By Tim Welsh (@Twel5)
A look at some of the issues the mobile advertising industry is facing today, and what the future may hold.
Is 2013 finally the year of the mobile devices? It might be. While nobody on this year’s mobile panel was willing to repeat the phrase that we’ve heard for a few years now, some of the evidence would point to that trend…again.
The panel itself was well-rounded, featuring Derrick Dennis (VP of Arbitron Mobile), Heidi Browning (SVP of Strategic Solutions at Pandora), Jim Parkinson (Chief Digital & Technology Officer at Valassis) and Gregory Nichols (VP of Digital Advertising at RED Interactive). We truly had everything that a mobile advertising advocate could ask for.
When it comes to figuring out the current state of the mobile market, who better to ask than Derrick from Arbitron Mobile? As I watched him outline how society is using phones, I realized that most of us are just scratching the surface of mobile knowledge when we start creating our mobile strategies. Some takeaways from his status update include:
- People prefer to do certain activities on their browsers rather than applications.
- People spend 2-3 times more time on social media and games than they do making calls.
- iPhone users use more data than owners of other phones.
- Phone usage peaks during prime hours in the evening.
As we collectively looked at the data that Derrick shared with us and listened to his explanation, it became clear that we’re just scratching the surface of mobile. Greg remarked, “The word that comes to mind is opportunity.” Adding to that sentiment and commenting on the amount of information that can be garnered from mobile, Jim casually said, “What’s interesting is that I get to know where you are.”
Leading into where we’re going, Greg walked us through some marvelous examples of potential mobile ads of the future. He also pointed out the limitations that the IAB is putting on mobile ads and encouraged us to comment on it while public commenting is open. (Closes on 06/10/2013) He also brought up an interesting point with mobile that we don’t see a lot in advertising when he said, “Technology is behind the creative.” Currently, Greg’s team at RED Interactive has been working on a series of ad types for ESPN and other partners that are harder to ignore than typical banner ads but add actual value to a user’s experience, a simple yet novel idea for something that is going to take up real estate on a relatively small screen. Adding to the idea pool of ad types for mobile devices, Heidi shared some of the ads that her team at Pandora is rolling out to its users. Two of these ads were banners that integrated with other functions on your phone such as maps or schedules. The last was an interesting lead generation tool that allowed users to sign up for new services using the information that they’ve already given Pandora.
One trend that I noticed when it came to advice and examples that the panel gave on advertising is that it was very much experience-centric. The ESPN ads that Greg showed off were relevant to the crowd that you might expect on the ESPN mobile site or apps. The Pandora ads were very much an experience that could add to your music experience, not take away from it. As Jim said, “The stuff that you can learn is unbelievable, especially on a mobile phone.” If we use what we can learn/deduce from mobile information well, as marketers, we can create ads and branded content that add to experience rather than disrupt in a negative way. On these devices that we take everywhere, such content may be the solution that we’re all really looking for.
As far as the future goes, one thing seems certain and that is that mobile is still an uncertain field. “It’s the wild west out there”, said Greg. Jim added that we’re going to see changes and there are going to be a lot of challenges, but “It’s going to be fun.” Quoting one of her engineers, Heidi simply said, “This sh*t is hard.” Perhaps, some of the changes in the near future will be standardization in OS regulations. One thing is for sure though; no matter if 2013 is the ‘Year of Mobile’ or not, mobile isn’t going anywhere. The overall advice that the panel seemed to give out was, “Think about how you can enrich the experience of your community based on where they are and what they’re doing, and don’t be afraid to experiment.”