The interest in mobile advertising is growing around the world. I just spotted news on CNN that USA based youth MVNO, Boost Mobile, will introduce advertising. They are not alone. Google keeps saying "mobile mobile mobile" and have been quite open about their new Android operating system, that this will also enable advertising. Nokia has its Ad Service platform. Various operators have announced initiatives for ads, in Japan mobile operator giant NTT DoCoMo has joined with the country's largest ad agency Dentsu for their joint venture D2, the world's largest mobile advertising company by revenues with both domestic rivals having similar schemes; South Korea's SK Telecom has its Aircross etc. There are the. independent providers like Admob, serving two billion mobile ads monthly; ad-based free telecoms provider Blyk already in the UK and launching in the Netherlands; and various service providers innovating in the mobile ad space such as Flirtomatic's First Face auctions and Japan's Otetsudai Networks doing classified ads etc.
It is clear that there is very much interest and development around mobile advertising now. So the very first basic rule is - all mobile advertising has to be permission based. Has to be. Absolutely definitely always on every network and on every service. Permission based. Explicit clear permission from the user. It cannot be unsolicited spam and interruption; the digital equivalent of the junk mail we hate receiving at home in our snailmail. All mobile advertising has to be permission based.
But permission-based is not enough!
It will have to be better than just permission based. Now is the time for you, our reader, to really make a difference, and push your company to understand this distinction. Mobile advertising is going to be the primary engagement marketing platform - because all seven mass media do have advertising (print, recordings, cinema, radio, TV, internet and mobile) but doing interactive campaigns on the first five legacy media is cumbersome. Doing interactive campaigns on the new digital interactive media - on the internet and on mobile - is technically easy. It makes advertising on these two newest media far better than ads can hope to be on the legacy media.
On magazines, newspapers, radio, TV etc, the only way to "customize" an ad, is to target it by the media channel. What age is the viewership or readership or listenership. Consider the programme of the radio channel or TV station - if the show is a youth show - rap music on radio or the Top of the Pops style pop music chart show on TV - then its likely the audience is mostly the youth, and that is where you advertise Adidas shoes or Red Bull drinks etc. A most imprecise method, of very poor targeting accuracy. The ads are still mass audience vehicles. And they are interruptive in nature. Very poor value for both the audience and the advertiser.
Now on interactive media we are learning about interactive marketing campaigns. They can be designed purely for that media - say like Adwords on Google on the internet - or they can be done in conjunction with an old media and a new media - like voting on TV shows through the mobile phone SMS text messaging function. This is not permission based, this is still interruption. It is a less intrusive form of interruption, but it is still interruption.
On mobile - the 7th mass media - we have the only mass media platform which is truly personal, is permanently carried, is always on, has a built-in payment system, is available at the point of creative inspiration, and accurately measures its audience. Only on mobile, can we deliver what Alan Moore calls "Mass Niche Audiences". Targetted audiences within a mass media. The same content can get radically different targeting. I am 48 years old, but I love rap music (yes, thats weird I know). So if I visit my old home town of New York City and listen to my fave rap music radio stations, I love the music, but the ads are meaningless. I am not a teenaged black new york kid who would understand their fashions and passions and interests. Yes, I admire P Diddy but I don't wear his cologne or his Bad Boy label t-shirts etc. Now. I am a professional consultant, my work outfits are all high class suits, Armanis, Hugo Bosses, Canalis etc. So - only through mobile, using mass-niche targeting, I can be given rap music content, with "48 year old male adult professoinal consultant" type of clothing advertising - in my case suits and ties from Armani, Canali, Boss.. This is not possible on radio, on TV, in print, in the cinema.
But we have to go beyond. Just having permission based ads is not enough. Mobile is the only personal mass media. We will be offended by any unsolicited ads. First, we have to give permission prior to receiving the ads, but secondly, we have to like the ads. The CEO of Fjord, Mike Beeston, has the test for this - make it sufficiently contageous. Only those ads, which are sufficiently contageous, may be released onto the mobile channel. Sufficiently contageous. That sounds interesting. What does it mean?
It means that for the intended target audience, the ad is perceived so valuable, so cool, so nice, so useful, so funny, so entertaining, so good - that the initial target audience likes it - yes - and furthermore the intended target audience feels compelled to forward the ad to at least one further person. Not everybody on the phonebook's list (that would be "absolutely contageous"), but at least one other person. Obviously the other vital part for any mobile ad to be sufficiently contageous, is that it has a viral element - such as the ability to forward that content, or forward an invitation, or forward a link or forward a coupon or whatever. That is what is called sufficiently contageous. Now. When I say, Permission Based is Not Enough - if it is both permission based, AND sufficiently contageous - then it is good enough for mobile advertising.
