CTIA Wireless Wave – Moving Targets

CTIA Wireless Wave – Moving Targets

The Wireless Wave article on Mobile Advertising is online now


Moving Targets: Mobile Marketing Reaches Consumers on Their Terms
                                                                                 By Lynn Thorne

Imagine you’re about to meet a blind date for drinks. On the way to the restaurant you realize you’re short on cash. You don’t know your way around the city too well – how will you find the nearest ATM? The answer is as convenient as glancing at your cell phone.

Or you’re driving to meet a new client and you have just enough time to make the meeting. Suddenly your phone sounds an alert letting you know there’s a traffic jam ahead – just in time for you to take an alternate route and arrive on time.

Perhaps you live in an area where severe weather outbreaks are the norm. You get a message on your phone urging you to take cover, as you are smack in the path of an oncoming twister. Did a concerned co-worker call you with the warning? No, The Weather Channel Interactive sent you an urgent message on your handset.

To some these stories sound like science fiction, but to a growing number of those in the know, these are the proven, and very real abilities of mobile marketing and advertising. And while consumers have been using SMS, or short messaging service, for years, the future of mobile is about to take off faster than you can text “ASAP.”

Wide Open World
Mobile marketing and mobile advertising have been flourishing in other parts of the world since the early part of this century. In Japan, for instance, two factors uniquely helped the explosive growth of this industry: networks and teamwork. Ironically, those same two factors are part of what has delayed mobile commerce in the U.S.

“The penetration of broadband wireless, which is 70 to 80 percent in Japan, is only about 20 percent in the U.S.,” says to industry analyst Chetan Sharma,president of CSC, a consulting and advisory firm helping companies in the mobile and voice communications sector. Sharma points out that in Japan and Korea, mobile carriers and the advertising industry have collaborated and joined ventures to form companies to address mobile marketing and advertising. “But in the U.S.,” Sharma says, “carriers have their own strategy, and advertisers have their own strategy. They’re not working together.”

Yet the U.S. is the biggest advertising market in the world, and it appears that the nation is on the verge of a mobile marketing breakthrough. Sharma claims it is only a matter of time before the country comes into its own in the m-commerce arena. “A lot of the problems existing today will be solved because advertisers are eager to reach consumers. Even though Japan and Korea got started with mobile advertising before the U.S., the aggressiveness of the advertisers pursuing it is greater in this country.”

M-commerce has innumerable uses, some of which haven’t even been thought of yet. However, it is already being used in some fascinating ways. Roughly half of the mobile consumers in Korea and Japan use their phones like a credit card of sorts. Near Field Communication (NFC) technology enables them to pay for purchases by waving their cell phone over a contactless reader at retailers. They can even download coupons to their phones and then forward the discounts to other users in their networks.

While that technology hasn’t yet reached America, U.S. users are benefitting from mobile marketing in myriad ways. For example, Crisp Wireless partners with media entertainment companies like USA Today to enable them to build a mobile presence through advertising. USA Today, one of the pioneers of delivering traditional newspaper content in a mobile platform, launched its initial site in December of 2005. Boris Fridman, CEO of Crisp Wireless, calls it “nothing short of the perfect mobile destination.” Fridman explains why: “They started building this significant consumer audience, and advertisers started paying attention to it. They’ve done a tremendous job at understanding that mobile Internet would become a driver for advertising dollars. For USA Today, it is no longer an experiment; it is clearly a significant business opportunity.”

AOL, another early adopter, has capitalized on the mobile commerce opportunity as well. In 2007, the company updated its portal for a richer user interface, including AOL mobile search, City Guide, access to AIM (the largest ing the platforms available, AOL has concen-trated on making mobile simple for consumers.

“We do things that make accessing our services easier, not necessarily making the mobile phone easier to use,” says Jason Gruber, director of Mobile and Telecommunications for AOL. Some examples include getting MapQuest information on the desktop transferred to a phone with a ‘send to cell’ functionality, where the user enjoys one-click access to MapQuest details. AOL was the first to introduce an I.M. forwarding service, so messages sent to a user’s desktop can be forwarded to his or her handset. “So it’s not only at the application level where we’re constantly making adjustments to the portal, but we’re really responding to the consumer base, [making sure] that the services consumers are comfortable with on the desktop can really work in the mobile space in an easy and fast way that’s relevant,” says Gruber.

Location-based service, in concert with GPS, enables companies to provide a context to their content. The Weather Channel Interactive, for example, has more than 35 million unique online users each month. It can deliver current conditions, expert forecasts, and relevant lifestyle content for 98,000 locations worldwide, so consumers in California are getting information that is specific to the west coast, while Michigan residents can be apprised of impending lake effect snows.

