Understanding the mobile medium

March 2015

Communicating with consumers via mobile is unlike other channels. Yet marketers persist in trying to shoehorn communications, content and metrics into mobile from TV, radio and even direct mail in an effort to understand how it works. To make mobile work effectively, marketers are going to have to break entrenched habits.

There is no denying that marketing via the mobile channel excites marketers. In early 2014 mobile access to the internet exceeded desktop (Comscore) and in developing nations, people will have individual access to a mobile phone yet share access to a TV or desktop computer.

This omnipresence is giving advertisers a sense of being set free in the sweetie shop.

"Mobile allows us to be more specialised in narrowcast," insists Exterion Media's CEO Shaun Gregory. "You can see how the user is reacting with social media. It's very powerful for the marketer because you can see what works," states Amobee CEO Mark Strecker.

Shaun adds: "I see a real opportunity in out-of-home to move into the data sphere but to do so more creatively," and he cites McDonalds' increasingly cross-channel integration of its extremely successful Monopoly gamification strategy that now includes online and social elements ideally suited to mobile interaction.

But then wild enthusiasm is tempered by a wide range of 'what ifs?', as discussed at Ad Week Europe.

Executive excitement over mobile's ability to target customers to within a few metres is dampened by comments from Selfridges' Head of Marketing, Hazel Kay: "The assumption is that people don't know what they're going to do next. Our store is mission-based. I'm not sure that pinging a message to passers-by in the street is going to work for us."

So, it's clear that marketers need to look beyond the functional attributes of the phone - proximity does not mean profitability. How then, do they better engage?

Removing some preconceptions might help. "It's easy to be seduced by mobile connections to digital out-of-home, for example, but the reality is different. The majority of web use on mobile is in the home and office. Convenience is key. Mobile payments and voice recognition for search are the growth areas," reveals Vizeum's Managing Director, Richard Morris.

Equally, the idea that mobile is eminently more measurable than other forms of media is proving frustrating on two fronts. Firstly, there is an argument that the methods used are either not fit for purpose (such as click-through rates) or the accuracy is vastly inflated. Secondly, there is the perception that when less precise methods of analysis are mooted, it begins to seem as though executives are not trying hard enough.

"Probabilistic modelling is claiming 70-80 per cent accuracy but I take that with a pinch of salt," states Mindshare's Head of Mobile, Neil Bruce. "It frustrates me that people throw measurability back at us. When you look at how TV is measured, in my humble opinion it's as measurable as mobile."

However, results from the SMoX study from the Mobile Marketing Association are anticipated in the near future (although no specific date is mentioned) to move measurability forward.

Data remains key to the whole process and brands are continuing to ask how best to acquire it. It is widely accepted that to obtain data the consumer needs to see some kind of value exchange.

In fact, receiving high quality, contextual content whether clearly promotional or otherwise is the key to engaging on the mobile platform. Native advertising is increasingly successful with campaigns such as travel company TUI's branded backgrounds displaying sunny beaches behind miserable, real time weather forecasts on The Weather Channel proving particularly successful.

Peter Dille, CMO of Tapjoy, summarises: "There needs to be disruption in how ads are delivered on mobile. What is required is new solutions, made up of three pillars: User choice, appealing advertising and the value exchange."

The Update: How Google creates human-first mobile experiences