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6 experts debunk mobile marketing myths

Robert Moskowitz
6 experts debunk mobile marketing myths Robert Moskowitz

Every once in a while an industry catches a tiger by the tail. And when that happens, its decision makers know enough to hold on for the wild ride that follows because it generally leads straight to the Mighty Profit Land.

But in the early stages of the ride, a number of myths usually crop up. While they rarely persuade key players to let go of the tiger's tail, they can create some misdirection and lead to some lost opportunities or just plain losses for the unwary.

This is happening now with wireless -- revenue growth has been beyond expectations, popularity of the devices and market penetration has been phenomenal and the ongoing surge in technological innovation and resulting new capabilities have been transformative.

Yet there are many who view the wireless field through dun-colored glasses, and who knowingly -- or not -- subscribe to one or more of the following palpably false myths, as highlighted and debunked by our industry experts.

Myth #1: The mobile web is all about teenagers and twentysomethings.

Active users of wireless devices actually run the gamut of age groups, from pre-teens to senior citizens. For example, recent demographic surveys by Dynamic Logic and InsightExpress have shown that there are attractive numbers of wireless users in the 35-and-up age cohort. Smart marketers recognize that there are diverse and extensive audiences to be reached on mobile devices.

Myth #2: Because it's a medium that people use when they're "on the go," advertisers should be willing to pay extra for wireless' higher value, compared with other media.

Wireless has a higher value for certain brands at certain times. For other brands and other times, it doesn't. Advertisers are commonly asked for higher CPMs on wireless. Yet, if they do their homework, they will find the extra cost is not always justified. Like other media, mobile offers the discerning advertiser both high- and low-CPM opportunities. Advertisers should understand that serving an ad to a consumer in a supermarket at the moment they're choosing between competing products can be a very high value opportunity for one or more of the brands in that consumer's consideration set. But showing the same ad to that same person at another time or place, such as when they are considering brands or products that don't compete with yours, provides a relatively low-value opportunity.

John Hadl is managing partner and founder of BrandinHand, a mobile advertising agency with clients that include P&G and American Express.

Myth #3: Mobile devices are too personal, leading most people to reject any advertising that appears on them.

QuickPlay's recent web survey of several hundred people shows that 54 percent of U.S. users are willing to accept ads on their mobile devices, particularly if the ads bring them access to a subsidized service. This response is especially significant because it reflects people's actual behavior and willingness to accept ads, not just a hypothetical statement for or against. Hyland believes that pricing for wireless services remains a big obstacle to their growth, so mobile users' interest in advertising implies a very positive outlook for the future.

Myth #4: Reporting on the effectiveness of wireless advertising is difficult and relatively inaccurate, partly because advertising campaign tools are still at an early stage of development.

Worldwide, accurate reporting on the details of wireless campaigns, including how much tolerance a specific subscriber has for a specific pre-roll or post-roll ad, is entirely viable. According to a recent Ad Infuse survey, wireless advertisers are already looking at a more holistic set of success metrics, including clickthrough rates, brand effectiveness studies and interaction metrics and conversion data.

In fact, wireless ad reporting is currently so sophisticated that it can deliver precise data on how much of a given ad is actually viewed by the individual on the phone. Advertisers can readily dissect the number of impressions and unique visitors associated with any mobile ad or campaign.

Currently, the pre-roll ad model is being used in about two-thirds of wireless campaigns, and is only one model among many, including overlays, that are being tested and experimented with for effectiveness.

Mark Hyland is VP of marketing at QuickPlay, a leading provider of media-on-demand for mobile devices, including the Blackberry edition of XM Satellite Radio.

Myth #5: Mobile is like the web, only smaller.

WAP (mobile web) advertising banners are much like web ads, but just as web banners don't do justice to the full power of the web, treating mobile as a shrunken version of the web moves advertisers even further away from the true usefulness of mobile. Successful mobile advertising seeks to reflect the way consumers use their phones and is capable of providing unexpectedly good results for brand advertisers.

