It flew under just about everyone's radar when Apple purchased Placebase earlier this year. But the first fruits of that acquisition has led to a tremendous amount of discussion among industry analysts. Most thought positions Placebase as a "Google Maps killer", but that's highly unlikely given the number of local search-based applications (including Goog411) that use the Google Maps database to support location-aware query-and-response activity. Over at Screenwerk, I2Go's Greg Sterling gives a telling example of how ads are being baked into links generated when iPhone users generate queries on GoogleMaps.
It is a statement by Google that it has a mechanism to generate revenue from location-aware applications on the iPhone. At the same time it demonstrates how Google might be vulerable to location-based attacks on new revenue streams if the likes of Placebase or Bing Maps is able to displace it on key mobile platforms (specifically the iPhone or the forthcoming Windows Phone).
I was on a call with Mobclix in which, among other things, we discussed location targeting and other types of targeting on mobile devices. The fantasy of mobile marketing and advertising is "right ad, right time, right place," also known as 1:1 marketing. That phrase is repeated almost as often as the joke about the last ten years each being the "year of mobile."
What agencies and large advertisers want is reach. They want audiences and targeting but not at the expense of reach. In other words agencies and advertisers need big audiences that cross certain traffic thresholds before they'll pay attention.
But the 1:1 marketing fantasy flies right in the face of those requirements. Same goes for LBS marketing (which ofters targeting but at the expense of reach; if you slice audiences by location they get smaller and smaller). This is a contradiction that is surprisingly not discussed very much at industry events or in articles about mobile advertising and LBS.
The only way to reconcile the brand and agency desire for targeting and reach in mobile is to essentially do what Yahoo has done on the PC: create a dynamic ad serving platform into which the creative elements and offers are poured and which can then assemble those elements in real-time according to the targeting parameters, location and context of the end user. Google has also done a version of this online with its "local extensions" offering in AdWords. 1020 Placecast also does this to varying degrees in its campaigns.
The dynamic ad server in the middle is the key to realizing the targeting benefits of mobile and providing the scale that large advertisers need to take the medium seriously.
CNN's new iPhone app offers a smorgasbord of news content, from text to live video. It also provides users the ability to directly upload video to CNN's iReport, its user-contributed news feature. The experience of watching video on the app (not YouTube) is especially good. Accordingly, the CNN app rivals and in some ways improves upon CNN's website itself.
As you already know the app costs $1.99, which is a first for a news/content app (in my memory). It's also got prominent advertising, appearing as banners and full-page takeovers before video clips (expect commercials soon). Because the app's quality is so good and the fee is one-time only, rather than a subscription, I don't think the $1.99 will deter end users.
Those who don't want to pay can always go to the CNN mobile site and get the content for free, though the experience is not as good.
As this plays out over the next several months, news organizations will be watching to see how users respond. If they respond favorably we'll see more changing for apps, like this. The Wall Street Journal has announced it will be charging a subscription fee for mobile access in the near future. With the exception of the Wall Street Journal, which is subsidized by corporations and tax deductions, ongoing fees for mobile news apps are likely to be met with tepid user response. There's empirical evidence that users will flee when the pay walls go up. Accordingly the CNN formula is probably the right one: a one-time fee for the app, plus advertising. But we'll see.
Many publishers, however, may use online and mobile subscriptions as a print retention tool -- by subscribing to print you get online access (and maybe a mobile app) as well. Tablets and eReaders will also probably support a subscription model but it remains to be seen.
At this point, there are tons of mobile ad forecasts in the market. Most of them are wrong. Why? Because they're too high level, have too few X variables or are insufficiently focused on the right assumptions and "levers." But it's also just difficult to predict the future and the rate of growth. Recall the early (and wildly inaccurate as it turned out) Forrester and Jupiter e-commerce numbers.
There are generally two objectives for forecasts: planning and PR. If one is using a forecast for internal planning purposes it needs to be as accurate (read: conservative) as possible. By contrast, if one is trying to raise money or gain exposure, one needs to make the biggest splash possible. Thus the forecasts that offer the greatest growth, the biggest "hockey stick," are the ones that show up in conference and investor presentations.
