Isobar's VP of mobile services, Gene Keenan, believes mobile marketing would explode if carriers provided third-party ad networks with targeting data based on lifestyle clusters.
As VP of mobile services at Isobar, Gene Keenan has won accolades for his innovation in digital marketing over the past eight years, but he didn't get there on the usual path.
Before entering the interactive space and helping organizations like the Mobile Marketing Association draft industry-wide guidelines, Keenan was a professional chef who owned an organic edible flower and herb farm. Now he co-chairs the metrics committee at MMA and thinks about mobile technology and how it can help spread marketers' messages. Keenan co-presented the Mobile Boot Camp keynote at Breakthrough Summit.
iMedia Connection recently caught up with Keenan to get to the heart of his focus on mobile marketing.
iMedia: What are the biggest roadblocks to reaching the true potential of mobile marketing?
Gene Keenan: There are a number of roadblocks, but a couple of them stand out. For clients that are doing direct-response campaigns and are trying to sell merchandise or services, the inability to track conversions is a big challenge. Because we can't cookie a handset, we have no way to accurately measure conversions of users who leave the mobile site and then come back.
Targeting is another. Outside of doing media buys directly with carriers and a few publishers, there is no way to really do accurate targeting, particularly if you want to target specific designated market areas. This is really ironic when you think about how powerful the phone is. The carriers are best positioned to provide this kind of targeting. We would like carriers to provide sophisticated targeting based on Experian or Claritas lifestyle clusters to third parties like Quattro, Admob, and Millenial. This would make mobile advertising really explode, assuming of course that the CPMs are not off the charts and the privacy issues have been worked out for all parties.
Finally, the lack of uniform operating systems and form factors are also inhibiting the growth of mobile marketing. Fortunately, Apple, mostly, but Google also are putting pressure on the markets to adopt better user experiences and more sophisticated operating systems. With the downturn in the economy, we think this will be accelerated as many consumers forego purchasing expensive computers to buy these multi purpose entertainment and communication devices like the iPhone.
iMedia: How can Isobar make the case for mobile marketing to companies that are still hesitant to jump into the fray?
Keenan: It used to be that a successful mobile program was measured by the number of ringtone or wallpaper downloads or by doing a brand study to determine brand lift and awareness. Most of the early mobile sites were simple throwaway postcard sites. Now we are seeing rich, data-driven sites and brands measuring success by the sale of goods and services.
For mobile web advertising, the CPMs have never been lower. This is primarily the result of more and more inventory coming online and a lack of new buyers to snatch up that inventory. It's causing downward pressure on the CPMs, which is great for newbies in the space who are cost conscious.
There are currently 50 million mobile web users in the U.S. When the internet reached 50 million subscribers in 1996, things really started to blossom and grow exponentially.
Most of the services necessary for getting into mobile have been commoditized so you don't need to spend gobs of money to learn a few things. This allows your agencies to focus on creative instead of technical issues. At the end of the day though, it's really the agencies that need to be driving this and the majority of them still just donít know very much about the opportunities that exist in mobile.
iMedia: What's the best use of interactive mobile media you've seen?
iMedia: What keeps you up at night?
Keenan: There are a number of things that keep me up at night. A few of them are unscrupulous players getting into the market that are looking to make a quick buck. Some are willing to sacrifice the needs of the many for selfish, short-term gain. I want strong privacy policies set in place to protect both myself and every other consumer against unscrupulous individuals and companies. Finally, there is a fear that Bluetooth marketing could take off in a bad way. Imagine walking into a mall where every retailer has their own Bluetooth transmitter spamming the radio waves with offers. I doubt this would ever happen, but for some reason it haunts me.
iMedia: What is the most adventurous mobile campaign Isobar has embarked on to date?
Keenan: That would have to be the mobile video and product information syndication tool developed by us and some partners for almost a dozen international markets including the U.S. It is fully integrated with a .com experience that was developed to syndicate content to hundreds of sites.
iMedia: What is the next big thing in mobile that Isobar has its hands in?
Keenan: The big phenomenon that everyone in the market is talking about (and probably tired of talking about) is the iPhone and the App Store. When I look at how I and people I know are using this device, I see the apps replacing the mobile web in a lot of ways. Instead of visiting a site, I just download the application that was developed by that site. The Safari browser has become just another app on my phone, rather than acting as a gateway for the entire internet experience. The primary advantage of these on-handset apps is they can provide persistent offline data and create an experience for the end user that gets better and better every time they use the application. I think this is the story that is getting missed in this rush to market. We're developing a number of applications for clients that will achieve this objective. On the more cutting edge, we are working closely with a company that will make location based services explode regardless of the device you have. Thatís about all I can say about it.
Matt Kapko is the deputy editor at iMedia Connection.