Myth #6: Just follow the technology and your mobile advertising will be successful.

Ad agencies are proud to announce their leadership in, for example, Bluetooth campaigns. But technology that allows you to ping a consumer when they walk past your billboard doesn't automatically bring advertisers the bottom-line results they crave. There isn't a single example, as of now, of a Bluetooth campaign with more than 10,000 participants. It’s better to follow consumer behavior than exploit clever technology.

Rob Lawson is one of the early pioneers behind Enpocket, which developed technology for delivering rich and relevant mobile advertising, and more recently was one of the founders of Limbo Mobile, the world's largest mobile entertainment community.

Myth #7: Texting is a young person's activity.

The average age of a texter is 38, and the fastest growing group of texters is age 45-64. Consider that kids often text their parents, who are then highly motivated to receive those messages and respond to them. There's no technological barrier to broadly diffused texting either, since more than 96 percent of mobile phones in the U.S. are currently capable. In fact, more than 150 million people regularly send and receive information via wireless text messages.

Advertisers looking at the mobile space may want to consider making their traditional media interactive by adding a call-to-action via wireless. For example, it's easy to ask people to text a special word to a short-code destination and, in return, to serve those interested consumers a mobile coupon they can cash in at a local retailer.

Myth #8: Mobile is still operating on a trial basis and not providing advertisers with significant ROI.

There's plenty of interest and plenty of ROI for those who seek it. For example, according to a survey from Ad Infuse, as many as 81 percent of respondents say they're going to run a mobile campaign in the near future. Meanwhile, leading advertisers are already tapping into the ubiquity of mobile to drive revenue today.

For example, a radio station in Cleveland now encourages its advertisers to make mobile marketing a part of every pitch, and in eight months it has helped them produce an extra $1 million in revenue. In Salt Lake City, advertisements for country music artist Brad Paisley mentioned a ticket contest sponsored by DaisyMaids, a housecleaning service. Those who entered the contest by texting "brad" to a short code were asked if they wanted to know more about DaisyMaids' offerings. Seven hundred people said "yes," and 80 percent of them signed up for cleaning service! Your results may vary, but offering a mobile link to more information and more offers gives consumers an easy opportunity to open an ongoing dialog with your brand.

Jeff Hasen is CMO of HipCricket, a mobile marketing partner that is currently generating revenue for more than 100 broadcast stations in markets of all size.

Myth #9: TV on mobile phones is the next big thing.

This technology is still in its infancy, with many obstacles still to be overcome. One big problem: No one has figured out what kind of programming works best on cellphones. Video for mobile devices must be shot differently to look good on the tiny screen, which is why repurposing content and simply editing it down to five minutes or less has not set the world on fire.

To make mobile TV advertising work, all three components of the system must be harnessed. The consumer's device must be able to support the content or application you're trying to send. The wireless service must be capable of sending and receiving the appropriate messaging. And the wireless network must have the bandwidth to support transfer of your content in a workable length of time. There have been some really poor executions, but they don't prove mobile marketing won't work. They merely show the limitations of the people designing the campaign, who haven't grasped the essentials of what it takes to be successful in this new medium.

Mobile TV should offer additional content you can't get anywhere else. It should add incremental value to existing programs, as well as being appropriate for mobile. That's why advertisers should support unique programs created specifically for mobile, much the way Tide is a sponsor of "Crescent Heights," a program geared specifically to mobile TV, with the sponsor's product carefully integrated into the storyline (for example, characters have lots of conversations in the laundry room).

Myth #10: Advertising on mobile will make it far easier to locate your customers geographically.

Forget it. First and foremost, individuals have the ability to protect their identity and location, or to disclose this if, when and how they choose. It is up to the individual to say, "I want to interact with this offer," or not. That's why mobile marketing should be conceptualized as an opt-in opportunity. The alternative is for mobile marketing to be seen as spam, and no one wants to go that way. The central task is to inspire consumers to interact with your brand.

