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Mobile Ad Conference Affirms Brands Are Starting To Move

san_fran.gifLast week in San Francisco, Informa held their Mobile Advertising and Marketing USA conference. There were speakers from all parts of the mobile advertising value chain as well as from all regions of the world. This post looks at the key discussion topics.

A partial list of the companies represented includes:
• Operators – Virgin, Sprint, Blyk, Hutchison, Helio
• Agencies – AKQA, R/GA, Ogilvy, Aerodeon, Sponge, Ansible, Hyperfactory, ipsh!, Incentivated
• Mobile Ad companies – Ad Infuse, MadHouse, Amdocs, AdMob, Third Screen
• Search companies – Medio, Yahoo, JumpTap, MCN
(see conference website for full speaker list)

The venue was such that it encouraged a lot of audience interaction during the presentations, and during the break it was easy to meet everyone for some 1-on-1 conversation.

While its impossible to condense 2 full days of presentations and discussion into a brief article, here are some of the key themes raised at the conference.

Finally we’re starting to hear from agencies that more brands are moving past the “test and trial” phase, and are viewing mobile as an ongoing part of their media plan. The budgets are often still relatively small, but the budgets are growing and a lot of the brands are placing “repeat orders” without the need for an agency to justify mobile all over again.

Mobile Operators:
I’ve been noticing recently that the relationship between mobile operators and the rest of the mobile advertising community seems to depend a lot on which region you look at. European operators in general seem to be fundamentally cooperative and working to facilitate the overall growth of mobile advertising. For many of them, the key issues revolve around how they can work together for common inventory and measurement, plus understanding the best way to leverage their unique capabilities and information to add value in the long term.

In the US the situation seems quite different – with operators continuing to try to exert a much higher degree of control over all parts of the mobile advertising process. Although there have been some high profile statements about “openness” (eg from Verizon), it seems like that philosophy still hasn’t permeated the operator organizations. The net result is a feeling that operators are still often more of a barrier to mobile advertising adoption in those countries, rather than a facilitator.

“Mobile is not the web, but …”
It has been a common theme that mobile advertising should not be thought of as simply a new form of online advertising. There are different ad formats, different customer patterns, different forms of engagement, etc. However, one speaker pointed out that at a higher level, many of the key successful philosophies from the online world should in fact be brought over to the mobile world, for example:

  • Consumers like ads that are Entertaining
  • Ads should bring Value to consumers
  • Re-purposing content from one medium to another doesn’t always work.
  • Creative must be “top shelf“, with as high a standard as traditional advertising or online advertising

Mobile Search:
Mobile search is an area that continues to evolve rapidly. More and more its clearly a different paradigm than online search:

  • People want the content itself to be brought to the top of the results, not just lists of pointers.
  • The big spenders (advertisers) are not going to be the same as they are online.
  • Some aspects of mobile search (such as on-deck vs. off-deck search) don’t really have a parallel in the online world.
  • People primarily do mobile search either because they need the information now, or if they are bored.
  • The response offers need to be optimized for mobile, eg “click to call” may make more sense on mobile, whereas at the moment “click to buy” might be more difficult.

It seems that the iPhone will in fact exert a strong influence on mobile advertising for a number of reasons. In the 7 months since its introduction:

• the iPhone is inducing consumers to browse the mobile internet. In fact, the more internet pages are browsed using iPhones than all the Windows Mobile phones put together, actually 50% more. Three key reasons for this seem to be (a) the improved user experience, (b) the flat rate data plan sold with every iPhone removes customers’ cost concerns, and (c) the content discovery process is familiar – like the web.

• the iPhone seems to have captured the imagination of agency creatives, and has made many realize that a mobile web experience can be great.

• the iPhone has enabled a new, higher quality level for mobile ads. While opinions were divided as to whether or not it is economically worthwhile to develop an ad version specifically for iPhone users, it was clear that some agencies would do this just to “push the boundaries” and show what is possible. This can only have a positive effect on the growth of mobile advertising.

A couple of interesting statistics:

Fragmentation of media consumption: In 1975, you could run 3 spots on national TV channels and reach 85% of the US population. Today you would need 120 spots to reach 85%. (Joe Hadl, Brand in Hand)

Mobile Internet has arrived
: the ESPN mobile site for basketball gets more views that the web version. (Richard Ting, R/GA)

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