Is This the Year Of Mobile?


As a marketing platform, mobile has really started to come into its own in recent years. From a creative point of view it is a platform that can do lots of cool things. Having recently watched the Cannes Lions short list entries for mobile marketing some of them were fantastic examples of creative thinking. I have listed my favorites at the bottom of the article with links to them but it got me thinking about where mobile is and where it could be.


Whilst not a brand new concept Geo-fencing definitely has unexplored opportunities. Perhaps with special discounts or contextual weather advertisements (discounted iced coffees on hot days for example. This springs to mind given the current London temperature!). This all ties in with the “power of personal”, the idea that the more customized or personal an ad the more likely a customer is to engage with it. Being able to offer customers the newest items as they walk into the store. If they have a loyalty card it could be based on previous buying habits and offer them any discounts on items they may be interested in. Marketers will need to use discretion with this type of outreach as bombarding customers will end badly. It could also get a bit creepy.



Despite the implications advertising on mobile remains a small portion of total spend. In the US digital marketing spend last year was $30bn with mobile spend representing $1bn of that spend (although this is predicted to rise to nearly $3bn by the end of this year). Last year in the UK the digital ad spend totaled £2.6bn with mobile spend representing 10% of that. Google’s upcoming enhanced campaigns will have companies re-evaluating the medium in terms of budgets but what really needs to happen is a new approach rather than more of the same (I personally am immune to display banners now).

Mobile Gaming

Brands + Mobile Games

Brands + Mobile Games

A few weeks ago Passion Digital put out an article listing the 30 most useful work apps. The wealth of options available from your phone now indicate this is certainly an area that has seen rapid growth and will continue to do so. At the moment there are 900,000 apps on the Apple Store and competition to stand out is fierce. You only have to look at the recent trouble with Zynga (a large game developer) who had to lay off a significant portion of the workforce citing difficulties developing successful mobile games as the culprit.

Mobile gaming has seen a surge in spend. “I Am Player” is a game that puts you in the shoes of a professional football player. Both Nike and Red Bull have their own products in-game and currently players have used 6,000,000 in game Red Bulls to boost their player’s performance. The now infamous Angry Birds has sold 12,000,000 copies and Lady Gaga recently signed up to promote her new album with Farmville. You only have to head to the London Underground to see Bejeweled and Temple Run being played left right and center. Brands are making a shift towards this medium using the free versions of mobile games (known as freemium) that show you ads intermittently as you play. This teaming up of brands and game developers is sure to see an increase in popularity.

The Final Frontier

At the far end of the scale PhD students have been focusing on making the mobile phone experience more sensory. For example, one developer is working on a prototype with a weight in the phone handset. When you go to Google maps and look for directions the weight moves depending on whether you should turn left or right. It means you don’t need to look down at the phone and can enjoy the view as you go. It’s an interesting concept, and perhaps more so because it is not focused on making mobiles more technical but more human.

Apps like Google Now turn your phone into an intuitive suggestion box that displays information based on an algorithm of your behavior at certain times of the day and at certain locations. If you often check cinema times at 5pm on Saturday in London you will be given them when you open up your phone. I don’t think this is going to revolutionize how we use our phones but it does make them increasingly useful and probably for some, indispensable.

The ability to target customers with contextual ads can result in much greater ROI. Combine this ability to offer personal advertising with solid data and you have a potent combination. Appearing on something customers keep in their pockets is premium advertising real estate and one that is sure to see brands and software developer’s alike continue to war over.

The Future 

The combination of personalized advertising, the unique contextual opportunities and the powerful technology that exists for mobile definitely houses a huge potential. Have a look below at some of my favorites from the Cannes festival to see combinations of all three of these in action. I am going to go out on a limb and say that current marketing strategies will continue to produce low ROI because its things people have seen before. Placing your ad to appear while someone is focused on playing a game might seem a good idea because they are a captive audience but you only need to experience it once for yourself to know it is annoying. It’s an interruption and so don’t be surprised when customers close the ad as soon as possible.

It will take care and thought to turn mobile advertising into a serious results generator. I am not a big fan of “buzzwords”, but “experiential” marketing has some real potential and for mobile, that’s where I think the future is. Again the example below from the Cannes festival are great examples of this. Not just hammering out the banner ads, but creating something useful, interesting and more importantly, fun. People don’t want to use their phones for serious, deep engagement but light-hearted, convenient moments.  Watch this space. – A cheeky campaign that made people have fun whilst delivering something they really needed. Free Wi-Fi. – McDonald’s have been vying with their bad reputation for years. This campaign had great results and utilized their world class chain supply management with creative brilliance. – P&G aligned themselves as a trust worthy household brand, a modern, forward thinking company and made a useful app all at once.  Brilliant.

PS: I will be trialing the Google Now application for the next week or so and see if it is irritating hype or very useful and will post my findings.