The Mobile Marketing Maelstrom: Why the Confusion and Hype isn’t Dampening the Optimism

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Are you confused about Mobile? Who can blame you? The lingo alone is enough to make your head spin: on-deck, off-deck, short codes—but what does it all mean?

I’ve got a secret to share and it might surprise you: Mobile marketing is not as difficult as it sounds. Seriously, it isn’t that complicated and if you bear with me for a few minutes I will explain why.

I don’t have to tell you that mobile is a hot topic in the interactive advertising world these days. It seems like everywhere you turn, there’s talk about mobile marketing. But for all the hype, I was genuinely surprised that the mobile marketing sessions at ad:tech NY left me even more confused than I when I first went in. The single most important thing I learned during that conference was that there is a lot more dialogue that needs to be had before everyone is on the same page and fully understands all of the options of mobile marketing.

Maybe it is what grabs headlines, but most of what I hear about mobile marketing seems really daunting and scary. “You need to work with carriers, handset makers, watch the permissions and get a short code!” are all the things I heard in Mobile 101. Even to me as a mobile search provider, that seemed like a tall order to fulfill. I can’t imagine what a media buyer must think. Especially when most of them don’t have the time or resources to figure it all out.

To be fair, media planners and buyers need to be risk averse at times, and new advertising platforms are tough to pitch to clients who look to online for somewhat predictable and measurable results. When WhitePages.com conducted its own informal survey of media planners and buyers at ad:tech NY, we learned that mobile marketing is nearly at the bottom of our respondent’s list of marketing tactics to test in 2007, and that mobile marketing’s special place in the mix is yet to be defined: is it good for driving online sales? Offline store visits? Branding? Nobody really knows—yet.

However, what irked me more about the mobile marketing sessions at ad:tech was the failure to mention that there is a huge, relatively easy to execute opportunity to buy banner and text advertising on popular mobile sites. By this I mean WAP-enabled Websites that are operated by publishers like WhitePages.com, USA Today, and the New York Times. Because these sites are independent of carriers, or “off-deck” there is no worrying about permissions, carriers and handset makers, as we already have permission from the users. Executing a marketing campaign on a mobile site can be as simple and uncomplicated as executing a marketing campaign on a regular Website. At WhitePages.com we’ll even design and build WAP-enabled campaign landing pages and re-size our client’s creative to ensure they appear correctly on all devices and browsers. We want to make buying mobile as simple as possible, especially given the current landscape.

Here is something I bet you didn’t know: Research from Enpocket showed that a majority of mobile users between the ages of 16 and 44 find advertising on mobile Internet sites acceptable. A recent Forrester report stated that when mobile advertising is done right, which means among other things that it is relevant to the consumer, response rates are high, and consumer engagement is increased.

According to WhitePages.com’s internal study to learn about consumer’s mobile habits and perceptions, study participants told us that they use their mobile devices for three main purposes: Web searches, email and making phone calls. The typical lookup for someone using their mobile device to search the web are local business listings, like restaurant phone numbers and hours, maps and directions and news and sports headlines. Most people use their mobile devices for lookups several times a week some even do it several times a day. Given what I heard at ad:tech, you would think that the major carrier decks were the most popular sites for these activities, but you would be wrong. What you see users doing on the Web, is mirrored in mobile, with popular sites including Google, Yahoo! Mapquest and White and Yellow Pages sites.

So what does this mean? It means that there is a huge untapped mobile advertising market out there, just waiting for marketers to leverage. As mobile advertising gains more of a foothold and myths and misconceptions are put to rest, I hope marketers will reconsider and think of mobile as another solution for driving sales whether it is online or offline. I know that I can’t wait for the day that mobile becomes a standard part of any marketing campaign. Like the hundreds of other publishers out there, we are chomping at the bit and ready to execute. Just say the word.

3 COMMENTS

  1. I think there are a couple of things at work here. One is that whenever something is new, the people that get in first seem to be more excited about the details instead of the results, mainly because there aren’t any results yet to show off.

    If mobile ads are designed to take special advantage of the medium to reach people more precisely than other mediums can and more precisely target the best prospects for the client, then it will succeed.

    If they aren’t targeted better, but are merely another place to put an ad, they won’t produce better results than other mediums and will fail to produce the results needed to justify the additional effort needed to use the additional medium.

  2. Sure mobile marketing is not that difficult to catch on. Its driving on the needs of the consumer and will eventually be a regular part of their life. Regarding advertising with Whitepages.com -a company that is in midst of massive layoffs and lack of effective handling of its million dollar email relay system, one has to be cautious about the results.

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