Mobile advertising debate summary from netimperitive roundtable

 In opinion

I was invited to a very interesting roundtable organised by Netimperitive, sponsored by Reactor Mobile and held at the offices of Blyk on Tuesday in London.

The attendee list below is a who’s who of the mobile advertising ecosystem, and as such some very healthy and lively debate ensued.

The most common theme of the debate was “why hasn’t mobile taken off as a mainstream marketing/advertising medium”.

Many viewpoints were expressed and I have summarised just some of them below.  I know that the team from Netimperitive were busy scribbling down notes so expect a longer review on their website soon.

Jonathan MacDonald who is even more passionate about mobile than I am explained that from an agency point of view, mobile is quite under-represented across the board.

However, with smart agencies such as Ogilvy recruiting people like Scott Seaborn who is their head of mobile techologies, this is being quickly addressed, and will position these agencies as the thought leaders in this space.

Clearly we have a long way to go before mobile eclipses the mainstream marketing channels, and there are many reasons why this is the case. The inherent complexity of mobile means that it would be very difficult to train everyone in every agency on mobile.

My view is that if smart pure play mobile/digital agencies act quickly and start to steal client budgets for mobile campaigns, then we may see the mainstream agencies sit up and take notice and only then will we see a real change in how they prioritise and resource their mobile groups.

Everyone agreed that mobile would be “bigger than the internet is now” in 10 years.

There was also discussion about “what is mobile”, and the fact that we should we talk more about “mobility” rather than just the mobile screen.

My view from the discussion is that some in the room thought that the “internet on the mobile” was mobile advertising, but clearly there were pockets of other opinions – ranging from using the mobile channel as mobile CRM, through to views on how we need to make mobile “more measurable” before brands will take it seriously.

As Russell Buckley blogged recently in his post “TV like it’s 1941“, as each communication medium emerges, we learn about the best bits from the previous one and innovate for the next, but we shouldn’t do exactly the same thing with each medium.  When TV came about, it was deemed “radio with pictures” and clearly we use TV in a very different way to radio.

My strong view is that mobile/mobility has some clear and tangible benefits over the (tethered) internet which we can take advantage of with advertising.  The fact that we rarely share a mobile (but we would “share” a TV or radio with others) and it is our unique identifier means that we can use the utility of mobility in a much more efficient way that the communications channels that have been around for much longer.

Couple the concept of always on mobility with user preferences (ie I TELL the advertiser what relationship I want to have with them and what I am willing to receive) and we have a very new way of marketing of advertising to people. (note here I said people and not customers).  Jonathan was very passionate about referring to those who consume advertising as people and not customers.

I have seen and played with some new concepts in mobile advertising where a full screen advertisement is played out against a user selected profile (which is maintained on the handset) and I hope to be able to blog some more about this soon.  This is getting much closer to the junction of always on, user preference and permission based advertising that I believe we need to see before mobile advertising really takes off.

One excellent example of mobility and preference that was mentioned was a BMW campaign developed by Icon mobile in Germany.  They asked BMW owners if they would like to receive information in the future relative to their BMW purchase via their mobile. They also captured if they owned an iPhone.

No surprises then that a campaign to BMW owners with an iPhone about a new car kit via a MMS picture of the product received an 84% response rate!

Get the targeting right and people will consume more.

Mobile operators came in for a serve as always and the lone representative was Rory Mudie from Vodafone who held his own in defence of what operators are doing.

Many wanted to know if operators were collecting the sort of profiling information that would make mobile advertising more straightforward such as lifestyle preferences etc. Rory said that Vodafone call centres were now offering customers the ability to provide this information during a customer care call.

At about this point of the roundtable, the “Elephant in the room” was identified by Jonathan Macdonald.  He said (and I agree) that mobile operators are not capturing the sort of information about their customers that would be useful to an advertiser.

One of the points I then argued strongly about was that mobile operators will only realistically capture customer information that makes sense to their business, and sells more voice, text or data minutes.  They don’t really care if you like going out once a week, play the clarinet or travel abroad twice a year – why would they be?

Jonathan explained how at Turkcell, they have a massive database that is well segmented to enable them to go to a credit card company for example and offer the (opted in) details of consumers that pay all of their phone balance off each month and would be interested in a mobile concierge facility.  Clearly Turkcell have a much broader CRM program and a strategy to capture this information with mobile advertising in mind than some other operators.