Again - on any legacy media, such a campaign would be killed in the focus group. A tiny fraction of the measured audience loved it, the vast majority hated it. If you design an ad that appeals to me - say around Formula One - if I love it, so will my brother. But my sister will hate it (she hates F1). My mother will hate it. Even here, Alan Moore my co-author is not much of an F1 fan, he likes rugby. So Alan would be indifferent to the ad. This is what I mean, for the intended target audience it must hit the passion button so hard that we say "I love it" !
This is the power of mass niche targeting. Rather than one bland ad, with one super-priced celebrity, endorsing our product on a lame script, we do targeted ads, and engagement campaigns. Notice that Generation C (the Community Generation, the youth and young adults today living in social networking sites, sending SMS text messages into the night, participating in reality TV shows, etc, the new consumer of today) will reject anything they suspect as being not genuine. Classic interruptive ad models are all 100% fake. Not genuine at all. There is nothing honest and truthful about them. We need honestly targeted and customized campaigns. Mass-niche audiences.
Then we get to user-generated ads. Like Blyk now is innovating. Like Alan says, you embrace what you create. So if we get our target audience to co-create the advertising experience with our brand, then they will embrace it, and they will promote it.
All of advertising will be different. Do not take the failing concepts of interruption from junk mail, print ads, radio spots, TV ads, cinema ads, banners and spam on the internet - and replicate those onto mobile. That will fail.
Rather, start with permission based. Never do any ads without permission on mobile. But don't stop there. Ensure that the ads are sufficiently contageous. And beyond that, try to make the ads "engagement marketing" where the target audience becomes actively involved in the advertising and marketing campaign in some way. User-generated ads are one way, not the only way by any means.
TOMI YOU ARE LIVING IN A FANTASY WORLD
Am I living in a fantasy world? In Japan today, 44% of Japanese mobile phone owners click on the links on their ads - that means these Japanese are not avoiding the ads. 44% of Japanese mobile phone owners like their mobile ads so much that they actually do click on the links ! We talk about many campaigns and services here on the Communities Dominate Blog about how that can work. In America there was the mobile marketing campaign by West Coast Customs, a car-customizing ("pimping") service that drew a 39% response rate. In South Korea - together with Japan the most advanced mobile advertising market - Aircross reports campaign response rates on mobile as high as 98% !!!! as they had with Gillette in 2007. Blyk was talking in Barcelona and reporting average campaign response rates in the 30%-40% range across their whole inventory and user base.
These are astronomical response rates compared to spam on the web (and in another galaxy compared to junk mail). We've reported here that the first measurements of the efficiency of mobile campaigns already show dramatic yields above those on the web, and far far better than the five legacy media channels.
Yes it can be done. It is by NOT copying interruptive ad models, but learning what is new and compelling about mobile, and creating new ads and models for that new 7th Mass Media world. Our friend BJ Yang, the CEO of Aircross in Korea says that the "mobile is the personal fun playground". A personal, fun, playground. Don't release anything onto it which is not fun!
Lets not now kill this goose that lays the golden eggs. We are on the verge of the golden age of advertising (especially user-generated advertising). On mobile it is not enough that ads are permission based. Of course, all mobile ads have to be permission based, but they need to be even better than that. They need to be sufficiently contageous. They need to be engagement. They need to bring concrete value to the recepient. Only they can a marketing campaign transform from being perceived as an advertisement, to becoming content. This is what I have been asking all advertising professionals to do whenever I run workshops for them - lets re-invent advertising. On mobile, lets make advertising transform itself to become content (to its intended target audience). When our target audiences like our ads so much, they want MORE of it, then we have succeeded. That is what we can do in mobile, and only in mobile.
UPDATE - I wrote a follow up piece to this story on April 3, entitled Mobile Advertising Evolving.
PS - I just noticed that the comments section for this entry was "closed" - I didn't mean to do that. So, as always, we welcome comments also to this entry. It was just an accident in my posting of this entry. Comments are always welcome.
PS 2 - I've just released my latest Thought Piece, this about mobile advertising. If you would like a free copy of this two page document (like a condensed and intense White Paper) loaded with examples and stats, send me an email to tomi at tomiahonen dot com and I'll send the Thought Piece by return email.