Since the younger generation drives a lot of the growth of mobile marketing, MTV is enjoying phenomenal increases in its mobile platforms. Greg Clayman, executive vice president of Digital Distribution and Business Development, Global Digital Media of MTV, says video is a prime example. “We’re doing five million mobile video clips a month in the U.S. That is nearly double what they were last year.” Beyond video clips, MTV’s mobile inventory includes linear video service, with clips of mobile video with DSE, and live programming of Comedy Central and Nickelodeon on V-cast.

The applications benefit the marketer as well as the consumer because ads can be much more user-specific. With browser-based advertising, ZIP codes are themain way to reach a particular audience segment. With mobile mar-keting and advertising, advertisers can utilize mobile instant messaging community) and information like gender, income, and other MapQuest, among others. Beyond imply maklimited profile data – all provided to wireless carriers by the user – to truly target the consumers most likely to respond.

Challenges and Solutions
It is easy to envision mobile marketing and advertising as an extension of the Internet, and in many ways, it is. However, there are fundamental differences that will affect the success of this new channel.

For example, advertisers cannot just expect the same ad to work on a PC and a mobile device. The huge difference in screen sizes means most ads won’t translate from one entity to another. Keyboard capabilities are also vastly different between computers and handsets.

AOL’s Gruber points out another challenge: fragmentation. “The application or service that we develop for a very simple low-end phone on one network may behave very differently and function differently than what exists on a very high-end phone.” To combat this problem, AOL has announced a client version of “My Mobile” that will make implementing AOL services on a mobile device a lot easier, no matter what kind of handset or carrier is used.

Chetan Sharma says search-based advertising has to change for mobile marketing to succeed. “On mobile devices, you have limited real estate. People are looking for answers, not thousands of facts. It becomes tricky in terms of how you figure out what the intent of the user is, so there is not so much room for error in mobile as there is for the Internet.”

There is also the challenge of demographics: plenty of industry research points to the younger generations as being the main mobile users. However, today’s device is not your teen’s mobile phone.

“Over the past few years, Newsweek, USA Today, Car and Driver, Elle, and many other traditional media companies that don’t necessarily appeal to the very young have launched mobile destinations,” says Fridman. “They appeal to a much broader audience.”

Louis Gump, vice president of Mobile at The Weather Channel Interactive, says the age limitations aren’t real. “There is a myth in the industry that everyone who uses their device for something other than talking on it is about 22 years old with a backpack. If you look at the demos, based on some of the research, what you’ll see is that the majority of the audience that uses wireless data is actually in the 25-34, and 35-44 demo with tails on either side. It’s a very attractive audience with millions of people who are in multiple demographic areas.”

Perhaps one of the biggest obstacles is the consumers themselves. Will they balk at the idea of advertising on their mobile devices as being too intrusive? Clayman predicts acceptance.
“As the mobile online experience begins to look more like the Web we’re accustomed to, consumers expect a certain degree of advertising. As long as it is something that is actually useful, people will think, ‘I see ads when I’m online or when I’m watching TV so there’s no reason I shouldn’t see them on my phone as well.’”

Besides, Clayman points out, consumers are already paying for the content they get on their mobile devices. Ads can help offset the increasing costs. “If a carrier has video clips the consumer pays for that, and if you want to double the amount of content consumers can get, you’ve got limited options. Either the carrier can pay for it and lose money, or they can charge consumers more. Mobile advertising in general can subsidize that.”

Would people be willing to pay more for their mobile services instead of seeing ads on their devices? Probably not, but experts say they will likely accept some advertising in exchange for reduced-cost service. “If they are able to decide what kind of ads they get and when they get them, consumers will be more willing to accept [mobile advertising],” says Sharma.

Growing Pains and Plans
Experts agree that for mobile marketing and advertising to be as successful as possible, the user must be in control. Gump says careful planning is key.

“From a consumer-facing standpoint, we have an opportunity as media companies, wire-less carriers, and other service providers in the industry, to get this right. We need to put the customer first. From an industry standpoint, we need to think about how our actions today will affect where we’re going to be 10 years from now and act accordingly.”

Analyst Sharma agrees. “We need to make sure that the market matures correctly and that the business models are ironed out before the market becomes too big. It’s a journey of cautious optimism to contextual nirvana.”

That journey, while in its infancy, is well underway. As companies branch out and try new forms of mobile marketing – everything from American Idol’s interactive audience voting via text message to The Weather Channel Interactive’s use of location-based services – the industry is poised to take off.
“This is just the beginning,” says Fridman. “There are about 40 million consumers that visit mobile sites monthly, which represents about 15 percent of the subscriber base. But every month that audience continues to grow. This is an incredible growth opportunity for companies who want to reach the consumers, because that number will only continue to go up.”

And those companies are taking notice. “I’ve seen an uptake in the integration of mobile advertising by the brands and the agencies in the marketplace that has really impressed me,” Gruber says. “The way those budgets have grown, the way the brands are coming back for repeat business … I’m really looking forward to 2008 being a breakout year for mobile marketing and mobile advertising.”