By Jeff Barber
May 6, 2010
With wireless penetration reaching 91% in the U.S. and continuing to grow, companies must establish a strategy for reaching customers on their mobile devices or risk losing sales and possibly loyal customers. However, like any emerging advertising medium, the marketplace for delivering mobile ads is exploding. That can make it difficult to develop a clear mobile strategy. Here’s a guide to help get you started with mobile advertising.
Before investing in a mobile advertising effort, identify the customers you’re trying to reach and how to best use mobile advertising to influence them. The following questions can help guide you:
-¢ Who are your prospective customers?
-¢ What types of mobile devices do they use?
-¢ Where do they live, work, and travel?
-¢ How do they get data from the mobile Internet?
-¢ Why do you think mobile advertising is the right way to reach them?
-¢ Are you willing to spend money to learn the ins and outs of mobile advertising?
-¢ Do you want to build and distribute yourself, outsource, or employ a hybrid approach?
Components of Mobile Advertising
Once you establish who your customers are, you need to understand the options available for mobile media and ads, and how to use them to reach customers.
Mobile media is conceptually similar to Web media. New technologies are used to build, distribute, and display the media on mobile devices.
-¢ Web Pages: Specially formatted Web pages are designed to display on the small screens of handheld mobile devices.
-¢ Video: Starting with the iPhone and extending to other smart phones in 2009, many modern devices are capable of displaying high quality video.
-¢ Applications: While most people don’t think of apps as an ad medium, they are a creative way to reinforce your brand by providing customers a useful tool, educational content, or a game. Visit MobiAD News for cases studies of successful mobile advertising applications.
Different types of ads can be delivered through the mediums listed above. It’s important to know the strengths and weaknesses of each.
-¢ Banner Ads: Similar to traditional Web banners in their function; selecting the banner graphic can launch a mobile Web page, video, or application download.
-¢ Pre-Roll Ads: Short video “commercials” inserted before high-value video content such as sports clips, movie trailers, or online TV shows.
-¢ Multimedia Messaging can be incorporated in mobile Web pages or applications, using the SMS or MMS capabilities of wireless carriers to transmit links to mobile ad media in response to user requests.
-¢ Social Media Channels such as Facebook, MySpace, and YouTube can be used to deliver mobile advertising media. Users of mobile applications have at least one of these already.
Understanding How To Execute a Campaign
After identifying your customers and how to reach them, you’ll incorporate your creative into a mobile ad strategy. Your strategy must consider how you will deal with the limitations of mobile media, what provider(s) you will use, and how you will measure your success.
Working with Mobile Media
To build effective mobile media, you must understand the screen sizes, device and data capabilities, and rate plans of your target demographics. Include test devices in your budget so you can see what your customer will see. Consider conducting a market test on one mobile platform before investing in distribution to multiple platforms.
-¢ Web pages and video formatted for modern mobile devices will not work on older devices. Sometimes the reverse is also true. Traditional Web content, especially video, is not always compatible with modern mobile devices and rarely works on older devices. If your strategy requires reaching a broad demographic, choose a provider capable of formatting your ad content for multiple device types.
-¢ Applications are coded for each distribution platform. For example, if your strategy targets users of iPhone, Android, and BlackBerry devices, you must budget for building and maintaining three versions of the app.
Mobile advertising has a high technology aspect that can be overwhelming to the uninitiated. Take care to select providers that complement your in-house creative and IT capabilities.
-¢ Agencies range from traditional ad agencies with an interactive unit to companies that specialize in mobile advertising. This is the full-service experience.
-¢ Platforms only provide you with hosting and distribution capabilities. Creating the ad media and placing the ads on your target distribution channels is up to you.
-¢ Aggregators have relationships with a variety of distribution channels and can get you the ad placements you want for a fee or revenue share. Creating the ad media is up to you.
-¢ Networks maintain their own advertising platform, have relationships with distribution channels, and provide tools for mobile application developers. These tend to be large companies such as Apple, Google, or Microsoft, but also include smaller companies such as Transpera or Greystripe.
Evaluating the success of your program is a key factor in mobile advertising initiatives. A quality mobile advertising analytics engine measures your success and informs you if adjustments to your campaign are necessary. Your providers should have options available. If you build your own solution, integrate with an analytics provider. There are many choices; here are three representative offerings.
-¢ AdMob, recently acquired by Google, is a pioneering mobile advertising network that offers its own analytics service.
-¢ Flurry specializes in mobile analytics. Flurry is popular with developers and easy to integrate with mobile Web sites and applications.
-¢ Omniture, recently acquired by Adobe, is a popular analytics engine for online business Websites that also supports mobile analytics.
The Future of Mobile Advertising
If you are considering a long-term mobile video and advertising strategy, invest time to learn what these five companies are doing in the space.
-¢ Amazon.com is augmenting its online retail network with innovative e-commerce and advertising capabilities. Amazon Web Services offers affordable, end-to-end cloud computing infrastructure capable of supporting international deployments of homegrown mobile video and advertising solutions. Amazon’s wireless connected Kindle book readers offer an interesting (but unproven) future possibility for ads embedded in e-books.
-¢ Apple continues to build on its success with iTunes, the iPhone, and the App Store. Recent announcements include the wireless enabled iPad, the acquisition of mobile advertising leader Quattro Wireless, and the iAd advertising platform.
-¢ AT&T is the only major wireless carrier to promote a homegrown ad solutions offering. The company recently announced their second $1B investment in mobile media infrastructure in as many years. Soon they will launch their fourth generation wireless network (competing with Verizon Wireless), providing much faster mobile media downloads.
-¢ Google is the Internet leader in mobile search, advertising, and location services. Learn what AdWords, AdMob (Google just acquired them), Android, Clear (Google is an investor), Google Maps, and YouTube might mean to your mobile advertising efforts.
-¢ Microsoft is the exclusive mobile search and advertising provider for Verizon Wireless. Industry pundits speculate that Windows Mobile 7 could disrupt Apple’s dominance and Google Android’s comeuppance.
If you do not work with an agency, you need to keep up with the rapid evolution of the mobile space to ensure that your future mobile advertising campaigns are timely and relevant.
-¢ The Mobile Marketing Alliance offers certification and other educational resources.
-¢ GoMo News offers a strategic view on all the topics covered in this article. Check out their mobile advertising directory for a comprehensive list of providers.
-¢ MoCo News and Fierce Mobile Content offer broader wireless industry news and are read by many professionals in the wireless and mobile content space. Both provide free daily newsletters.
Jeff Barber is a senior management consultant with Slalom Consulting; he can be reached at [email protected]. Slalom Consulting is a business and technology consulting firm combining its local expertise with national reach. Slalom focuses on four practice areas: Business Management, Organization Effectiveness, Technology Enablement and Information Management; offering services such as BI, portals, mobility, project management and process design, with over 600 consultants across eight cities nationwide.