Myth #11: Mobile marketing is too small to be important.

The spend for mobile marketing is on target at around $1 billion in the U.S. in 2008, with projections of about $4 billion in 2010 and about $10 billion globally. Advertising revenues are declining for other channels, but they are increasing rapidly for mobile.

Myth #12: People don't really care about mobile marketing.

Good executions will always add value. Consumers always carry their wallet, their keys and their cellphones, so the potential for mobile marketing is extremely high. End users simply have to be offered exciting and valuable ways to interact with each new mobile capability. UPS, for example, has begun using mobile to track packages -- perhaps the most prosaic purpose imaginable. But, nonetheless, it's bringing people to UPS.

Jen O'Connell is president and CEO of Voice of Wireless. She is a 14-year veteran in the industry -- having worked for Cingular and Verizon -- an author and an expert on wireless for Wall Street and the media.

Myth #13: Given the complexities of different carriers and publishers' diverse networks, mobile advertising is just too difficult to buy and to incorporate into an overall advertising plan.

Many brands in the U.S. and globally have successfully deployed both integrated and standalone campaigns in the mobile space. Mobile is more than just another marketing channel, it's an opportunity for all other channels -- TV, radio, print, movies and internet -- to be consumed on a single device.

Myth #14: The U.S. lags behind the rest of world in mobile marketing and internet usage.

A recent Nielsen Mobile study found that the mobile internet now reaches 15.6 percent of U.S. consumers -- more than 40 million regular users. These are people who routinely access the internet on their mobile devices and, in the process, willingly consume advertising. The most innovative and far-sighted brands and agencies have begun to recognize this sea change in mobile usage.

Paran Johar is CMO of Jumptap, a source of white-label intelligent search solutions for mobile users.

Wireless advertising is still in its infancy, with something like 83 percent of subscribers never having seen an advertisement on their mobile device. "The acceptable norms still have to be worked out," QuickPlay's Mark Hyland says. "But advertising is starting to become an expected or even welcome part of the mobile landscape, particularly when it brings something for free or at a lower cost."

Finding just the right touchpoint may be difficult, but this will get easier as more and more successful executions help advertisers zero in on the optimum approach to effective use of wireless. For example, Jen O'Connell of Voice Wireless is helping to develop a system that will allow radio listeners to text in their feedback to a show's producer. That's hot! Previous campaigns asked consumers to text the name of their city in order to receive information about their local radio outlet. Boring!

According to O'Connell, we all want to fit in, want our opinions to be heard and want to find out about things before others do. These memes, she suggests, will lead to the development of winning mobile campaigns.

Robert Moskowitz is a consultant and author.


to leave comments.

Commenter: Adrian Hall

2008, August 11

Mobile advertising is a phenomenon that no one can afford to ignore. However, marketers, wireless carriers and ad networks need to tread carefully in order to ensure that ads are relevant to the end user. It is precisely because mobile phones are considered very personal devices that mobile advertising has the potential either to cause a backlash among consumers or to provide them with a valuable service. Showing users relevant and personalized ads based on contextual, behavioral and demographic targeting will be critical to the success of this nascent industry.

Adrian Hall, Bytemobile

Commenter: Scotty Moore

2008, August 07

I agree with Mark...The mobile brand relationship must be initiated by the user with a freebie. Typically offering free content, cash, or minutes has proven to open doors to building awareness and brand equity. (Resource: Recent Harris Interactive Mobile Advertising Research Report)

Commenter: The Critical Advertiser

2008, August 06

54 percent of U.S. users are willing to accept ads on their mobile devices, particularly if the ads bring them access to a subsidized service. No kidding? Advertising subsidizes free content and services? I always thought it was there to annoy me. Here I was busily trying to block, skip or ignore it while visiting my favorite website. But bring those ads to mobile and I'll TOTALLY pay attention!