Tuesday, July 1, 2008

The next 12 months in mobile ...

We've had some exciting developments this year within the mobile space in terms of advertising and marketing opportunities that look like the first steps in moving the device from the much maligned too hard basket (or spam tool) to being a device that offers exciting ways to meet marketing challenges.

Namely Telstra offering their content free to browse for their subscribers - which, whilst not ideal (reasonably priced datacaps would be the utopia - which allow users to use their mobile to access all content with no danger of bill shock) as well as the iPhone launching on July 11 and a stack of similar, multimedia devices entering the market in the next 6 months.

As an agency guy I have used mobile for about half a dozen campaigns this year and the results have been appealing. I liken it to the web 10 years ago - lots of users, minimal clutter, high response rates (all positives) but combined with carrier obstacles, slow connection speeds, inexperienced sales and no real standard o/s (all negatives). On a really positive side, clients are open and often proactive about the space and are willing to experiment on the medium ... this is great as it means ad dollars will arrive, and these ad dollars can fuel more refinement and innovation and investment.

I'm no mobile expert, but I do have an understanding of wider media, especially digital ... and I don't believe the device is a specialty area.

So, what are 5 key areas that I think will be a focus

1. Opening up the mobile Internet

The net didn't really tip in terms of becoming a mainstream channel until connection speeds increased and users could access these speeds at a reasonable price. Right now this isn't the case with the mobile Internet. Secondly, the concept of a walled garden Internet seems ludicrous (imagine iinet subscribers only being able to access iinet content with their connection, and if they wanted to look at myspace or facebook or espn they'd incur extra charges) ... however this is how the mobile Internet is forming. It needs to open up and the carriers need to focus on being carriers and not content providers.

2. Understanding the device is a utility

I really hope that the mobile Internet isn't sold as a spots and dots display medium. yes, this plays a part ... but the real value for brands is getting into the branded utility/content space - becoming the media. Given the space is such a blank canvas now, there is room for brands to develop wap sites/apps etc that offer real value to people. Cue cliche on moving from interuption to immersion.

3. Location based services

Imagine something like yelp.com ... but on mobile ... that utilised location based services. It would be cool if you'd just seen a movie at the Kino, and a service could recommend you bars/places to eat nearby that were rated by a community you respect. The dominant voice when talking about location based services has been around ad spam - not utility - this needs to change

4. Maintaining web like functionality and feel on mobile web

How can we replicate or adapt the current web experience to the mobile? How can we make a site like afl.com.au as strong as an off deck wap site? Ditto for Hotmail etc. Google has done a great job with this already - maps, gtalk and gmail are pretty slick web apps. For mobile web to work the experience the user gets when they visit site x can't be a z-grade version of the web version.

5. Filtering through the mess

There are already 1865 apps that have been built by third parties for the iphone - http://www.apple.com/webapps/index_abc.html - and loads seem kinda irrelevant. Filtering through the mess of apps, widgets etc will be something users will have to endure - just like with Facebook and all those Slide and Rockyou useless widgets ... iPhoners will be bomarded with an equal amount of inane things to add. Advertisers need to make sure they are not just creating more junk, but creating something of use.

A few other areas worth mentioning is the mobile as a DR channel - I believe it has great strength in this area in numerous ways. Add CRM to this as well - which some companies are already using in a limited capacity.

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