Why have you forgotten what you are good at (guest blog)

I am delighted to present a guest blog from Jim Brooks, an authority on mobile media & advertising and an all round good guy. Jim has over 25 years experience in the media and marketing industries. He started his career in advertising working with many of the blue chip agencies before launching a career as an independent consultant innovating and launching new business initiatives within traditional and new media channels. 

Despite the deafening buzz, using the mobile as a marketing channel is certainly not a new phenomenon.  For close to ten years, the medium has been maturing and its use beyond voice has experienced exponential growth. From the onslaught of the Crazy Frog and its mobile content pals to the apparently sophisticated channel we are presented with today – mobile has been on a big journey but seems to have stalled somewhat. On the plus side, mobile advertising platform Admob has just sold to Google for $750m – an expensive validation of a market that has had a big question mark over it for some time.

Figures trying to quantify the industry are vast and varied. Nielsen recently released figures stating that over 10 million Britons now use their mobiles to surf the internet with smartphones accounting for one in seven handsets. Research from Orange says that over half of those with mobile phones use them to access the internet. Stats from Futuresource Consulting suggest that 20% of people in the UK use their phones to connect to the internet. So that is 20% of the 10 million? Or half of all people with phones? Or half of the 10 million?  When it comes to the size of the market, the IAB calculated that in the UK, brands spent £28.6m on mobile campaigns. Gartner expects this to grow by 74% in 2009. O2 expects it to grow by 150% by 2013.

These figures are just some of the thousands of numbers flying around trying to quantify the size, potential and revenue potential of mobile. So who you do listen to? The analysts; the vendors; the technology providers; Apple, Google,; the industry bodies? Many of the views are contradictory and no one seems focused on the bigger picture. One thing is clear; mobile will happen, it’s just a case of when. In the interim everyone is chattering in a bid to talk ‘the year of mobile’ to fruition. For ad agency professionals, this presents a problem. Confusion and noise equals risk.

Many Agencies and media agencies now realise that mobile has significant potential, not least because many of their own brands are by-passing them and driving their own mobile initiatives. Mobile, still tagged by many ‘as experimental’ still only nervously acquires experimental budgets. How on earth  can you answer with any confidence the most audible question of ‘ where’s the money’  if many current  mobile campaigns which still not only look like those delivered in 2002 are deployed with budgets from as little as £1000.

The opportunity has been clearly established but the realisation is still too difficult.
It is my view that the biggest block to agency engagement in the medium is the mobile industry itself. The industry is fragmented with walled gardens and multiple platforms. It is like agencies having to produce a TV advert for each TV station and each type of TV set. Unrealistic to expect such an investment from a business focused on maximising the return for a brand’s cash. We need much more collaboration and this needs to be driven by the associations that have the membership to make a change – the GSMA, MMA and IAB.  The initial brief of these organisations – to validate the medium has been achieved – they now need to accelerate their work  transitioning the platform from experimental to a core part of a brand campaign. A lot of this will come down to measurement. Ad agencies are highly accountable and use complex planning tools to hit the right audience at the right time. Mobile analytics need to slot in to this proprietary technology. The mobile industry needs to arm the ad industry with all the tools, insight and understanding it needs to sell mobile to its clients, to integrate it into existing and new campaigns and quantify its success as a medium.

In addition, mobile needs to review the value it brings to the marketing mix. The industry is focused on costs of text and click through rates. In actual fact, the power of the mobile platform to enhance brand value is significant but this still isn’t part of the conversation. The industry is cheapening itself when it has the opportunity to combine direct response with brand awareness to offer a complete package.

Mobile’s flexible nature means that is can stand alone as a marketing platform or work to enhance an existing multi-channel campaign. Mobile can be the glue or a ‘digital bridge’ for traditional media. Calls to action can be integrated with a web or TV campaign to make it easy for consumers to opt-in to mobile campaign activity “text BARGAIN to 8330 to receive regular updates on discounts at your local supermarket”. As a result, a brand can now communicate directly with its customers, build one-to-one relationships and obtain customer insight – something that other forms of advertising struggle to do. Major brands are already realising the potential of mobile – BA, Lufthansa, Johnson & Johnson, Coca Cola and Argos are all investing heavily and realising the returns. Argos has over five million active users of its Text & Take Home and notifications service with 30 million SMS sent since launch in 2006 and more than £100 million pounds worth of products reserved and collected as a direct result of the inclusion of mobile. These figures coupled with the reported 90% year on year growth of the customer take-up makes it’s a great case study in the use of mobile as a platform to extend the customer relationship.

Despite the increasing number of success stories, the momentum seems to be stalling. In my opinion, to boost adoption and investment, a couple of things need to happen – the mobile industry needs to collaborate and the ad industry needs to do what it does best – drive the brief. The mobile operators have access to some incredibly valuable customer data – if they were to pool this information to offer an overall picture, it would offer real revenue potential. The operators need to understand the ad agency and the information required to plan and manage campaigns and the GSMA along with the likes of the MMA need to a create framework to allow this to happen. On the flip side, the ad agencies need to invest in understanding the medium and be clear on what it needs to start engaging fully with mobile. 

For 150 years, the ad industry has driven media innovation and owned every new platform. But for some reason, most are leaving mobile out…not bothering…it’s too difficult. There are a few exceptions - some visionaries who are taking significant steps to understand the potential of the mobile platform from a holistic viewpoint and investing in in-house research rather than spending thousands on external reports and conferences passes.  It is time for the ad industry to decide what ‘good’ looks like when it comes to integrating mobile. Mobile isn’t just about winning awards, apps or T-shirts by texting a shortcode on the back of a crisp packet. It can be a long term strategic brand investment if given the right attention. The ad industry has some of the smartest people when it comes to how a brand can engage with its customers – it needs to use this experience and the view it has from above the media silos and look at mobile properly. The agencies need to assign money and talent, it needs to work collaboratively to drive the agenda and reclaim its position of authority.

About Jim:
Jim spent 12 years at major blue chip advertising agencies including Ogilvy, McCann and JWT across a variety of roles from Creative group head to Creative Director and business development and the last 10 years spent developing and demonstrating the potential of mobile marketing and advertising initiatives for commercial development within brands their ad agencies and media companies. Highlights include:

  • Initial programming acquisition and ad formatting for BskyB
  • Lead consumer adoption strategy for first pan European consumer facing internet provider
  • Lead strategic role in the creation of pre-pay to stimulate subscriber acquisition and the launch of Orange as the third mobile operating company in the UK
  • Instrumental in the concept, trail and commercial development of TV text voting conceived within CMG and saw it commercially developed with Endemol through its early stage adoption by programmes such as Big Brother
  • Lead global strategy for Vodafone group helping them understand how to become a mobile media channel and develop global mobile advertising and marketing initiatives duplicated strategy at Orange.