We’ve had to put up with the 'mobile advertising is the future' message for a long time. This is pretty damaging to the marketing industry.
As long as marketers are led to believe that the marketing purpose of mobile lies in display advertising, we’re missing out on the true potential of mobile, which is much more powerful and desirable for both marketers and the audience.
Almost every new advertising venture or channel talks about the potential of the revenue of mobile advertising - usually by way of comparison with other channels such as 'is currently £Xm based on Ym users, therefore mobile has the potential to be £Zm'.
This simplistic view ignores a few important points:
- The sum total of advertising/marketing revenue is being spread more thinly with the advent of new channels. The figure that may have previously been spent on online display is now being distributed across search, traditional display, mobile, RTB, iAds, rich media, re-targeting and others (or variations thereof). This means that there are more people fighting for a slice of the same, often smaller, pie.
- The behaviour of mobile users is fundamentally different to online browsing. Albeit an oversimplification, they are less likely (with some exceptions) to want to be distracted into clicking a banner and being diverted away from what they are looking at or doing. Mobile use is by and large more singleminded.
However, that is not to say that mobile advertising doesn’t or cannot work. It can, and will, be a very effective channel.
But the more we focus on ‘display’, the more we miss out on the combined wealth of the other options I’ve already alluded to.
The very power of the mobile channel is its valuable role as part of a wider strategy, centering on what’s appropriate to the brand, its marketing objectives and its target consumer. I sometimes call this the ‘Heads Up/Heads Down’ approach.
An audience is in ‘heads down’ mode when they’ve got their mobile in their hand. They’ll be in that familiar pose - neck bent, looking downwards - possibly texting a friend, playing Angry Birds Rio or checking out the Wolves result on the web.
Arguably, this is a good time to deploy some mobile advertising.
However, your audience spends most of their life in ‘heads up’ mode. Their mobile will be in their pocket and they’ll either be engaged with whatever is in front of them or they’ll be staring into space.
And yet at this point we can still capture their attention, engage them with their mobiles and spark some engaging conversations.
A good ‘heads up’ example is DLKW’s ‘Pennies for Life’ digital poster created for the MicroLoan Foundation, a charity that helps set up small businesses for women in Africa.
Passers-by were invited to donate via text message, after which they’d witness their gift in coins fall into the poster, collectively building an image of one of the women who has already benefited from the scheme.
Similarly, an interactive Christmas window display for eBay by Brand New School in the US showed an array of toys with QR price tags. You scanned the tag to donate it to a child and were rewarded by the toy springing into life in front of you.
Our ‘Move to the Beat’ work for Coca-Cola’s London 2012 story invited the audience to remix the Mark Ronson track heard in the TV ad by downloading an app and moving their mobile around expressively to create a personalised version of the track.
AKQA’s Heineken Star Player app socializes and gamifies the viewing of UEFA Champions League matches. It invites you to play ‘fastest finger first’ quizzes on your mobile, and make predictions on the outcome, all in real time, all under the lager’s sponsorship banner.
This kind of advertising is not technology-led or driven by a given mechanic. It’s ideas and creativity led. It takes a creative, strategic approach to mobile and unleashes it in all its personal, interactive, engaging glory.
People forget that mobile isn’t just a channel for broadcasting a message - it’s a mass-market, one to one communication opportunity with very powerful creative capabilities.