Often the firms that are putting out the forecasts are equally seeking publicity or to promote something. So there's an inherent bias toward inflation. If forecast B is smaller than forecast A it won't get coverage; so it must be larger or more sensational in some way. This is not true for all firms across the board. For example, I would also say, from having spoken to Noah Elkin at eMarketer before he put out their US mobile ad forecast, that he was trying very hard to be cautious and sensitive to all the issues.
But for all the love the media show them, mobile ad spending forecasts in the end just don't matter. They're just fodder for discussion and industry conferences. (I suppose they matter to investors in public companies who are speculating about the future.) But in my view they don't matter because consumers have already established mobile and the mobile Internet as an essential marketing medium. It's done. It's here. Stop telling the "every year is the year of mobile" joke. This IS the year of mobile -- for consumers at least.
Those marketers that embrace it in earnest will benefit, those that "wait and see" will lose out on first-mover advantages. No debate. The only questions now involve "how" and not "why." Those that continue to ask why don't get it.
All brands should have an iPhone app. Period. This is even more true for companies that run loyalty programs. They must also consider building apps for other smartphone platforms: Android, BlackBerry, Windows Mobile and Palm. (Nokia outside the US). All online publishers should have sites optimized for mobile. All marketers should be considering how they can integrate their traditional campaigns with mobile and should have an SMS strategy. SMS should not be neglected.
On the Internet many marketers still have not caught up to consumers. This is especially true in the local segment: marketers still don't "get" local and how consumers interact with the Internet. Consumers don't care about marketers, their sophistication (or lack thereof) or their strategies. Consumers care about finding deals, deciding where to go and what to do and communicating with others. Mobile is already becoming a more central part of those activities and will only continue to gain.
Regardless of whether growth in mobile ad spending is 15% per year or 51%, marketers and publishers need to get on board. The train is leaving the station.
Mobile loyalty and coupon provider Tetherball has launched analytics that can show advertisers how their promotions are doing in real time (opt-ins, outs, redemptions). According to the press release:
Mobiquitous 2.0 provides detailed reporting at virtually any level required by clients – whether at a specific campaign level, geographic level or even for a specific time of day. Mobiquitous 2.0 provides clients with a “real time window” so that they can adjust quickly and leverage the real time nature of mobile marketing. Mobiquitous 2.0 is extremely flexible and supports standard reporting, as well as fully customizable on‐the‐fly reporting to deliver better visibility and analytics around specific program performance.
You've got to like the name of the platform "Mobiquitious." Here's a screen shot that shows the dashboard:
The company claims mobile coupon redemption rates of "50% − versus 1%-2% with online and traditional paper coupons."
EMarketer just released its mobile ad forecast for the US. I actually spoke to analyst Noah Elkin about the details of the forecast a few weeks ago. Vexing questions surround how to define the market and about the assumptions behind the growth figures and distribution of ad spend. The three main components of the spend in the eMarketer forecast are SMS, display and search (see graph below).
There's a whole category of "mobile marketing" spending that is potentially large and not reflected here because it's not "advertising" per se (inventory puchased in search, on sites or in apps), including app development and mobile optimization.
Here are the eMarketer numbers, which have been toned down a bit from prior estimates:
Compare the current online mix of ad spending in the US, where display (including video and rich media) constitutes about 31% of the online ad spend vs. search, which is closing in on 50% (46% at the end of 2008 per the IAB).
Multiplied Media's Poynt for BlackBerry app has been wildly successful, now with over a million downloads. One could argue that Poynt "owns" local search on the BlackBerry. Today the company announced that it had partnered with V-Enable for directory listings and corresponding advertising in the restaurants category:
Multiplied Media Corporation, an award-winning, Calgary-based provider of mobile local search services, and V-Enable, Inc., a leader in local search and advertising solutions for mobile and internet, are pleased to announce an agreement to deliver local directory related content and listings for the restaurant section of Poynt, Multiplied Media's flagship mobile local search application ...
V-Enable has partnered with multiple information and advertising providers to assemble one of the largest national local business listings and advertising networks offered through an automated turnkey platform that matches user inputs based on their search activity.