The agencies in the development of their campaigns are already building in the collection of these user preferences, and as I continue to argue, it’s about relevance. If I give away my spending or leisure preferences, and you send me advertising that is related to this – I will accept this willingly if there is an inherent benefit to me!

Mobile operators are trying (some more successfully than others) to have that “single view” of the customer, but while most of their revenue comes from standard  communication services, it will be up to the advertising and marketing side of the ecosystem to collect, and benefit from this information.

After the roundtable, I attended the mashup event at BBH around the corner from Blyk, and I had to shake my head and get very despondent when I heard a representative from a mobile operator say to the audience that “people need to come to the mobile operator and ask permission to run these types of services”…wrong wrong wrong.

It is this mentality (remember walled gardens with the mobile internet) that will stall the development of mobile advertising.  We must not let this mentality permeate the other operators.  Consumers want choice and an open model, not closed and dictated to by their service provider.

Mobile operators have no real incentive to capture the information needed for advertising, nor the demonstrated ability to share this with an agency or advertiser. Perhaps this will change but at the moment, I think the agency/brand side is best placed to ask first for permission to capture information from someone who interacts with a brand, and secondly for their preferences.

Dunnhumby had two representatives at the roundtable, and it sounds like the smart segmentation techniques that they are so famous for (think Tesco Clubcard) will start to make their way into the mobile advertising space.

Aside: Read the article in the FT from November 2006 titled “eyes in the till” that shows the incredible power of marketing analytics and profiling that Dunnhumby have used for Tesco Clubcard.  Imagine the power of this if the consumer actually told us what they liked instead of having to datamine millions of transactions to make an educated guess. This will start to happen soon (going beyond what Blyk do so well for the 16-24 age group) to provide advertisers with segments that are customer selected – not guessed.

Ben Tatton-Brown from Ring Ring Media explained how in the last 4 months he had spent £500,000 on behalf of clients on mobile – quite an achievement and this would exceed the amount spent on mobile by most large agencies over the last year or so if these figures were available.

Many people at the roundtable also argued that the lack of measurability for mobile was holding back progress.

Harry Dewhirst also from Ring Ring Media disagreed, saying that everything they did was measurable – so I’m not sure if this is a real issue.

In some ways, the very powerful user provided segmentation, coupled with actual usage metrics (when I saw an ad, did I click or call from it etc) available via mobile campaigns will expose the inefficiencies in the current diary measurement systems used for more traditional mediums such as TV and radio.

With these systems of measurement, we can only hope to understand if the ad was exposed (not consumed) by a person or group of people, and then use statistics theory to expand this to audience share.  The measurability from mobile campaigns in the future cannot be underestimated – and may start to encourage advertisers to adopt these more accurate approaches to campaign measurement and tracking action.

It was a very worthwhile event and thanks to Davina at Netimperative for organising it, Reactor mobile for sponsoring and for Blyk for hosting the event in their funky London offices.

Those at the roundtable included, Tom Knapp
Breeze Tech, Adrian Hands
Channel4, Andrew Argyrides
Blyk, Chris  Bennet
CDA, Clare O’brien
Netimperative, Davina Lines
FSNM, Delia Goldsby
BLM Quantum, Ed Campbell
Reactor, Emma Bremner-Milne
Thomson Reuters, Ilicco Elia
Viva La Mobile, Jamie Conynham
Propel London, Jamie Toff
Ogilvy, Jonathan MacDonald
Reactor, Jonathan Watson
Charity Technology Trust, Maria Diaz
BLM Quantum, Mark Johnson
Guardian, Neil Dulake
Unanimis, Peter Evers
Reactor, Phil Williams
Digital Clarity Media , Rachel Mepham
Digital Clarity Media, Reggie James
Netimperative, Robin Langford
Vodafone, Rory Mudie
BLM Quantum, Sarah Flannery
Blyk, Shaun Gregory
Addicted 2 TV, Ty Roberts
Amx Networks, Xavier Adam
Daren Forsyth, Media Trust
Abigail Dankwa, Media Trust
Orchestra, Dan Statham
Alastair Boyle, Steak Media
Kate Hussey, Steak Media
John Woods, Synature
Ben tatton-Brown, Ringring Media
Harry Dewhirst, Ringring Media
Kirsty Largent, Dunnhumby
Rufus Evison, Dunnhumby

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Based in London, The Actionable Futurist and former Global Managing Partner at IBM, Andrew Grill is a popular and sought-after presenter and comementator on issues around digital disruption, workplace of the future and new technologies such as blockchain. Andrew is a multiple TEDx and International Keynote Speaker.