Mobile Marketing: Is the Machine Fueled by Hope or Hype?


Two weeks ago, I focused on the recent explosion of mobile TV and its related products. While I only hinted on the viability of advertising within this burgeoning on-the-go medium, a recent news release from mobile marketing technology provider iLoop Mobile urged me to explore the advertising side further.

For the uninitiated, iLoop Mobile is a San Francisco mobile content provider which serves everyone from mom n’ pops shops to the Fortune 100s. While it would be very naive to say the company’s spearheaded the mobile marketing movement, iLoop Mobile is nonetheless a constant presence at events like the Mobile Marketing Roadshow.

The company’s latest endeavor, though, is a “mobile storefront” cross-promotion with Bravo, specifically touting the cable network’s two biggest shows — “Project Runway” and “Queer Eye.” With Monday’s launch of Bravo To Go, mobile phone users will now be able to purchase wallpaper as well as ringtones featuring both shows’ theme songs at $1.99 a pop.

Mobile storefronts are a great way for a brand to leverage its existing content,” boasts iLoop VP of Marketing and Investor Relations John C. Myung. “They have steadily grown, and now in the Americas, it’s really starting to take off, allowing the transaction of selling content to consumers with cell phones.”

While it’s intriguing to see a major television network regard mobile branding in the same way they would online (Bravo is promoting the storefront on its homepage as well as during its on-air programming), some parties are skeptical of the power of a mobile storefront- especially those which gain revenue exclusively from ringtones and wallpapers. “Ringtones [have] taken off with the kids,” observes Tony Quin, CEO of creative agency IQ Interactive. “But I don’t think ringtones make an industry. I’m sure it’s very profitable, but it’s tiny. It’s not revolutionizing marketing and advertising in the world.”

It’s this kind of backlash that serves as a crutch for mobile marketing’s development. While Myung is quick to proclaim 2006 as “the year of mobile” citing that “the technological barriers have been removed” and that “brands are now seeing that they can go ahead and do these discrete campaigns and touch the end consumer,” some like Avenue A | Razorfish VP of Media Sarah Kim Baehr write off such commentary as hyperbole.

“I would say calling it ‘the year of mobile’ is a stretch,” the veteran buyer/planner jests. “Everyone’s trying to come up with a new thing to focus on. But mobile isn’t a new opportunity, it’s just probably a little bit more viable. I think from an audience perspective, just in general, there is a mass audience in terms of mobile phones. Whether or not that will actually translate into a viable advertising opportunity is another story.”

She adds, “The mass audience is going to globally have telephones, but I just don’t think that we’ve necessarily come up with the best way to leverage that regardless of a video impact.”

Quin echoes Baehr’s sentiment, but takes a less diplomatic approach, saying, “I don’t think it’s the year of mobile. It could be hyped into the being the year of mobile. It will only be the year of mobile when the consumers embrace it and agree to make it the year of mobile. That hasn’t happened. You’ve got a capability out there [where] a lot of people within the new media world would like to make everybody excited. We’re in a hype phase, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s going to happen.”

Is it an online bias that’s guiding these reactions? Quite possibly, but both parties have a point.


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