Saturday, February 23, 2008

Mad Ave Faces Learning Curve On Incorporating Mobile Into Ad Plans | MediaPost

by Mark Walsh, Friday, Feb 8, 2008 8:30 AM ET
AGENCIES ARE GEARING UP FOR mobile advertising, but the process of mobile media planning and buying is still very much a work in progress according to a panel of ad executives convened at the OMMA Mobile conference Wednesday. Buoyed by growing client interest in mobile ads, agencies are starting to field mobile specialists and acquire the expertise to help elevate cell phones to must-buy media. But incorporating mobile into the marketing mainstream remains a learning process for both Madison Avenue and advertisers.

On the bright side, media buyers say clients are now more committed to spending on mobile advertising than a year or two years ago. Mobile in the past was the last line item in the media mix," said Bryon Morrison, president of ipsh!, the mobile marketing firm acquired in 2005 by Omnicom Group. "Now they realize the medium's not going to go away and they're taking a different approach."

He noted that clients were approaching the Omnicom unit in the last six months with dedicated mobile budgets.

To capture an expected rise in mobile ad dollars, Jeff Stier, senior vice president, business growth, North America, JWT, said the firm this year has begun assigning a [X2: JUST ONE] mobile marketing expert to its "core teams" across the agency. "So mobile marketing is integrated right into the mix from the very beginning," he said.

Within its "Section 64" innovation unit, JWT is also taking a proactive approach by testing mobile marketing initiatives that the agency can then use to help convince clients of the effectiveness of mobile advertising. "I think overall mobile budgets are still small compared to traditional media so we're creating platforms proving consumers want to spend time in the mobile space," Stier said.

In an earlier panel Wednesday, Louis Gump, vice president, mobile, Weather Channel Interactive, cited a recent JupiterResearch report estimating that 7% major brands would spend more than $1 million on mobile ad campaigns this year, and another 13% would spend more than $100,000. But most mobile advertisers are still spending well under $50,000 on mobile.

Compiling research on mobile consumers has been a key focus at Starcom Worldwide as well. Angela Steele, who is spearheading Starcom's mobile efforts, explained that the firm has pursued research to find out the extent of advertising consumers are willing to accept on their cell phones. "Because the device is personal, advertising really needs to be relevant," she said. The more relevant an ad or promotional offer is, the more receptive mobile users will be to the message.

James McNamara, former director of sales channels at Sprint, who recently left to help start mobile consultancy Wasabi Mobile, pointed to targeted opportunities for retailers especially in customer relations marketing. In that model, a retailer might try to cross-match data for a certain group of customers with that of a wireless carrier to send a highly targeted coupon offer, for example. In testing, that type of program has shown conversion rates better than 20%.

Of course, such an initiative would also raise privacy issues and the challenge of extending it across carriers. But McNamara said it was important for agencies to approach mobile more as a direct response channel rather than as a traditional broadcast medium. "Data is really the gold nugget of mobile advertising," he said.

Just sorting out the fragmented mobile landscape is a big part of the agencies' education process for now. Steele explained that Starcom meets with everyone connected to the mobile industry because it can't rule out any players in the emerging market. But that doesn't necessarily mean the meetings last long.

"Every company says they're a full service mobile solution, but after about five minutes of drilling down you figure out that they only have one small piece of it," she said.

Mark Walsh can be reached at

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