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The best mobile campaigns of 2013

The best mobile campaigns of 2013 Patrick Collins

Every year mobile makes a bigger mark on the marketing industry. Traffic alone is not the only measurement, but it can't be ignored that mobile drove 40 percent of this year's Black Friday online traffic, when three years ago it accounted for just 4 percent, according to IBM Digital Analytics. Campaigns are getting more creative, traffic is gaining in volume, and transactions keep growing larger. 2013 saw the most impressive mobile efforts yet. The automotive industry shined with creativity, as JWT China’s Missing Children project created awareness on an unprecedented level in the nonprofit sector, and brands such as adidas took mobile engagement to new heights. Let's take a look at a couple of campaigns that really stood out.

The best mobile campaigns of 2013


Third place: China's "Missing Children"

As an industry, we often put our focus on for profit companies, but non-profits are doing fantastic campaigns that shouldn't be ignored. Over 20,000 children go missing each year in China, and recovering them was proving too big a challenge. To combat the seemingly unsolvable problem, the Baby Back Home Volunteers Association empowered anyone with a smartphone to become a search volunteer just by taking a photo of a child they suspect may be lost or stolen. The Missing Children app then compares a submitted photo to Baby Back Home's missing persons' database to identify a match. Results are delivered almost instantly using face recognition technology.

The best mobile campaigns of 2013


Mobile and a bit of creativity were used to conquer an almost insurmountable problem. In addition to having a worthwhile cause at the heart of many Chinese citizens, the innovation and usability behind the mobile experience made the app desirable to use. The results speak for themselves: In the first week, they had two long-awaited family reunions. 20,000 app downloads promises a brighter future for even more families.

Second place: Audi A8

Audi had a stand-out campaign around its A8 luxury sedan. The auto manufacturer asked consumers to use its tablet device to "catch" a picture of the elegant new Audi A8. Users were drawn in by the simple, immersive game-like feel in the ad. Consumers had three tries to capture a photo of the A8 as it raced by the screen. By consumers using the screen capture functionality already on their iPad, participation was simple -- although the experience was reminiscent of trying to capture an elusive photo of lightening. On the third photo capture attempt, users were prompted to check their photo galleries to see if they had captured a picture of the car. When consumers visited their photos, they saw their attempts resulted in photos of half a car and phrases such as, "You need more practice. Try again." The third photo was, of course, a perfect picture of the beautiful Audi A8 that became a permanent fixture in their photo galleries.

The best mobile campaigns of 2013

The A8 ad warrants attention because it not only had social media potential, it stayed with the consumer, literally. Any ad that is retained and reviewed for days or months should be considered a winner. If you didn't know, a study in 2011 found that Audi had the most engaged fans on Facebook -- yes even more than the 2011 hot stars Justin Bieber and Lady Gaga. With that kind of notoriety on Facebook, one would expect to see social media in every aspect of Audi's marketing.


First place: adidas' "Highest Goal"

While the Audi A8 ad was a fantastic execution that capitalized on the mobile platform, the mother of all 2013 mobile campaigns goes to adidas. By uniting the excitement of the beloved Japanese National Soccer team's World Cup qualifier game, with mobile devices, giant screens, and gamification, the campaign generated buzz that echoed around the globe.

The "Highest Goal" was a live event held by adidas during Japan's World Cup qualifying match. Fans were able to use their smartphones to make a virtual "throw-in" to Japanese striker Shinji Kagawa on a 200-meter high projection screen in downtown Tokyo. Users accessed a mobile site, logged in through Facebook and were able to perform ball assists by throwing in using the motion of their smartphone. If the user made a quality throw-in, his or her Facebook profile was placed on the projection screen next to a shot of Kagawa shooting a goal. It was a technical feat with 11,700 projection patterns that varied according to distance, strength, and direction of the throw-in. Thousands participated, including fans in front of the Tokyo projection and in front of TVs across the globe. The event was broadcast online, showing leaderboard stats of participating fans. A clear sign of success: Visitors to the adidas site remained on the site for an average of 30 minutes.

The best mobile campaigns of 2013


This all-out adidas mobile campaign took advantage of the unique value of mobile. No other device could have generated participation on such a large scale or created such an interactive experience. We all know that mobile alone doesn't deliver a ground-breaking campaign. The campaign created by adidas and its agency, TBWA\HAKUHODO, Japan, was successful because it had these four core ingredients:

  • Connected with something that already had an extremely passionate fan base

  • Turned the campaign into a competition

  • Generated an emotional response from the participant

  • Made the social aspect worth sharing

Omni-channel is a term we have all heard many times. This adidas campaign embodied the term with a seamless cross-channel experience. By utilizing every available channel, the sports apparel and equipment maker increased participation across mobile, desktops, televisions and 200-foot projection screens. Results were delivered across all the devices in real time, social media was buzzing, and reach was amplified. adidas is among the first in a series of omni-channel campaigns yet to come. In 2014 we can expect to see campaigns continue to get more sophisticated, with omni-channel and mobile being at the core of more executions.

Patrick Collins is SVP of Merkle, Inc.

On Twitter? Follow Collins at @patrickcollins1. Follow iMedia Connection at @iMediaTweet.


Patrick Collins merges his technology expertise and agency acumen to marry big data with big ideas.  As SVP of the Customer Experience Group at Merkle, Collins leads an award-winning team of Creatives, Mobile Technologists and Strategists to...

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