Mobilephones. Time to go Beyond Advertising.
As the New Year approaches we love to get into prediction mode on what will be the hot advertising ideas of 2008. More social networking, sure! Better search marketing, perhaps. IPTV, who knows? But one area that’s getting universal attention at the moment is the mobile advertising. Some think 08 will be the year of the mobile phone. With some 3.3 billion active mobile phones in the world it’s hard to argue against the phone and its future use as a medium of advertising.
Some people think mobile phones are the cigarettes of the 21st century. James Stewart of the University of Edinburgh has compiled a nice set of similarities between phones and fags. Most young people, the most attractive yet elusive demographic, out there have phones. Technologies are already in place – SMS, GPRS, WiFi, Bluecasting mobile TV, mobile gaming. So why is mobile marketing still a prediction and not a mass reality?
Sure there are many ways to reach advertising and communication messages on to mobile phone screens. And there is a lot happening on them just now. Admoda serves ad messages on to mobile phones, via the mobile internet. Warner Brothers has set up Studio 2.0 and brought in a veteran adman, Rich Rosenthal to head the company. A service like 160 by 2 is conceived to be the ‘next step’ in mobile advertising, wherein users themselves opt-in to carry advertisements in their personal SMS.
While these efforts are laudable and need to be worked with, are they really the future of advertising on the mobile phone? Will there be a single idea, like the 30, that will make phones a viable tool for mass marketers? We think not!
We believe that there will be more than one idea that gets wide acceptance. Smaller ideas that do simple, specific tasks to provide new kinds of value to people. Some of them will be boring and unappealing that they may not qualify as an “idea” in the traditional advertising sense. Like couponing. Loyalty programs that are managed using phones rather than smart cards. QR Code, a kind of barcode that can be read using a mobile phone camera to provide people additional information on brands and services. Social tagging services like Urban Tapestries to tag physical areas with all kinds of interesting virtual information. Google’s mobile dating startup Dodgeball is evolving into a mobile social networking sort of service. Even creative ideas are beginning to appear. Where the phone becomes a tool for play, not a place to push advertsing into. Like this virtual graffiti idea from Marco Ecko.
While we are seeing new and interesting ideas all around. One of the things that we need to keep in mind going forward is that we have to give up our hangover of television and look at the phone not as a smaller TV screen but a tool that people love to be with. If we are pushing commercial messages on to phones, we need to find a way to offer value that TV or any other medium cannot provide. Sure mobile phones, or personal wireless devices will be a big thing for consumers and marketers for many, many years. You can expect a prediction for 09 in this newsletter in 12 months time. Or maybe we will do a round of all the things we didn’t do right in 08.