Interview: Dan Rosen
Head of AKQA Mobile
AKQA is one of the world’s leading digital advertising agencies. Dan Rosen heads up AKQA Mobile, a group which was created to work with clients on the mobile platform, and is also on the MMA’s Global Board of Directors. MobiAD News talked with Dan recently to get his views on the mobile advertising industry, what the current opportunities are, and what the brands are saying about mobile advertising.
From your perspective as a mobile agency, how would you characterize the mobile advertising industry at the moment?
I think we’re actually at a very exciting moment for the industry – its moving out of the ‘testing ghetto’ into the phase of actually running serious campaigns for big brands. There is a lot of excitement, and the first major campaigns are starting to go.
People have always been excited about mobile advertising, but they never backed it up with dollars. Now I think they are starting to “walk the walk”.
Are brands ready for mobile advertising?
It’s not really possible to answer such a sweeping question, as different sectors or different categories are more ready than others.
For example, automotive has been particularly active. As with most things, change has been driven by need. The automotive industry has been changed radically as a result of digital – the role of the traditional car salesmen is pretty much over. Because of these disruptive changes, car manufacturers have moved faster than most to get ahead of the game in mobile.
Which other sectors do you see as being advanced?
Of course the first categories to get into mobile were the ones that had to, which are entertainment and media. Record companies, newspaper owners, radio owners, TV, they all saw mobile as a new media they had to get into so they could monetize it later, which they are now starting to do.
Are there any sectors that you see are being particularly slow to embrace mobile?
Banks, and the entire financial sector have generally been slow to adopt interactive mobile services outside of SMS. This surprises me because SMS has been so powerful for them. In fact there was a customer satisfaction survey done by a large bank a couple of years ago, and the number one thing that customers said they liked about the bank was that they could receive their balance by SMS!
When you talk to a brand about mobile advertising these days, what sort of questions do they typically have?
It depends on their level of experience. If they are completely new to mobile, we often get very big questions like “how should I use mobile within my business”. In those cases, we often play a role which is more of a business consultant rather than strictly marketing communications, because we need to help them understand all the ways that mobile could be used to promote, sell and build strong customer relationships. This is especially true when we talk at the MD or CEO level.
For clients that are more familiar with mobile, the question is much more how can mobile fit within an integrated digital communications mix.
For example, it works well for awareness and branding, and we have case studies to prove it. Last year around Christmas time we did a very effective campaign for Coke called “The Greatest Gift is Giving”. It only ran on the 3UK portal for 12 hours, but over 120,000 people sent branded Coca-Cola Christmas cards to their friends. That is certainly brand-building.
Also, mobile can work well for convenience, i.e. making people’s life easier. And it can work well for increasing sales – text-to-win is still a massive part of mobile marketing.
Can you tell me about a good example of an integrated campaign that includes mobile?
The campaign we have just launched for Smirnoff is a really good example – it has got rave reviews. What makes it good is that we haven’t tried to take a website and stick it on a phone. Its made for people on the go, instead taking a website and assuming thats what people want to see when they’re on their mobile. You’ve got things like a pocket bartender.
There’s a TV ad which was created by JWT, AKQA created the website and the mobile site. It works incredibly well as an integrated campaign.
(note: MobiAD News will be doing a write up on the Smirnoff Campaign next week, so come back to see more details.)
As an agency, what are some of the big challenges you see related to mobile advertising?
First of all, it’s a very young market, and the market is growing faster than the talent base. This means it’s very hard for us to find enough qualified people, and the agency eco-system isn’t really as ready as it should be. But we had the same situation in digital advertising several years ago.
Second, I’d say that the implementation side it is still quite difficult.
• We need better ad standards from operators, and standards for handset capabilities.
• Mobile media owners need a trusted method of certification so they can gain the trust of advertisers and agencies, similar to what the ABC (Associated Bureau of Circulation) does for magazines.
• Guidelines for advertising and standards for best practices are just coming out, and they will be very helpful for everyone in the creative process.
Let’s talk about targeting – do you see it happening at the moment?
Yes, we’ve worked on some campaigns that use targeting very successfully. For example, we ran a campaign for Yell.com, and one of the key factors was that we could target customers by type of handset.
Clearly one of the sweet spots of mobile advertising is to allow a level of personalization and targeting where you can track socio-economic factors using the mobile. As long as that is done in a way that protects the customer’s personal information, it can only be a good thing. We can do some targeting today and it’s working, but there is more to come.
What advice would you give to a brand that’s interested in starting mobile advertising?
First, get yourself a proper mobile strategy. We have seen many companies that were attracted to mobile, but they ended up being pulled in some tangential direction that might not be in the best interests of their company. So start with a proper mobile strategy from a company that doesn’t have a vested interest in any particular technology.
Second, launch mobile campaigns with a “test and learn” attitude.
Finally – do it now. Today you are getting very good value in the mobile advertising market now that you might not get in two years. There lots of early-mover advantages at the moment: price, innovation, being the first in you category to show consumers that you want to give them the choice to interact.
Ultimately, its not about ramming a channel down someone’s throat, its about giving consumers a choice. We live in a multi-channel world and brands have to be offering consumers a multi-channel experience.
Any predictions you would like to share about what will happen in the mobile industry over the next year?
I think people accessing their social networks from a mobile device will be a huge driver of mobile internet usage. Already the uptake is in the millions and growing very rapidly. For example, using a mobile to take a photos and immediately upload them to a social network site is now happening everywhere. And getting content to people fast – that’s what digital is all about.
Do you see brands starting to commit more of their advertising resources to mobile? To share your opinion and join the discussion on the MobiAD Forum, click HERE.