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Mobile tide will continue to rise as old media recede

Nov 12, 2008

By Vanessa Horwell

With the endless discourse of cutbacks, staff layoffs and general economic woes, it’s very hard for us marketers not to hop aboard the fear-monger’s bandwagon.

In the past couple of weeks, we have seen the Christian Science Monitor scrap its 100-year-old daily mainstay daily newspaper sometime next year, the New York Times says it will default on its debt and Men’s Vogue goes from 10 issues to two a year. It’s slash-and-burn time for media budgets everywhere and Twitter is looking for a new revenue model – again. Wow. Could it get any worse?

In this current climate, marketers cannot afford to be anything but cautious. But I feel that while our inherent instinct is to go into hibernation or shut-down mode in such frightening times, now is actually the perfect time to fix what is broken in order to make way for something new.

New models, new communication tools, new mantras: That’s the way I look at it.

This is the time to introduce clients to what could be, instead of what has been. It is a time for everyone to get out of their comfort zones, to deliver services and products that people really need. It is the time to reflect on bloated and broken advertising models and recognize that things can never be the same again.

Out with the old
About eight weeks ago, after 24/7 barrage of recession woes, I had what we call a thinkink moment. A confluence of all the factors we have been preaching and publicizing all year long were put into play.

We are in the business of increasing businesses’ visibility and while to some degree, our company has been protected by having clients less affected by consumer crises, this recession has left us all feeling more vulnerable and insecure about our future.

In the past, the tough may have gone shopping, but this time around it’s time to fix shop.

This period should teach all marketers that we don’t know everything, that we should never rest on our laurels and that it could all disappear tomorrow.

For those reasons, our company came up with a new mandate.

Before recession, we strived to deliver 110 percent. Today, we strive for 150 percent.

Not only do we have to exceed our previous efforts, we have to be on best form at all times. We laid off people who had become ineffective and weren’t growing at our trajectory.

We replaced them with people who were more efficient, driven and able to deliver more value and better results.

We created new incentives to give our people greater responsibility for their own success, by delivering better results to our clients.

Clients are suffering from anxiety overload and when everything around us is being compared on price, what is our differentiator, really? Value, yes, but it’s our ability to deliver a service that consistently brings our clients closer to their business goals.

Mobile’s time
Now put all that together in the context of mobile marketing and it’s a very similar story.

Right now, it is mobile marketing’s time. Mobile marketing is on the cusp of greatness.

Over the past three months, while the economy has been travelling full-speed downhill, it’s become so clear to us that mobile marketing is on the brink of hugeness, becoming widely and so rapidly adopted.

Mobile marketing is no longer a niche that marketers have been shying away from. Everyone, it seems, has finally woken up and wants a piece of the mobile marketing pie.

When BMW hires a mobile marketing officer and a presidential campaign has been significantly affected by mobile efforts, you know it is time. And timing, as they say, is everything.

Of course, the confluence of other technologies has influenced this outcome too, combined with consumer resilience to traditional advertising.

Last week, Rino Scanzoni, chief investment officer at agency conglomerate WPP Group PLC’s GroupM, warned that overall media spending next year could be flat to down 2 percent to 3 percent, with the downturn lasting longer than the dip of 2001.

And for fourth-quarter spending, estimates are already down by $75 million, and counting.

So while these latest results are not good for traditional advertising, they are reflective of a very conscious shift and recognition of new media and the mobile channel as serious engines of growth in the national ad market.

Indeed, these new channels outstrip traditional channels in terms of incremental increases and approaching print and television in terms of total spending.

In fact, mobile ad spending is projected to approach $1 billion in 2008, and surpass $7.5 billion by 2013, while traditional media is seeing its share of total advertising spend decline by about 1 percent in 2008.
If ever there was a jumping-off-the-side-of-the-cliff moment for mobile marketing in the United States, it would be right now.

In for the long haul
Today, we need direct channels of communication to reach message-weary consumers. How much more direct can you get than a mobile phone, a portal into the pockets of nearly 258 million American consumers?

And so while conventional wisdom dictates that we don’t introduce new ideas in tough times, instead we cut back or freeze spending, I don’t agree with that sentiment in the case of new media and mobile marketing.

A successful mobile marketing strategy will capitalize on the pervasiveness of the mobile phone and upswing of the medium itself, but it must also address some of the challenges inherent to mobile communication.

The mobile phone is such a uniquely personal device – a bit of territory that consumers are wary to cede entirely to advertisers – and so messaging has to be respectful, expected and welcome or we will just end up with consumers being turned off by phone-spam.

The technological horizon of the industry – growth of location-aware messaging and GPS-based locators – will only highlight the importance of consent-based, opt-in measures.

But for all of the challenges that mobile marketers may face, the upside of mobile marketing far outweighs the perceived risk.

What’s the big risk anyway, trying something new? This industry has such a huge base – 2.4 billion mobile subscribers worldwide – that is increasingly willing to act upon mobile marketing messages.

Per industry research, 51 percent of mobile users who encounter an SMS advertisement respond in some form. That, to me, is incredible.

Mobile provides a targeted, narrow pipeline to existing and potential customers and clients. As part of a comprehensive and well-planned strategy, it can drastically improve message penetration and retention.

By its very nature, mobile resists the spray-and-pray approach of mass marketing initiatives. It is faster, more responsive, more personal and more versatile than its direct marketing predecessors. It’s also much, much cheaper.

For now, mobile marketing also resists comparisons and so the medium has yet to experience the explosive growth that everyone is expecting from it. But we have to nurture mobile to allow it to grow like it has in other parts of the world.

A new deal
And yet despite all our advances and knowledge, consumer marketers are still erring on the side of caution when it comes to mobile.

They still reach out to place a large portion of their consumer marketing budgets towards tried-and-true channels – broadcast television, print, radio – even though latest research shows that mobile and digital marketing are overtaking traditional channels in effectiveness and value.

We had a client who was insistent on pumping money into broadcast ads when we felt that his company’s message would best be told, especially right now, in a more direct, personal and effective way.

The client insisted, despite our best efforts, and achieved nothing except poor results and a lot less cash. We told him so, and he is no longer our client.

While marketers like these acknowledge that traditional channels have become much more fragmented and less effective than they used to be, the underlying structures and metrics that they understand are still defined in terms of traditional media. It is frustrating that the status quo is pervasive, but it’s not unbreakable.

So here in the challenging twilight of 2008, the mobile tide will continue to rise. It is destined for great things in 2009 if we engage in one of the most cost-effective, impactful marketing mediums around.

So party like it is 1931, knowing that there’s a new deal and horizon for mobile marketing just around the corner.

http://www.mobilemarketer.com/cms/opinion/columns/2087.html

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