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June 06, 2008

Mobile Advertising: Put Your Money Where Your Users Are

Posted in: Mobile Marketing, User Insights

At last week’s BREW conference I participated in a panel on mobile advertising (the panel’s title shares the same name as this post). Being primarily a developer conference the other panelists, and the audience to a degree, were largely interested in current and near-term opportunities. The discussion focused heavily on on-deck advertising. Frustratingly so.

The experience highlighted the current reality that as much as things are opening up there is an existing ecosystem that has to find its way. On-deck advertising for on-deck content is where the ad dollars are; simply because it’s also where most of the users are right now. This is not a surprise. What surprised me is the hesitation of discussing what the mobile web is bringing and that being where the users are in the currently emerging future means looking outside the walled garden.

If you’re an ad network, your challenge is not to demonstrate the value of mobile advertising. That’s easy. The CPMs and the CTRs back it up. The challenge is to attract mainstream credibility to mobile advertising by getting well-known brands (via their agencies) on board. This is a catch-22: companies and their agencies still have siloed approaches to mobile advertising and will until it becomes mainstream. Worse than that, even, is that deploying a campaign for the fragmented mobile landscape (carriers, ad networks, devices) is a major burden.

Success for the ad networks will happen when companies view mobile as a cohesive part of their marketing strategy, just as they’ve adopted the web fully, and no longer as a specialized space. It will also happen when fragmentation is lessened — which is the promise of the mobile web.

When an advertiser can deploy an ad campaign and and easily reach a majority of mobile users in a given demographic, without having to customize a campaign per network, per carrier and per device is when we’ll see major movement of big brands into the space. Sure they’re willing to take risks with the creative but when it comes to delivery, they want a proven and repeatable path.

But, what is successful mobile advertising going to look like? It has everything to do with giving users useful tools and information and will very likely not look like banners at all and will be the topic of my next post.

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