Mobile decoded - a moving target

Catching consumers on the go and enabling them to respond to an ad at any time and from anywhere, mobile marketing is opening up new opportunities for advertisers.

What do Audi, Douwe Egberts and Help the Aged have in common? While the combination may trigger mental images of expensive vehicles parked on a large gravel drive for a fundraising coffee morning, the brands also share a willingness to integrate mobile response into their ads.

When Audi launched its R8 through Bartle Bogle Hegarty earlier this year, it sought to involve a much broader audience than could actually afford the car. Front and back views of the German car featured on 1,366 roadside posters. A simple headline, "Now listen to it", invited consumers to text R8 to a shortcode number. Those that did received in return an engine noise ringtone of an R8 racing at Silverstone.

The mobile technology specialist Sponge provided the technical expertise that allowed 22,636 ringtones to be downloaded during the two weeks that the posters were up, and another 4,000 the following week. Sponge estimates a further 76,000 were distributed virally.

Douwe Egberts, working with Mobile Interactive Group and ITV, used mobile combined with TV advertising to drive sampling of its new Cafe Switch product. After 19,000 samples were ordered by mobile during the first burst of activity late in 2006, the client plans to reactivate the campaign again this year. Help the Aged opted for ambient media, using creative on beermats to drive SMS donations.

Immersive brand experience, sampling, donations to a good cause ... each campaign had a different objective, but mobile response was integral every time. Marketers are increasingly building a mobile response element into their advertising, but the challenge is to do it well.

The BBH creative director and head of content, Mark Boyd, claims the R8 campaign worked because it had "a mobile idea at the heart of it, rather than an apology call to action at the end". Brands often fail to give consumers sufficient reward for responding, he says.

One reason for clients taking mobile more seriously is an appreciation of its versatility. Brand engagement and data capture are obvious benefits, but testing campaign effectiveness, both overall and against different creative executions and media slots, is another.

The latter was used by Help the Aged, for which Joshua G2 and Que Pasa devised an in-venue campaign consisting of cartoon-like beermats that attracted customers' attention with hard-hitting stories about isolation and a mobile call-to-action. Consumers were able to donate £3 via text. Different executions were developed to target different audiences - for mainstream venues such as All Bar One, family focused places such as Harvester and Pizza Hut and student haunts. Different keywords were assigned to each creative, allowing the client to gauge the effectiveness by target group. To the charity's surprise, the best response came from students.

Hugh Burrows, the Que Pasa director, marketing and business development, says clients thrive on the amount of learning and statistics such campaigns generate - not to mention revenue, in the case of Help the Aged. But he feels that the planning and buying model has to change if mobile is to be better exploited.

The MIG head of marketing services, Tim Dunn, agrees: "The traditional media buying agencies are still not on top of the lead generation and ROI metrics that can be driven directly from airtime. Whatever the advertiser is, there's generally a response mechanic that will work."

Retailers, for example, could persuade consumers to text in to get the location of their nearest store by rewarding them with a discount.

The credit-card giant Visa has been running a mobile promotion through May and June highlighted by its TV, radio and outdoor advertising, encouraging customers to text in whenever they make a purchase and be entered into a prize draw. Saatchi & Saatchi developed the creative, Mediaedge:cia handled the media and Sponge provided the technical solution. In the first week, there were 15,000 text entries; in the second, 20,000. Data from the first fortnight showed slots during the ITV soap Emmerdale and during Friends on E4 proved to be particularly effective at generating responses.

"Mobile is much higher up the consideration list these days," Joe Clift, the Visa senior vice-president, head of brand management, says. "That's owing to the twin aspects of engagement and measurability. We've found we can measure it to a very fine point."

Eliciting direct response is notoriously challenging and numbers are not huge, but many consumers will text back if the motivation is right. The recently published Activation Nation report, commissioned by the digital agency Siren, revealed that more than one in five of the UK population has become "activated" by using a mobile phone to text in to a TV programme.

Overall, however, the level of SMS response to advertising, Activation Nation found, is considerably lower than response to programming - one in 20 mobile phone users, with a slight male bias and a more affluent, mature profile. This perhaps reflects the fact that high-ticket advertisers in the car, travel and financial sectors have been the primary users of advertising featuring a SMS call to action to date.

One advantage of mobile response is that it can take place around the clock. Tim Carrigan, the chief executive of the mobile response specialist TXT4, says many text responses come in after 8pm, indicating a level of interest that might otherwise be lost. This can also alleviate pressure on contact centres during peak times. In addition, texts avoid frustrating telephone queueing systems.

"As we all carry a mobile device with us a majority of the time, it's the most accessible way for consumers to quickly respond to an ad at the moment they see it - whether on a bus, on the TV or out walking," Carrigan says.

"By sending a text, consumers can engage with a brand to request more information, sign up for news alerts and request a call back to place an order, make a donation or book a test drive. As these are handled automatically, lead generation costs are reduced and consumers receive an efficient service and improved brand experience."

In May, the pharmaceutical company Schering Health Care used the privacy of the mobile phone to launch a marketing campaign for the emergency contraceptive pill Levonelle. Metro and London Lite press ads ran a call to action for a mobile "find my nearest" service. This matched the location of the respondent with a database of chemists stocking the product, returning addresses of the three closest chemists. The campaign was devised by the mobile agency Incentivated, and media was planned and bought by Universal McCann.