V-Enable, which came out of the directory assistance world, distributes local listings and ads from a wide range of directory and mobile advertising partners. Here's a video demo of Poynt in action on the BlackBerry Storm:
I'll admit that I was an early Twitter critic and now I'm a convert. So I may be similarly wrong when I say the following about Foursquare: it's not a mainstream app or broad SMB ad platform because of its limited appeal to select groups of people (read: college students and twentysomethings with time on their hands).
Recently Foursquare launched Foursquare for business, which is effectively a mobile coupon or loyalty program. There are a range of businesses seeking to drive visits via Foursquare. Here's an example:
Foursquare can create a kind of loyal, cult following and potentially drive meaningful foot traffic for selected categories of businesses (restaurants/cafes, bars, clubs, youth oriented hotels). But the commitment required to play and the mild complexity of the game creates a barrier for older (read: busy) adults and most SMBs.
This is not to say that Foursquare can't achieve success but it won't have the broad appeal that a Twitter does today. The appeal of Twitter lies in its simplicity.
The North American Audit Bureau of Circulations (ABC) recently surveyed its 4,000-strong "U.S. and Canadian newspaper, magazine and business membership to learn more about publishers’ current mobile initiatives, their strategic plans, and ABC’s potential role." What the organization found was the there's growing interest in mobile and most publishers increasingly see it as a critical distribution platform. This includes the emerging eReader/Tablet segment.
Here are the survey's key findings:
Here are some charts from the report:
Souce: All Charts ABC
In terms of the eReaders or tablets that publisher-respondents thought would have the greatest impact on the market:
Last week Microsoft announced mobile behavioral targeting (BT). The company said that behavioral data come from:
With Microsoft Mobile Behavioral Targeting, data from these sources and others is factored together along with its relevancy to create hundreds of unique, specific segments. Within these niches are the consumers who are most likely to be receptive to your message. Your mobile ads are served only to users in youhttp://internet2go.net/node/add/storyr desired segments, enabling you to refine your reach and increase your campaign's performance. Simple yet powerful, Behavioral Targeting is one of the most effective and efficient forms of mobile advertising available today.
It appears to be a probablistic model that isn't about individual users but aggregated user behavior. Yahoo! also employs BT in mobile. To my knowledge Google has not yet, but it offers BT online in the form of "interest-based ads."
Behavioral targeting and other forms of online advertising are going to be regulated. The precise burden and disclosures remain to be seen, but there's almost no question that regulation is coming. The perception in Washington is that the big ad networks and sites are data mining at will without consent or the knowledge of consumers.
The Center for Digital Democracy (together with other consumer groups) brought a complaint in 2006 to the US FTC and amended that complaint in 2008 to extend to mobile marketing and advertising. The concerns and objections go to the heart of mobile ad targeting.
The paradox, which I've discussed many times, is that consumers don't want to be tracked but they only want relevant ads. If the major marketing companies are required to offer prominent disclosures and opt-out pages, many consumers will indeed opt-out of mobile advertising. The challenge is selling targeting to consumers as in their interest and how to make disclosures sufficiently prominent without making them a big roadblock.
There are some who've argued that all mobile advertising and marketing should be opt-in. Indeed, that works well for SMS campaigns and email. And search is an implicitly opt-in. But mobile display is where these privacy and disclosure issues will play out. As a practical matter it would be difficult to get consumers to opt-in to mobile display campaigns because there are so many sites and networks. One could imagine an industry supported "dashboard" where consumers managed privacy preferences and ad interests. But that seems almost impossible to pull off given the level of coordination it would require.
The FTC will try and balance interests to allow mobile advertising to grow but is going to require more from mobile publishers and ad networks than is now the case. It will be really interesting to see how this progresses at the level of user experience because of the complications and challenges in pulling it off.
Direct mail/coupon advertising provider ValPak now has an iPhone app. It's nicely executed and offers a number of ways to get access to deals: searching, browsing by category and a map-based view that shows users all the deals across categories in a specific area.
Previously, after launching a new PC site that was better optimized for mobile, the company saw a big uptick in mobile coupon "prints." In fact the company told me that there was a 25% conversion on average from mobile visitors. In this case "print" meant clicking through to a particular screen that showed a code.
