Monday, July 21, 2008

THE MOBILE WEB HAPPENED, SO DON'T ASK!


Live Blogging From the IAB's Mobile Leadership Forum

There hasn't been a conference, event, webinar, or bar fight this year at which someone at some point hasn't stood up and asked the question du jour: "We've been hearing for 10 years now that mobile is the next big thing -- so when's it gonna happen already?"

I'm sitting at the Roosevelt Hotel in midtown Manhattan. It's a bit after 11 a.m., at the end of the first break at the Interactive Advertising Bureau's first-ever "IAB Leadership Forum: Mobile." And the answer is becoming clear: It's already happened, so let's get going and adopt already.

The centerpiece of the morning was a series of mobile marketing success stories, featuring quick cases involving major consumer brands from a succession of service providers, agencies, and publishers. And as many cases as I've absorbed during the past year or two, even I was surprised at how far beyond experimental mobile advertising has evolved.

Eric Bader, newly ensconced as managing partner of mobile marketing and media company Brand In Hand after his successful stint as managing director of digital at Mediavest, rolled out a wagon train of Procter & Gamble mobile cases. And in many cases, they were reminiscent of the early days of cable television, when marketers and agencies needed to be bopped on the head to become aware of the segmentation and engagement opportunities in a new and unfamiliar medium.

For example, Eric noted that Vick's Dayquil had been successful in tying mobile ads to weather reports (a tactic that moved targeted campaigns for, say, automotive marketers onto The Weather Channel, back in the day). But what was so provocative in Eric's report was that the mobile component of cold-medicine's effort was that it outperformed the online component, with more downloads and more registrations collected.

"It's not to disparage online," Eric said, "but at scale, mobile was more successful."

Another creative Procter case he described was for Pringle's potato chips. Because snack foods rarely end up on written shopping lists, they are heavily dependent on impulse and in-store positioning. To drive Pringle's awareness, Brand In Hand helped develop shopping lists, sponsored by the snack brand, that could be accessed on the Web and through mobile handsets -- an opportunity to be on the list without having to be written on it.

"I have heard comments like, 'mobile is really for direct marketing, but not branding,'" Eric said. "I think that's mythology."

Vladimir Edelman, chief executive of Ansible Mobile, noted that the immediacy of mobile had broadened the landscape for branded marketing experiences -- in effect, creating engaging brand intersections in venues not previously thought of as brand-enhancing environments. He described an effort his company undertook for Babycenter, to create opportunities for mobile alerts and interactions for the new and expectant mothers who are this Johnson & Johnson-owned sites core audience.

"When we analyzed this audience's concerns, as expressed in their postings, it boiled down to three things: 'Is it dangerous? Is it normal? Can I eat it?'" Vladimir recounted. So Ansible developed a system that would allow for "call and response," via mobile devices, to such questions as, "I'm in a restaurant, and I need to know now whether I can eat shellfish in my second trimester?"

Babycenter's mobile alerts have grown an average of 263 percent per month. "If you need an answer now," Vladimir said, "mobile is a great medium."

Maybe artificially great. All the morning's speakers noted that mobile advertising clickthrough rates are much higher than online clickthrough rates -- as much as three times as high right now, reflecting the still-uncluttered mobile ad environment, and the novelty of mobile advertising.

Perhaps for that reason, prices for mobile ads are high. I anonymously texted a question asking about average CPM's -- thanks to Impact Mobile, IAB was able to debut a text-querying function at this conference -- and discovered that mobile advertising CPM's are averaging about $25, according to Julie Ask, the Jupter Research research director.

Ansible's Vladimir Edelman said his company is seeing CPM's as high as $125. "That will change over the next 18 months," he cautioned, "as the big money moves in and beats it down."

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