to discuss specific objectives for the campaign in terms of sales or app downloads, but says that Special K usually sees a jump in sales dur-ing the first part of a new year, and “our plan is to beat what we did last year.” 

4Info, a mobile ad network that offers SMS in addi-tion to several other mobile ad units, used a combination of SMS, mobile Web and in-app placements for a recent Energizer battery campaign, according to Julie Shumaker, 4Info’s SVP of sales and marketing. “Most of our campaigns start out with a straight mix” of SMS, mobile Web and in-app, says Shumaker. As measure-ment data comes in, 4Info tweaks the campaign. 

Shumaker says advertisers interested in SMS look to 4Info to provide a broader scope to bear on the mobile space. “The ROI behind the low-tech ad products is usually the highest of the campaign,” when several different kinds of ads are used, says Shumaker. “But with-out the pretty pictures, it’s hard to build a relationship with the consumer.” With around 300 publishers across the mobile web, 4Info has a smaller reach than some of the other networks. In terms of SMS, however, 4info has thousands of partners, including USA Today, The Discovery Channel, TMZ and the Weather Channel, among others. 

Shumaker says 4Info’s history in SMS has allowed it to grow organically into display, in-app and the mobile Web, with many of its partners. The shift has been quick; 70% of 4Info’s revenue now comes from display, video ads and app-takeovers, according to Shumaker.

Roughly 60% to 70% of its publisher partners are con-sidered premium, she says. The network’s app takeover ad unit resembles Apple’s iAd system, and features full screen interactive content and a 100% share of voice during the term of the campaign, per Shumaker. The network sells ads across Apple devices, Android,
Blackberry and other major platforms.

Mobile Web versus in-app

By the time this feature article goes to press, it’s very possible that arguments pitting search and the mobile Web against in-app content will have disintegrated into an easy solution: do both. 

“Advertisers shouldn’t have to choose between apps and the mobile Web, nor should they be thinking in those silos,” comments Jason Spero, director of mobile, Americas, for Google, by e-mail. “Wherever users are spending their time is where your brand should be.”

For some brands, it makes sense already to execute mobile Web display campaigns and search, as well as device-specific, in-app placements with iPhone, An-droid and Blackberry (and Windows Mobile, WebOS for HP, and Nokia’s Symbian, for that matter). Yet, there remains disagreement. 

Gold, for his part, says State Farm does a lot of mobile search, in addition to the iAd partnership. Karsten Weide, research VP, digital media and entertainment at IDC, a market intelligence firm, says that currently, “there is more money in messaging-based advertising than in mobile Web advertising.” Opt-in CRM texting programs, which are used by most big brands, are “kind of a secret industry,” he says. However, “most marketers don’t really look at messaging,” because it’s just not that sexy. With innovative mobile ad units, like Medialets shakeable ads for smartphones, for one example, marketers sometimes have trouble seeing the forest for the trees, says Weide. 

But not everyone is buying into everything. Adidas’ decision to sever its relationship with iAd — taking its widely reported $10 million budget with it did not lead to an immediate in-app execution elsewhere. Chris Murphy, head of digital marketing for Adidas America, says “you’ll see in-app ads from us in 2011.” In terms of the kinds of ads Adidas has used, Murphy says it’s a mix of brand awareness and impression/interaction-based efforts, plus click-to-call, click-to-download, click-to-send SMS, and click-to-shop ads on the mobile Web. Adidas “just launched a campaign with Millennial Media,” and it is currently working with Carat, iProspect’s Range and Isobar, says Murphy, adding that Carat is its main media agency. 

“Mobile media has, on average, outperformed more traditional digital media environments, providing us with higher interaction rates,” Murphy says. “That’s not to say we reach more people — meaning impressions — but those who do see our ads participate with them at a higher level versus other environments.” 

For Adidas, which has a younger target demographic, “smartphones still don’t have mass adoption” with that audience, Murphy says, adding that he expects that to change in the near future.

Jumptap’s Johar says that rich media, app sponsorships and video are all available on the mobile Web, but creative allowances with an app “are much greater” at the moment. “That’s just a function of 3G speed and browser functionality,” says Johar, a reality that is likely to change soon.

The app partisans, according to Laszlo, believe apps are a better fit for smaller size devices, such as phones, because it’s easier for consumers to use and navigate. That group believes app usage will come to “eclipse the use of the browser,” says Laszlo. The flip side of the argument is that smartphone browsers are getting more sophisticated almost daily, and in the not too distant future, things that require a dedicated app “will be perfectly possible within the Safari or Chrome browser,” says Laszlo. “With apps, it’s always going to be a multi-platform world, developing apps across different devices, and that adds time and cost. From an efficiency and reach perspective, there’s a lot to recommend the mobile Web, and I don’t think it’s going away any time soon.”

Pricing and metrics

Just about the only price point set in stone with respect to mobile advertising is SMS, which costs between 7 cents and 9 cents per message sent, according to Weide. With network buys, prices vary in the same way they do online, with premium placements commanding a higher cost-per-thousand (CPM) price than non-premium buys. While CPM is generally the standard pricing tool, some networks also offer cost-per-click (CPC), cost-per-action (CPA) or a flat fee for services. “In general, for a performance marketplace, it’s all on a CPC basis, and it’s a bidding environment, where advertisers can bid on the keyword, the category, the handset and the carrier,” says Johar. “Things like considered purchases — the automotive and financial services — have higher keyword prices than things that are more impulsive buys.” For CPM buys, Johar says the more targeting parameters you choose, the higher the cost.

Most networks supply advertisers with back-end analytics to evaluate the success of a campaign. Millennial Media’s McKelvey says the firm looks at traditional measures including interaction rates and click-through rates and also integrates third-party reporting tools, such as Atlas, DoubleClick DART, Eyeblaster, EyeWonder and PointRoll. As with most marketing campaigns, she cautions marketers to ensure that key performance indicators align with campaign objectives for the best analysis.

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