Mobile phones started as simply another way for people to say hello to one another, but they may soon have a profound impact on the way all advertising channels interrelate.
Massive pure-play mobile marketing campaigns will be thin on the ground during 2007. Far more prevalent will be cross-media plays where the direct response capabilities of handsets provide the punch line to a rich media setup in other media such as television, radio or print.
"This year, one of the main challenges for marketers and carriers will be how to evolve a mobile consumer culture that accepts and responds to advertising," says John du Pre Guantt, eMarketer senior analyst and the author of the new Mobile Marketing and Advertising report. "This will entail knowing what to attempt — as well as what they should definitely not attempt."
eMarketer predicts that the global market for mobile marketing and advertising will grow from about $1.5 billion in 2006 to nearly $14 billion in 2011.
"After a lot of hand-wringing and some spectacular successes — as well as flameouts — mobile operators, brands and consumers will learn from each other about what works and what does not work," says Mr. du Pre Gauntt, "just like they did for online."
Already in pioneering mobile markets such as Japan, quick response codes embedded in magazines offer readers the chance to maintain a connection to the editorial content while clueing publishers and advertisers to consumers’ changing interests through mobile connections.
Combine innovations like that with the continuing march of advanced networks and handsets in Western Europe, North America and the Asia-Pacific region, and the stage is set for an explosion for mobile marketing and advertising.
A survey of 50 leading brands in Europe by Vanson Bourne found that the top three categories for tactical responses that brands look to drive through mobile marketing included requests for more information, making a purchase or booking, and discovering new attributes about a brand.
"Brands, agencies and carriers will need to cooperate in deeper, richer and more complicated and interrelated ways or risk losing out on the world’s most prevalent interactive platform," says Mr. du Pre Gauntt.
All players in the mobile space must be prepared for change — and they must get over the perception that mobile is a "premium" communications or media channel.
"However, even after that hurdle is cleared, some major obstacles stand in the way, not the least of which is general consumer reluctance to accept marketing or advertising messages to subsidize their mobile content or service experiences," says Mr. du Pre Gantt. "Given the past history of ‘customer service’ on the part of mobile carriers, this is not a trivial issue."
Revenue sharing, consumer privacy and the need for carriers to provide marketing-relevant measurements are only some of the shoals through which marketers need to navigate.
"The fact is that mobile is now a lifestyle technology, which is good news for marketers but nothing they should take for granted," says Mr. du Pre Gauntt.