Saturday, October 9, 2010

MEDIAPOST: Are The Expectations For Mobile Too High?

Last week I attended OMMA Global in New York and I listened to a number of panels and presentations regarding mobile; it’s effectiveness, it’s reach and other pertinent facts. I came out of all of the sessions asking the same question; are our expectations for mobile possibly too high?

Let me clarify first that I am a big believer in mobile as a consumer medium. I constantly utilize my iPhone and my iPad and I can say confidently they are an integral part of my life. I can also say confidently that for the last ten years mobile has been “two years away” from the “promised land” (whatever that is). I’m starting to think our expectations for what the platform can be are not fair and there are too many companies trying to pin their entire business models on the hopes that mobile will sustain them all.

Mobile is a deeply personal medium. I get it. Marketing messages that can invade the mobile environment and resonate with the audience can also be deeply effective. I get it. The problem is that the messages literally have to “invade” and “resonate”, which are two things at odds when it comes to mobile.

The majority of the mobile advertising and marketing opportunities are invasive, and by the sheer nature of being invasive they’re not welcome by the consumer. When you broadcast or display a message that’s not welcome, you’re automatically starting from a position further away from the starting line. You have a more difficult road to weave to break through when you drop an ad unit in someone else’s app that has no contextual relevancy and is only there because of so-called demographic targeting. Say what you will for contextual relevancy, but it works for billions of dollars in paid media. There are certainly apps which get past this quandary by being self-selected by the consumer and the ads integrated into the experience try to maintain relevance. These can be more effective, but you’re typically still dealing with a space which is far smaller than even the smallest online ad for a standard website (even text ads on Google are larger than the majority of graphical ads on your smart-phone). Even if you hold your phone six inches from your face, these ads are just not as impactful. This doesn’t even take into account the fact that such a deeply personal medium means that when a consumer uses it, they’re most likely ultra-focused on a task at hand and they don’t pay as close attention to the ads and marketing messages. Those are some steep hurdles to jump. Almost sisyphysian for some.

I know there’s data to prove me wrong on this, but the data and research I see is typically based on one small snapshot of a mobile campaign in a vacuum and not integrated with the rest of the media mix. That doesn’t tell the whole story.

While I believe mobile is a tool, I believe it is a tool for consumer retention and messaging to your existing audience. I do not personally believe that it is a good acquisition vehicle, nor is it a good introductory vehicle for generating initial awareness. I feel mobile should be positioned as a secondary vehicle for marketers who are already engaging with their consumers and are looking for additional frequency, and ways to stay top-of-mind. To that end, I would want to see more research dedicated to mobile as a CRM and secondary frequency vehicle. I know there are mobile marketing companies rising up every day (and many of you email me at least once a week) but what I’m looking for is a mobile marketing company that integrates their offerings into other forms of media. Mobile is not a stand-alone vehicle. It requires partnership with other media vehicles to be truly effective. Mobile is an extension of print, it is an extension of TV and it is certainly an extension of out-of-home media. When it comes to online, mobile is a sub-segment of the greater picture because any device that can be un-tethered from your desk is considered mobile, and therefore cannot be planned or implemented all by it-self.

I’ve written pieces like this before, and I’m sure I’ll write them again. For mobile to meet our expectations as a medium, we need to make sure the expectations are accurate, achievable and fair. My fear is there are a plethora of companies launching in the mobile space and not being set-up to succeed because they aren’t setting the bar at a realistic level to jump.

You may agree or you may not, so let me know on the Spin Board!

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