Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Mobile Marketing: How Will it Grow?

Over the past five years or so, there's been more and more discussion about integrating mobile marketing into the direct marketing mix. You can find almost equal opinions on either side of the equation. Some feel that marketing to wireless phones won't work because the content isn't quite there yet, and consumers will feel that it is too much of a hassle to integrate mobile into their lives. Others feel that, as marketers, you're definitely missing the boat if you aren't actively engaged in strategically placing mobile marketing as an integral channel in your multi-channel marketing plan.

DM News just posted an article with two very different viewpoints on this subject. Entitled "Should Cell Ads Cost more than Web Ads," they pit Roger Woods, SVP and GM of the Americas at Amobee Media Systems against Robert Arena, VP and Interactive Director at Carton Donofrio Partners. Both gentlemen bring up some very interesting points in this very topical debate.

Woods argument is that "when visual real estate is severely limited and highly desired, demand for it among media buyers is naturally very high. It's why mobile ad inventory will com­mand a premium price." Woods also believes that wireless carriers will maintain a significant advantage for at least the short-term due to the fact that they are the ones that have virtually unlimited access to all of those wireless screens. Finally, he reminds us that "the fundamental elements of reach, precision and supply are aligned for the wireless carrier to charge a premium price in any scenario" -- no matter how mobile marketing continues to evolve.

On the other side of the equation, Arena argues that mobile marketing is far from commanding the premium pricing of traditional display advertising. He compares lower mobile advertising revenues (at $871 million) to higher internet advertising revenues (at $24 billion), even though more people have access to mobile phones than they do a computer and the internet. According to Arena, this is due to the fact that "metered pricing, slow networks and a frustrating user experience have dissuaded consumers from integrating mobile into their daily lives." In Arena's opinion, while a viable channel to keep our eyes on, mobile marketing still has a long way to go before it is adopted as a widely-used direct marketing channel.

So, here are two very different opinions on a direct marketing channel that we've been talking about for some time -- and is continuing to gain in importance. I'm thinking that mobile marketing will, in fact, command a premium price as the technology becomes more "consumer- friendly." There are many new, forward-thinking firms out there who are creating the technology to enable interactive media campaigns via the wireless instrument (take a look at CommerceTel's website). So, the technology is here . . . therefore, consumer-friendly is not that far off.

Consider the fact that the largest Generation alive today -- the Millenial Generation (those 8-22 year olds) absolutely depends upon their wireless phone, and you can start to believe that mobile marketing will continue to grow in importance as a marketing channel. This Generation embraces the wireless phone so much so that it has become almost an appendage to their bodies -- they literally depend on their phones to keep them connected. Millenials are now entering the workforce and will bring their ideas/needs to those companies that they work for. They may become (or perhaps have become) the springboard that will launch mobile marketing into the same stratosphere as internet advertising as they demand to have content delivered to them on their all-time favorite electronic device.

We'd love to hear your opinions as this debate rages on!

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