A seach in the iTunes apps store reveals almost 30 apps that represent themselves as coupon providers or offer coupons in one way or another.
I was speaking on Friday to a big online coupon site and they were raising questions about POS redemption of mobile coupons as a barrier. ValPak has solved that problem by simply asking users to "show coupon to business when placing order."
Coupons are a big area of opportunity for mobile. We have plenty of data that support this proposition. Compete's recent smartphone survey also shows that mobile deals/coupons are of high interest to mobile consumers:
Reported about a week ago Epsilon’s Global Consumer Email Study (n=4,084) found that so-called millennials (18-25) are highly willing to receive opt-in marketing messages in email and SMS. According to the press release:
Compared to other age groups, millennials are more likely to use tools such as instant messaging (IM), social networking and text/SMS messages as their primary tool for personal online communications. Over one-third (35%) cited instant messaging, whereas 26% of 26-35 year olds and 11% of 36-45 year olds selected IM.
Another notable difference amongst millennials reveals they were more receptive to both online and offline specials in permission-based emails . . .
Here are the categories of offers that millennials were interested in receiving offers from more than once a day (according to the survey):
Mobile-only categories of offers will be slightly different and include, for example, discounts on meals/entertainment.
Interestingly millennials want more frequent offers, which reinforces their loyalty. Other age groups in the survey were not as open to more than once a day offers. The survey also found millennials respond well to and expect personalization. However, Epsilon also found concern among them about spam, as one would expect.
Source: Epsilon (June, 2009)
SMS is arguably better suited than email or IM for the higher frequency offers (opt-in only) because of its on the go nature and the fact that people are always in possession of their mobile devices. However marketers must be even more diligent about relevance and spam prevention in SMS marketing and on mobile devices generally.
According to published reports the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) is going to begin charging for mobile access in the next couple months. Reuters explains how the pricing would work:
Under the plan, people who do not subscribe to the Journal would pay $2 a week for mobile access, and subscribers would pay $1 per week. Subscribers to both the print and online version of the paper will get mobile for free.
News Corp., the WSJ's parent, is going to start charging broadly for access to its content online. This effort is consistent with the new approach. The WSJ of course has been one of the few publications that has been charging for access to its articles and content since "the beginning." And it represents a rare success story in that regard. The Journal however is not representative of all publications because so many people either get the publication for free via their companies or write it off as a tax deduction.
Effectively then the subscription is subsidized but the US government or corporate employers. In that larger context I would expect that many people will pay for access via mobile. However I certainly will not.
We will see many more publishers seeking to charge for mobile access. But what about when the tablets start to hit? Will that simply be an extension of "online" or will it be considered a separate mobile offering? I'm getting a bit ahead of myself when I ask that question but in three years we will have a bunch of connected tablets in the market and it will be a relevant issue then.
Related: All 30 McClatchy publications join the AP Mobile news network. According to Editor & Publisher:
"Mobile is a key component of McClatchy's overall digital strategy," Christian Hendricks, McClatchy's vice president, interactive media, said in a statement. "Adding all our websites to AP Mobile makes it easier for consumers to access our local news and helps expand overall readership in our newspapers' markets."
Nokia's Navteq is getting (really) serious about mobile advertising. The company has announced the acquition of mobile marketing firm Acuity Mobile. The two firms have been working together since March, 2007, when Acuity's technology was selected to deliver LBS ads via Traffic.com (a Navteq subsidiary). According to the Navteq press release issued this morning:
The acquisition of Acuity Mobile, a US-based company with approximately 18 employees prior to close, underscores NAVTEQ's commitment to and investment in location-based advertising technology and solutions. Earlier this year, NAVTEQ launched NAVTEQ LocationPoint(TM) Advertising which enables advertisers to reach and engage consumers where and when they are making shopping and purchasing decisions. NAVTEQ has been leveraging Acuity Mobile technologies to meet the increasing demand for location-aware advertising services as the volume of location-aware devices and applications has grown . . .
