Mobile marketing is a hot topic at the moment, dominating conversations amongst marketers and venture capitalists alike. And yet, while it can be argued that the US leads the way when it comes to online innovation, in mobile marketing it’s the Far East and to a lesser extent Europe where the market has reached a greater level of maturity.
One particularly interesting technology already gaining considerable traction in the Far East is the use of barcodes that enable mobile phones to interact directly with every day objects. The premise is simple — people use the cameras on their mobile phones to read encoded information via barcodes. These new types of barcodes can hold a far greater depth of data than the barcodes we’re used to seeing on every day objects today. Once scanned, software built into mobile phones can translate the information into content ranging from text and images through to video clips.
In Japan the technology is already being used in a number of different applications. People can watch movie trailers by scanning barcodes on billboards, can source insurance quotes and can even scan barcodes on products in McDonalds to find out nutritional information — eat your
heart out Morgan Spurlock…
The issue that’s holding the technology back in the US is one of software. Currently US mobile phones are not shipped with the software necessary to read these barcodes. So while penetration of camera phones and phones with Internet connectivity are increasing, a crucial
part of the jigsaw is still missing.
It is possible to download the relevant software, but adding that extra step will restrict the technology to early adopters only which, whilst still a key target for certain marketers, will prevent the technology from reaching the mainstream. At least in the short term
There are two main elements that make this new barcode technology so interesting. The first is that it removes the time lag between people being intrigued by a commercial and actually going on to do something about it. The technology adds a sense of immediacy and engagement that even direct response press and TV advertisers can only dream of.
The second is the effect the new technology could have on the future of the advertising market as a whole. By adding this new level of interactivity suddenly all forms of advertising become totally measurable. Stick a barcode up on a billboard for example and you can immediately and easily measure actual response rates. And it’s not just billboards either. The same is true of press ads, direct mail and even sales promotion campaigns. For direct response advertisers this could have a major impact. Instead of being restricted to the inclusion of 1 800 numbers and URLs, offline ads could start to evolve into far more powerful pull marketing tools.
So what could this mean for advertisers? In the future, we could start to see outdoor and press ads being sold on the same pay-for-performance basis that underpins the Pay-Per-Click model online.
There has been considerable press recently surrounding Google’s move into print and more recently TV and radio advertising, however to date these developments have been based purely on a different way in which to buy ad space rather than a new paradigm in how the actual ad space itself can be used. With these new barcodes that could change. In the future we could see the Pay-Per-Click networks offering integrated pay-for-performance buys that span different media both on and offline. This could turn the traditional offline ad model on its head by linking offline ads with the digital world in a way that until now has never been possible.
The mobile marketing sector is developing, of that there is no doubt. Just don’t be surprised if, as it develops, it results in far reaching implications for the broader advertising market as we know it.