Mobile may be the undiscovered country, and the mobile website one territory within it, but merely re-applying tactics from the internet world to this one is a limited approach that deprives brands of the most effective results. Unfortunately, this is precisely what many interactive agencies and brands are doing. They are restricting both their vision and their mobile media buys to mobile banner ads in an effort to generate traffic. The reality is that the wireless phone itself, and more specifically, consumers' use of it, offers many unique opportunities that should be utilized. Developing a more diversified mobile media strategy that employs multiple channels can drive significantly stronger responses. This approach places the brand and the campaign in the flow of consumers' daily lives, where consumers can interact with the brand naturally.
A decade ago a website was necessary for brands to access customers. Now, the mobile website is ready to take its place as the next cornerstone in interactive marketing. The mobile website is a key avenue to reach consumers, on their terms. To create a mobile site (often referred to as a WAP site), a brand should not simply try to shrink a full PC site meant for a 21-inch monitor to the confines of the two-inch screen of the wireless phone. The mobile site requires a re-thinking of what a consumer would need in a mobile environment. For example, a parenting magazine does not need to offer its full articles on a Motorola Razr2. Instead, its mobile site can act as a companion to a featured print article in enabling a mother to directly access an associated shopping list of kid-friendly meals while she's at the supermarket.
According to the CTIA, there are approximately 250 million mobile phones in the U.S. With varying estimates of the mobile internet audience size mostly hovering around 20 percent, or 50 million users, there is a strong base today that will only continue to grow as the wireless carriers further reduce their prices. Sprint recently went so far as to introduce a $99 unlimited voice, messaging and data plan. From a technical standpoint, the carriers continue to invest billions of dollars annually to supply increasingly faster data speed. And after all that development, the one factor that will remain true is the limited screen space on the average mobile phone. It is just a different environment which requires a different type of thinking in terms of how to engage a consumer. This is true both for the site itself and the media that drives people to it.
To generate traffic for a mobile website, there are two crucial elements: 1.) Make it easy for the consumer to navigate to the site, and 2.) Take advantage of the unique aspects that the mobile phone offers, including voice and text messaging. A smart media planner harnesses opportunities through more than just one of these channels and knows how to maximize a brand's budget to deliver stronger-than-expected ROI.
Excluding using text calls-to-action in traditional media, mixing three mobile media options -- direct text, in-call media and the right mobile banner ads -- enables a brand to diversify its investment. Further, it may reveal an "unconventional" medium to be the strongest method for a particular brand to reach a consumer.
Direct text can come in several varieties. Virgin Mobile's Sugar Mama platform is a strong option here. It has a pre-opted-in and incentivized community to which it sends text message ads. These ads can have embedded links that allow the user to one-click over to a brand's mobile website. Its ease of use for consumers, and its youth target demographic can yield seemingly stupefying results in terms of brand awareness and direct response. However, it is limited to Virgin Mobile users, so a campaign needs to add other mobile media to help access a wider audience.
Another avenue is in-call media. This approach places audio ads in calls that consumers make daily. Whether that call is to a radio station, a conference call line, or a social networking widget, to name a few options, the opportunity exists to easily and naturally segue a brand to the consumer's mobile phone -- on-demand -- by pressing one button. For example, a Z100 radio listener calls in to win concert tickets. While awaiting a chance to be on the air, the consumer is presented with an interactive audio environment featuring the DJ and interstitial, unobtrusive audio ads. The intrigued consumer responds to a car advertisement by pressing 9, and having a text message with a link sent directly to his phone. This further reinforces the brand for the consumer, and supplies one-click access to the new mobile website. With millions of calls accessible for ad placement daily, and the possibility to use rich audio advertisements, in-call media can act as a powerful component in engaging a consumer.
Mobile banner ads
Now incorporating mobile banner ads on other mobile websites is an appropriate method to round out a mobile media plan. The understanding of which locales are effective and appropriate is imperative for success. While there are excellent bang-for-your-buck opportunities right now, there are even more highly expensive, pseudo-targeted pitfalls. In a nascent environment like this, it is important to recognize which sites offer access to the widest audience, as opposed to paying a significant premium to try to reach only a select few.
This straightforward, three-pronged approach allows a brand to cover a wide number of engagement opportunities and maximize its media buy to drive traffic to its mobile website. It effectively places the brand before a consumer in different environments, all with one common goal. The path to effective mobile interaction is in knowing where opportunities exist, and understanding how to creatively utilize them. Success in mobile will remain the undiscovered country for those who do not.