Although mobile internet has been slow to take off, hampered in its early days by too much hype set against a poor user experience, there are signs that it is beginning to make some inroads. More campaigns are being developed to incorporate WAP sites to provide easily accessible platforms for further information about a brand around the clock.

TXT4, for example, has created sites ranging from those to launch Vauxhall cars to a mobile "what's on guide" to Edinburgh for Visit Scotland. With the former, it created a site linked to Delaney Lund Knox Warren & Partners' "c'mon" campaign for the Corsa. By texting "cmon" to 84464, consumers were able to get the lowdown on the puppet characters from the TV ads.

Bravissimo, the lingerie retailer for bigger-busted women, also worked with TXT4 on a national press, TV, radio and direct marketing campaign to promote its spring and summer mail-order catalogues. Consumers requested a brochure by texting specified keywords such as "curvy".

The television ad featured calls to action via phone and website, as well as the text number, but SMS proved to be the most popular communication channel for consumers, with SMS requests accounting for 45 per cent of total responses.

The Bravissimo marketing director, Jo Lee, says using keywords unique to each ad placement across all media channels helps assess which executions and placements are most effective. In addition, profiling respondents provides insights into the types of consumers Bravissimo is attracting.

"Approximately 80 per cent of the campaigns we manage involve consumers submitting their address, either so they can be mailed a brochure or to locate their nearest store or venue," Carrigan says. "Profiling this information using tools like Mosaic enables us to provide our clients with a rich picture of respondents in terms of their socio-demographics, lifestyles, culture and behaviour. "

Proximity systems such as Hypertag, which allow consumers to retrieve information using Bluetooth and infra-red technology by pointing their mobiles at enabled posters, present more options for generating response.

Mobile, so ubiquitous in our everyday lives, is giving advertisers and agencies plenty to ponder.


On 22 May, the GSM Association, which represents more than 700 mobile operators serving 2.4 billion users, launched a mobile advertising programme to drive the development of advertising on the "fourth screen": mobile phones. Through consultation across the marketing, advertising and mobile industries, the GSMA is hoping to achieve a more consistent approach to the delivery and measurement of mobile advertising.

The aim is to establish standards in metrics for measuring the effectiveness of mobile ads and for optimising the advertising formats for different kinds of mobile content. The programme will also promote codes of conduct for the development of marketing techniques that will enhance, rather than diminish, mobile users' experience.

As the Screentonic UK general manager, Jana Eisenstein, points out, the choice of format is now extremely wide. Channels include WAP/XHTML portals, downloadable Java applications, ads inserted at the end of SMS messages, MMS and audio ads in voice services, as well as video-on-demand and mobile television.

Advertising formats include sponsored text links and search and banner ads - the most significant in terms of volume today. Rich formats such as interstitials allow for full-screen ads while applications or games are being downloaded.

The GSMA programme comes at a time of intensifying activity. In April, the mobile media company 3 launched a range of advertiser-funded free-to-access content for customers on its Planet 3 portal. And this summer will see the debut of the pan-European ad-funded network Blyk.

Brands including Buena Vista, Coca-Cola, I-play Mobile Gaming, L'Oreal Paris, StepStone and Yell.com have confirmed that they will be among the first advertisers on Blyk. The service, which will use the Orange network, will offer 16- to 24-year-olds free mobile phone calls and texts in return for receiving advertising on their mobile handsets.

Emerging technologies are presenting fresh opportunities. Publicis, for example, has joined with technology companies, including HP, to establish the Mobile Codes Consortium, dedicated to creating "a new mobile marketing ecosystem". This is based on technology that allows a user to point a camera phone at a poster, leaflet, beermat or so on, capture the 2D barcode on it and be taken straight to a specially designed web page.

"We'll see this sort of thing take off," Thomas Curwen, the Publicis Dialog planning director, says. "But advertisers will have to be clear about what happens after a person responds. They will need to distinguish between whether this is a gateway to a transaction or the gateway to more interaction with their brand."

The CDP chief executive, Simon North, also sees potential in the barcode approach, among others. "As part of Dentsu Worldwide, we're fortunate in that we've been able to benefit from our parent company's vast experience in Japan, where the mobile phone is way more advanced than here in the UK and Europe.

"Over there, the infrastructure is in place to deliver reliable - faster than broadband speed - connectivity to mobile devices. With this has come tremendous innovation, with QRC (quick response codes) ... as well as marketing-friendly ideas, such as the ability to download, display and pay for samples, etc, with retailer accepted barcodes."

Chris Bourke, the managing director of the mobile marketing agency Aerodeon, says he is certain that ads on mobiles will soon bear no resemblance to the simple "banner" style ads that are currently been offered on mobile operator portals today. The advent of consumer location tracking, through either GPS or direct from the mobile operator using cell triangulation, combined with the unique content "snacking" habits of mobile consumers, leads Bourke to conclude that "completely new advertising offerings" will develop to leverage the nomadic 24/7 anytime-anyplace nature of the mobile consumer.

"In terms of mobile becoming the new PC, I can envisage the convergence of PC and phone," he adds. "I think this is inevitable, actually. Mobile will simply dock into a PC-based device on our desks and data will be shared between the two devices. New developments in memory and hard-disk technology will make it possible for us to carry around our 'PCs' in our pockets. We will connect via 3G, through Wi-Fi hotspots and through our broadband connections at home. Advertising will evolve to recognise that consumers will switch between mobile and deskbound modes so ads will need to leverage this. It will no longer be enough to expect that the consumer is at a PC."