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Ogilvy’s Mandel on Mobile Advertising:
It All Starts With The Consumer

Interview with Maria Mandel
Executive Director Digital Innovation,
Senior Partner, Ogilvy


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Ogilvy is one of the world’s leading advertising agencies, running successful campaigns for leading brands around the world. At the Informa Mobile Advertising conference we had a chance to interview Maria Mandel about how Ogilvy is bringing mobile marketing to these clients, what the clients are saying, and what she sees are the key opportunities in this emerging area.
(note: this interview took place at the Informa Mobile Advertising Conference)


Hi Maria, first can you give us an idea of your role within Ogilvy?

I work with all the emerging new media and technology platforms, which range from mobile video delivery to mobile marketing to video gaming to digital out of home. We’re an integrated agency, so my focus is on understanding the customer holistically, and seeing how we can start incorporating some of these emerging channels in with some of the more traditional channels.

How does the planning function work today with all these new channels to think about?

maria_quote1.gifWe have a process we go through for clients that involves planning across all the media channels. It’s really been a shift away from the traditional approach of developing a brand idea, planning the media than pushing it out. Now we work to understand the consumer and we put them at the center:

• we understand what they do throughout the day when they are at home, at work, on the go,

• we understand which different channels and platforms they interact with, and

• then finally we do the planning against that backdrop.

So you work a lot with brands, at the leading edge of advertising. Have you seen the attitude of advertisers change over time?

I’ve been in my role for 3 years now, and I’ve seen a big shift in mindset. When I first started, my role was primarily educational – clients were very interested in understanding what shifts might be happening in the market. In a very short period of time I’ve seen a change in the clients from “let’s educate ourselves” to “how do we start taking action”. This is because they understand it’s only a question of when changes will be coming, it’s no longer a question of if things will change.

Can you give me an example of the changes you are talking about.

maria_quote2.gifSure. In the US, we can look at TV, where still most of the media dollars are being spent for most brand marketers. DVR penetration is at 25%, and for households with a DVR, 60% of television is viewed in a timeshifted environment. And 92% of the ads are skipped when watched in a time-shifted environment. So if you do the math, it equates to roughly $50 billion in wasted television ad dollars. This is a tremendous wake-up call for television advertisers, and they have to understand their model has to evolve.

So are most of your clients moving full-speed ahead into these new channels?

I think there are three categories of clients right now.

The first category are the brands that have to do something now because of the audience they are trying reach. Typically these brands are targeting the young adult audience, and this audience is very difficult to reach with traditional methods today. These might be brands like Nike, Apple, and some of the liquor brands.

The second category are clients that are in the “test and learn” mode. They want to be ahead of the curve, and want to learn to leverage some of these new media and technology platforms.

Finally the third category are those clients that want to be perceived as innovative. Those clients are trying to shift mindsets and consumer perception – for example a lot of the technology brands that want to be perceived as cutting edge and break through the clutter.

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“Mobile compliments traditional marketing communications and provides connections and integration across a campaign”

You have a global perspective on mobile advertising – how does the US differ from other markets?

It’s an interesting dilemma – of all the emerging channels I cover, mobile probably has the biggest differences globally. Part of it is technology and platforms. For example in a market where there is just one or two dominant carriers, they are able to push through innovation and change platforms quicker than they can in the US.

Another part of it is consumer adoption. For example, the average upgrade time for handset devices in Asia is 6 to 8 months, whereas in the US its 12 to 18 months. So much of Asia is primarily on a 3G platform, where the US is primarily on a 2.5G platform.

Europe also tends to be somewhat ahead, and Latin America is very interesting because it depends on which country and region you are talking about. As an example Brazil is further ahead, but there are some challenges with the carriers to get programs off the ground so it’s very expensive to do mobile marketing there right now.

So there really are a lot of regional differences, and this is a very important thing for global advertisers to keep in mind as they develop campaigns.

What sort of mobile advertising formats are your clients asking about?

maria_quote3.gifSpeaking from a US market perspective, a lot of advertisers want to jump to the sexier things, such as video, downloadable applications, Bluetooth and GPS targeting. But right now I see these as more in the “test and learn” phase, as they reach a very small audience in the US.

The dilemma that agencies have is that you want to be perceived as cutting edge and innovative, so you have to show these things. But when you show these to clients, they immediately gravitate towards them and bypass the “here and now” opportunities.

For example, I think advertisers can get very creative with SMS, it doesn’t have to be boring. You can use it in a very creative way to drive some significant marketing objectives – and it reaches virtually all of the audience. In just the past 12 months, the percent of US subscribers using SMS jumped from 40% to 60%.

In the US, I think that SMS is one of the most under-leveraged mobile marketing channels today.

Are you satisfied with the level of creativity you see in mobile advertising today?

I think it’s a challenge, and its because you have two types of agencies working in mobile advertising today.

First you have traditional agencies that often approach mobile the same way they would approach traditional channels, so they are not really using it creatively and to the best of its capabilities.

And then you have the mobile only agencies, that generally are more creative and understand what you can do with mobile. But what they often lack is the understanding of the brand and the marketing objectives, and how to link an interesting creative mobile program to the marketing objectives.

So you see a gap between these two approaches?

I see this as a gap and an opportunity. This is where my team is aiming to come in – to bring those worlds together, where you have the holistic understanding of the brand and the target audience, and you can start building in mobile marketing programs as part of that consumer’s experience.

Right now we’re playing this bridge role. And the important thing is to start this from the beginning of a campaign, at the planning stage or the pitch stage, don’t try to add mobile on afterwards.

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“Mobile can activate traditional media”


What are some of the challenges or barriers you see for mobile advertising in the US?

I think we need to get some of the newer technologies into the networks – at the moment we’re asking a consumer base that is primarily used to broadband internet access to go back to dial-up speeds. The mobile consumer experience can still be cumbersome.

Another challenge is if I tell a client we can do a program but only reach 20% of the audience, most advertisers won’t buy a program like that. Or if we want to do a ring-tone download program, and we can only get a 60% successful download rate. This makes it difficult to work with a client because they are used to other channels where they can get virtually 100%.

The mobile world is a complex landscape, and it’s very time consuming and labor consuming to get a mobile program off the ground.

My last question is what advice would you give to an advertiser that is just now starting to think about getting into mobile advertising?

maria_image3.gifThe first thing would be to try to get past all of the hype and buzz around mobile advertising.

Really you should start off with your target audience. Understand how they use mobile, what do they do with their mobile devices, and what would they find of value?

And then it’s figuring what marketing objectives are you trying to drive: is it to build awareness? is it to drive interaction and engagement? is it for actual sales and conversion? Different clients have very different objectives.

Then, depending on what those objectives are, we can start developing mobile tactics to meet those objectives, and integrating with the other channels that they have.

ogilvy_logo.gifSo it’s really about not planning mobile in a vacuum – it’s about first figuring out the consumer, then the objectives, then finally the tactics.

Thank you very much Maria.


04.02.2008   
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