Which of these three things is not like the other?
- The world is going to end tomorrow!
- Bill Parcels is never going to coach again!
- This is the year that mobile advertising is going to explode!
Much like when I see a "Seinfeld" rerun for the 49th time, I tend to tune out when I hear any of the above. Because let's face it, I've heard that song before.
All joking aside, we've been hearing about the mobile revolution for years now. So will 2007 be the year of mobile advertising? To find out, I reached out to several colleagues in the mobile space to get their take on the top trends in mobile advertising. Here's what they had to say.
Got relevance? Yes!
One trend emerging in the mobile space involves the novel idea of delivering relevant messaging. OK, so this is not exactly a new concept, we talk about that in the online media world all the time. The difference is in how mobile media is delivering on the promise of relevance.
The first mechanism being discussed (and to some extent implemented) is via cross-media partnerships.
For example, Mophap.com, a mobile ad server technology provider and publishing network, recently partnered with digital advertising technology company Accipter and is using information obtained via Accipter's ad server to optimize advertising served to mobile consumers.
Bob Walczak, CEO of Mophap, notes that "when you help advertisers connect with consumers across media, you exponentially increase the effectiveness of the advertiser's message."
I agree. Consumers build relationships with brands, not with ad media. So when you are able to effectively transfer customer interactions across media, you're better positioned to grow your relationship with that consumer.
Second, we're increasingly seeing mobile carriers leverage subscriber data to provide additional targeting for WAP advertising.
Heidi Lehman of Third Screen Media notes that "aggregated, non-personally identifiable demographic and behavioral data from the carriers can provide unique targeting capabilities, a higher degree of ad relevance and increased ROI for content providers and advertisers."
Some in the mobile space envision a day when the carriers are even able to offer customer data to off-deck providers (outside the carriers' walls), where the carriers will either take a commission for their data or develop some kind of revenue share.
It is interesting to note that while the data broker model has been in existence in the offline world for some time, it has not really taken hold in online media circles -- yet.
A third thought is that mobile advertising has promised personalization and targeting but it hasn't delivered because -- up until recently -- there was limited ability to optimize WAP advertising from within the device. Today, many mobile devices have some form of technology that enables advertisers to measure and optimize, but there may be some issues with these devices.
For one thing, the privacy guy inside me knows that use of a persistent tracking device may ultimately draw negative attention from regulators and consumer advocates. Moreover, as the technological sophistication of mobile devices continues to evolve, consumers are going to demand more control over those devices. For example, take a look at the new iPhone, which runs the OS X operating system.
How long before Symantec offers a mobile download that detects WAP tracking technologies as threats? In any event, it will be interesting to see whether or not persistent tracking devices become part of the mobile industry's long-term strategy.
Bring on the brands
Another key to mobile advertising growth is in getting the traditional brand advertisers (those with the huge budgets) on board. Sonya Chawla of Rhythm New Media observes that "Tons of money is being shifted out of TV and is looking for a new home."
But will mobile media provide that home?
According to Debra Bluman of Crisp Wireless, "traditional brands now understand the value of developing a meaningful mobile experience."
Lehman agrees and is seeing more and more big brands come on board after recently running programs for Burger King, Exxon and Lenovo. Moreover, many in the mobile space believe that big-brand adoption to mobile will be hastened by the emergence of mobile video.
Having said that, some industry executives are bearish on mobile's future branding potential. For example, Mark Kaplan, CEO of ShopTxt, sees mobile phones primarily as communication devices.
"The real power of mobile is in creating that dialogue with the individual consumer," he says. "We view mobile as a communications and direct marketing platform for consumer brands more than a branding vehicle."
Does this debate sound familiar to anyone?
Kaplan also notes that cross-carrier compatibility for rich media is a significant inhibitor to big brands coming to mobile.
"Big brands are reluctant to invest in campaigns that only work on one network," Kaplan says.
And this brings me to my next point.
Mike Lundgren of VML says that the table is set but network operators aren't (quite) ready to invite you to dinner.
I don't think it's too dramatic of a statement to say that the high level of control held by the carriers can represent both the best and the worst thing about the mobile ecosystem. Carrier control has certainly prevented the evil doers of the world from causing significant damage in the mobile space. However, that same level of control has, among other things, established a separate set of operating standards for the participants to navigate.
Lehman notes that the Mobile Marketing Association has helped considerably in this area but agrees that there is still work to do.
The carriers have, for the most part, embraced the notion that their future is in advertising.
Chawla notes that carriers want to -- and in fact need to -- use advertising to subsidize mobile video and the significant investment they've made in their 3G networks.
Recognizing that their interests are aligned with a robust online ad model, it would seem like there is some incentive to address compatibility issues, and my time on the MMA Consumer Best Practice Committee keeps me optimistic that progress is being made.
So we've seen the future of mobile and it is advertising subsidized. Look no further than Amp'd Mobile to see where this is all heading. But how fast is it getting there?
"North American marketers are expected to spend more than $150 million on mobile advertising in 2007," says Laura Marriott, executive director for the MMA. "This phenomenal expenditure is indicative of the growing success of mobile advertising campaigns, making the MMA's continued work to set mobile advertising guidelines critical to the market's growth."
So perhaps this is the year where the mobile story develops from "the little engine that could" to "the little engine that is."
Alan Chapell is president of Chapell & Associates, a consulting firm that helps companies understand privacy and incorporate consumer perception into product development. .