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What Do Media Planners Really Want From Mobile?

At the Mobile Marketing Association Forum in London this week, organized with Informa, Jim Cook from MobiAD News had the opportunity to lead a discussion on the topic “What do Media Planners Really Want from Mobile?” The panelists were all strong supporters of mobile, but identified several key areas that currently act as barriers to faster development.

Most conferences hear from creative agencies, technology companies, and mobile operators, but this was a chance to understand what is happening in another very important link in the chain – Media Agencies.

The panel consisted of experts from 4 agencies – 3 media agencies and one creative agency – each with great experience in the area of mobile:

 • Claire Valoti
Interaction Director
Mindshare Interaction
 • Nick Suckley
Agenda21 Digital
 • Stefan Meyer-Sprickenagel
Global Director-Mobile
Group M
 • Thomas Curwen
Planning Director

It was a wide ranging discussion covering many aspects of mobile and media planning. Overall there was a strong belief that mobile is a very powerful channel, which should grow to a value equivalent to online advertising. However there are still some serious issues and challenges that must be overcome first.

Here are some of the key points raised by the panel that I found most interesting:

Potential of Mobile:
One very big potential for mobile is that it should become a media channel of choice for FMCG brands. FMCG brands have not taken to online in a big way, but because mobile can link advertising directly to sales results, these brands may well put a lot of resources into mobile.

mmf_quote1.gifOn a more general level, mobile advertising will become a major media channel simply because people keep their mobiles with them and switched on essentially all the time, and therefore there are a lot more opportunities for interaction compared to internet or TV.

Media Planning:
The big issue is lack of quality, consistent information. Today, planners are forced to rely on a wide variety of information sources which often don’t agree. “It makes us look like we don’t know what we are doing” said one of the panelists.

However, there is the realization that nothing is perfect. “The rate of change of technology and people’s uptake of that technology will always outstrip our ability to measure it. You will never have perfect knowledge about what people are doing, but you can get to a base level where you have the information you need to make decisions.”

Buying Media:
mmf_quote3.gifA major problem is that the mobile media market is very fragmented, making it a time consuming and inefficient task to contact all the individual media owners. Also, many media owners who are actively selling their inventory are not actually able to deliver what they have promised. “We need transparency! People need to talk about what’s really available, so that I can manage a client’s expectations.”

One of the biggest issues around measurement is that the data – if it is available at all – it is not provided in a way that is easy to use. “We have access to the data, but it is not provided within our tools, so in fact we can’t use it. Sometimes we just receive a pdf file – and really you can do nothing with it!” said one panelist. Another added “Just collating information is a full-time job in itself, before you even start analyzing it. It makes it very inefficient from a time and cost point of view to operate in mobile.”

mmf_quote4.gifA second key point is the reliance on Click Through Rate as the primary measurement. “If we only measure CTR, then it will create problems later on when we clients start to want to run brand campaigns,” said one. Another added “I think we measure CTR because it is easy to measure. We need to understand what mobile will be delivering for brands – I personally think the role for mobile will be far more about engagement and awareness.”

Economics of a Media Agency:
There was a strong consensus that today mobile is not profitable for media agencies. Both because of the inefficiencies mentioned above, and also because of the large amount of consulting expertise that has to be provided to clients.

mmf_quote2.gif“Agencies have to learn how to charge for their expertise and time that is invested in understanding how a new medium will give us new contacts with our customer base. The standard commission on a small experimental budget does not pay for this.”

This is especially true for large media agencies, who typically charge based on media buy, but essentially include the planning expertise without extra charge.

Priorities for change:
In summary, the panel was very enthusiastic about the unique capabilities of mobile, and very bullish about the long term growth of the channel. However, everything is not in place yet, and they identified the following points as the highest priority for the industry to address:

  • Within a media agency, mobile advertising must be evaluated during the Strategic Planning process, when budgets are allocated among various media, not handled simply as a part of the Tactical Planning for online.
  • Measurement systems must be set up to bring data into the existing measurement and reporting processes so it will become more usable.
  • The information that is used for planning must improve in terms of consistency, especially consistency across media, and there must be a more honest representation of the media by media owners.
  • It is critical to insure that there is content on the mobile internet that consumers find compelling, as this will keep them using the mobile internet. It is likely that a lot of such content is being developed already, but agencies currently have limited ways of finding and utilizing to this content.
  • The industry must work to educate a wider group of people within the agencies as to the role that mobile technologies play in consumers’ lives, and how brands can use these technologies to engage them.

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