PERSONAL SERVICES Mobile Marketing editor David Murphy looks back at the progress mobile has made as a marketing tool in the 11 years since we launched hen we launched Mobile Marketing magazine in 2005, it was off the back of a conviction that, if harnessed correctly, mobile could be one of the most powerful marketing channels ever placed at brands’ disposal. Where TV offered broad reach – at a price – at a time when people still routinely watched TV programmes in their millions around the same TV set, mobile looked like a much more personal channel, potentially delivering on the promise of true oneto-one marketing that a lot of marketing people will tell you they strive for. So 11 years on, has mobile delivered on its promise? My answer would be: not yet, and where it has, not in the ways we might have expected.
was one of the first brands to appreciate and leverage the power of a branded app with its iPint app. One-dimensional yes, but worth millions to the brand in terms of coverage and consumer engagement. Today, with around 2m apps apiece in the Apple App Store and Google Play, the humble app faces much more competition to be noticed, downloaded, and then retained by users who have dozens of apps on their handset, most of which are routinely ignored. But done well, I would argue, an app gets as close as anything on mobile to delivering on this promise of oneto-one engagement.
Progress In some respects, there has been a great deal of progress. Look at the handsets doing the rounds in the mid-noughties – the ‘Mars Bars’ from Nokia and Sony Ericsson, the Moto RAZR, the Blackberrys. I would love to have been a fly on the wall in any of those companies’ board rooms the day the iPhone made its bow in 2007. I wasn’t, of course, but I’d be willing to hazard a guess that phrases like: “Why the &*%$ didn’t we do this?!” were doing the rounds, as the established handset makers welcomed into their ranks, with some trepidation, a company best known at that time for producing portable music players. Since then, of course, Apple has gone from strength to strength, while Nokia, Motorola, Sony Ericsson and BlackBerry have fallen by the wayside in handset terms. Samsung has risen to prominence, and the OS fragmentation of a decade ago (remember Bada and Symbian, among numerous others?) has settled down into a straight two-horse race between iOS and Android. In 2007, as now, much of the excitement in the mobile world was around advertising.
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Value exchange I remember seeing Russell Buckley, who was so enthused by the idea of mobile advertising that he took a job with AdMob, giving a live demo of its self-serve platform in Paris in early 2006. Unusually for a live demo, it worked fantastically well, which was one of the reasons why AdMob made such great strides, to the point where Google paid $750m (£573m) to acquire the platform in 2009. It was advertising on mobile that looked best positioned to deliver on this promise of one-to-one communication. But while the automated, personalised delivery of ads to mobile phones may have advanced with the rise of programmatic, the creative side of things, with some notable exceptions, has stagnated. The banner still rules the roost, as it did back in 2006. As ad tech firm Sizmek likes to ask at conferences: “We can all remember great TV ads, but who can name me a great mobile ad?” What arrived to fulfil that role of personal communications, of course, was the app, one year after the launch of the iPhone, in 2008. There had been Java mobile apps before the iPhone – car-maker Peugeot was an early fan of these – but the App Store just made it easy, and Carling
Some other random observations: paying people to watch ads on mobile has never worked, but still companies try it; Tesco Mobile being the latest with its Xtras launch in June. The value exchange is just never there. The number of ads you have to put up with for the rewards you get – around 900 per month for £3 off your bill in Tesco’s case – just doesn’t stack up. The way Facebook has come to dominate the mobile advertising space was hard to foresee. For years, up to and beyond its IPO in 2012, the consensus was that people went on social networks to relax and hang out with friends, not to be sold to. But $6.2bn (£4.7bn) – the ad revenue figures Facebook posted in Q2 2016, 84 per cent of that from mobile, driven, by a relatively new thing called native – is hard to argue with. And as we look ahead to the next 10 years, what do we see? AR, VR, wearables, connected cars, connected homes, connected contact lenses and pills. It’s all incredibly exciting, if not a little confusing while the startups jockey for position and the money-men decide who to back. And yet, when I pick up my phone and fire up an app or a web page, what do I see? A banner ad. Plus ça change … MM
The September 2016 print edition of Mobile Marketing