EUROPE'S MOST WANTED: THE NEW UPWARDLY MOBILE - The ad executives' old toolkit - the Montblanc pen and high quality notepaper - have been replaced. Deborah Bonello has a look inside their briefcases at the mobile technology that's become a requisite

Having a mobile phone might have been one of the ultimate yuppie

status symbols in the business world ten to 15 years ago, but nowadays

they are everywhere. The average 12-year-old school kid is as likely to

own one as an advertising executive.



And as the penetration of mobile technology soars, mobile channels are

increasingly being used as both a marketing tool and route to market by

brands.



Of course, we're not just talking about mobile phones. Although much

less widespread, personal digital assistants are also becoming

increasingly popular among the high-end professionals and have replaced

the mighty Filofax as the essential organising accessory. Industry

executives have kissed goodbye to their posh fountain pen and scribbling

pads - it's all gone digital.



But things just aren't what they used to be and mobile devices haven't

always been particularly mobile. Phil Talbot, the director of

international clients at Optimedia, reminisces about the old days. He

says: "I had my first mobile phone in the mid-80s and it weighed so much

that it enabled me to negotiate a new company car as it was too heavy to

carry. It certainly wasn't mobile - the batteries were enormous and are

probably now in the design museum. I could never lose it in the back of

a cab!"



And does anyone remember the car phone? Poster Publicity's managing

partner, Mike Segrue, recalls: "I had my first mobile phone, which was a

car phone, back in 1986. I thought it was great at the time." Fast

forward to the present day, and mobile technology has become infinitely

more interactive, as well as versatile and lighter, and has also become

increasingly synonymous with kudos and cool.



Mobile phone marketing, to date, has mainly consisted of SMS text

messaging, and has been regarded as the best way to reach a primarily

teen audience. But text-messaged purchase offers form only a small part

of mobile marketing strategies. The most successful mobile marketing

strategies will be those that offer something that is of value to the

consumer. Brands can sponsor updates of financial or traffic

information, for example, and media owners can push their content to

users via their mobiles and PDAs - Smash Hits and the film Bridget

Jones's Diary are two of the most recent examples.



Worldpop's marketing director, Dan Avener, says: "The key thing to

remember is that it has to be opt-in, as this means that the customer

has chosen to receive an ad or a message."



So are advertisers using the new mobile channels to target the high-end,

tech-savvy agency people who are such frequent users? Whereas for

teenagers, mobile phones are often a way of life, for their more mature

and professional users they are a tool. Lars Becker, the managing

director of the mobile marketing company Flytxt, is adamant that mobile

channels are not just for reaching teen audiences. He says: "If you look

at TV, the high-earning and spending executives don't watch Home & Away

but they do watch the news, so you'd act accordingly by sponsoring

financial news updates or travel bulletins rather than the pop or soap

content. It's just a medium."



Whereas mobile phones have become ubiquitous, PDAs are used mainly by

high-end professionals and have a low penetration compared with mobile

users. Their user group is much more suited to high-end car and fashion

brands that have nothing to gain from marketing to teenagers. But are

such brands using this channel?



To a certain extent, yes. IBM created a PDA game through Ogilvy

Interactive and Beyond Interactive, the digital advertising agency,

created a PDA marketing campaign for VNU. But where are the BMWs and the

Pradas? Beyond's director of media, Pete Robins, says advertisers are

still experimenting.



However, the niche nature of the PDA market seems to be dissuading some

brands from using the platform for advertising. Robins says: "I think

some of the bigger brands might look at PDA and think the numbers are

too small for them to worry about, even though they stand to benefit

from using it."



Becker adds: "It might be useful, for example, for some airlines

targeting in the high-end market. But most marketers have a broader

focus."



Although mobile phones are now mass market, any handheld device is

considered a personal space by its user. Intrude on this personal space

with irrelevant messages and annoying ads and an advertiser risks

alienating an already sceptical audience, which is why the industry is

in the process of trying to create an opt-in standard for mobile

marketers. Such factors drastically reduce the risk of irritating

potential consumers.



As technology improves, moving images, colour and sound will be added to

the portfolio of tools that marketers can use via mobile. As this

happens, some of the bigger brands will begin to come on board and

invest in mobile as a useful route to market and will start to cash in

on the position of handheld gadgets as the must-have of any business

executive.



AND IN THE FUTURE?



The first mobile computer I had was an Osborne and it was the size of a

commercial sewing machine. You had to be convinced that you would need

to use it before deciding to carry it anywhere. Meanwhile, the Filofax

population was huge and the thickness and diversity of its content

proved you were organised and socially acceptable. Today, the Filofax

has waned and PDAs have caught on. A PalmV, the world's most popular PDA

device, offers more raw computing power than my old Osborne in the size

of a small wallet.



I don't believe the briefcase will even exist in ten years' time. I

first thought we would replace it with a digital device such as a laptop

which had broadband access to the internet but I think that's way out of

whack.



I'm now convinced we will have a bunch of things strung about our person

that all talk to each other via a wireless network - something probably

derived from Bluetooth.



So, to see and read things, you'll need a headset device, a cross

between a pair of glasses and a retinal scanner, and a pair of "deep"

earpiece gizmos that you'll wear all the time.



These will "communicate" with your "processor sleeve" which will replace

your wristwatch. It will have a small screen and it will run data

processing and communications. It would be sensible to include body

metabolism sensing - shutting down circuits and power consumption when

you're asleep and preventing you from driving your car when you are too

pissed. It could also manage all your security for you - allowing you

though doors and delivering credit without the hassle of carrying keys

and credit cards.



Of course, you will need data - possibly a 50-trigabyte data vault made

from gallium arsenide and foamed silicon that is marginally smaller than

a packet of matches. This will carry all your personal data, which will

be constantly updated by the broadband communication. All the

entertainment that you have subscribed to will be stored here so you can

watch stuff on your retinal scanner glasses or via your home cinema

projector once you're within range. And batteries? You won't need them.

Power will come from heat recycling pads stitched in your underwear.



- Rod Banner is the chairman and chief executive of WPP's technology

marketing agency, Banner Corporation.



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