NAVTEQ LocationPoint enables clients to target consumers with geographic precision. In turn, consumers will have advertising move with them, as their mobile mapping applications present ads, offers, coupons, or other promotions, based on their preferences. Advertising capabilities include audio, rich graphics, or calls to action such as routing to the closest advertiser storefront.
Acuity delivers LBS ads but with other targeting layers as well, including time, context and user preference. The acquisition helps stabilize a broader range of mobile advertising capabilities for Navteq, which has seen the PND market (one of its primiary outlets) look less and less viable with the rise of smartphones.
I'm wondering aloud whether Acuity will remain within Navteq or integrated more broadly into Nokia Interactive Advertising. I would also look for more Nokia mobile ad platform/network acquisitions in the near term.
As I said yesterday, reconciling all the conflicting survey and behavioral data on consumers' attitudes toward mobile advertising is difficult. Generally speaking consumers will say they don't like ads on mobile devices, but respond to advertising and offers when they receive them. I said also that more sophisticated (read: smartphone) users are more welcoming of (or less bothered by) mobile ads, especially when the benefits are clear. And the most sophisticated group of mobile Web users is iPhone owners.
Now comes research from Chitika, an online (not mobile) advertising network, which argues based on behavioral data that iPhone owners are the least responsive (as measured by CTR) to ads and that mobile is not the great boon to marketers it's cracked up to be:
Here's what Chitika says about the chart on the right:
Of the 92 million impressions cited in the study, approximately 1.3 million (1.5%) came from mobile browsing. While non-mobile held steady with a 0.83% clickthrough rate, mobile as a whole pulled a mere 0.48%
The presentation of this data and subtleties of the language used (i.e., "mere") suggest bias to me. Every single source I've encountered shows the opposite of this chart: users respond to mobile marketing and advertising campaigns at rates that are higher than online. There must be an "apples to oranges" comparison going on. Although it's not entirely clear from the way the data are presented, the "non-mobile" CTRs appear to be ads responsive to search queries. The "mobile" CTR data I'm going to guess is based on response to display advertising.
Search CTRs in general are always substantially higher than display CTRs because of the nature of "push vs. pull" models.
According to Google's DoubleClick the average CTR for online display advertising in 2008 was 0.10%. Thus, the "apples to apples" comparison is probably mobile CTR of .48% vs. online display CTR of 0.10%. CTRs on mobile search ads should also be somewhat better than online because of the "need it now" phenomenon. Here's what SEM agency Performics said about a recent PC vs. mobile search test:
Performics recently ran a limited test of the smart device targeting capability to promote an iPhone app. We created mirrored campaigns in Google - one targeting laptops/PCs and the other targeting mobile smart devices. After a week, 8% of impressions but 11% of clicks came through the smart device campaign. Mobile searchers had a higher CTR because the ads targeted them better.
Accordingly I believe that Chitika, an online-only ad network, took online search ad CTR rates and compared them to mobile display ad CTRs. Furthermore it should be said that the "click" is not the right metric for mobile (display) advertising. It is, however, becoming the default metric that media planners and pundits are using to talk about mobile performance but it's myopic and doesn't truly reflect impact and value in the context of non-search adverting. (See the OPA study re "latent" effects of online display campaigns.)
One final bit of data on smartphone handset market share in terms of mobile Internet usage from the Chitika study:
Compare AdMob July data for the US market:
The data in the market generally reflect some contradictory things regarding consumer attitudes toward mobile advertising. Majorities of survey respondents (from our surveys and third party data) say they don't want to see ads on their handsets. However, their behavior very often reflects something else: they want offers and will respond to them.
A recent AOL-UniversalMcCann study (n=1800) showed that 38% of US smartphone users took some sort of action in response to mobile marketing/advertising.
If the data are segmented by handset and demographics what you find is that more sophisticated users on smartphones are the most interested and the least offended by mobile advertising vs. the general market. Here's recent general mobile user survey data from our April survey:
Now see Compete/TNS data released yesterday:
We have some earlier, very similar findings. When presented with concrete information and offers, consumers are interested -- especially when it means saving money. These are smartphone users who are much less hostile to mobile ads. The 77% figure in the chart at the top goes down to 53% when smartphone owners are segmented out. In other words the number of those using smartphones who don't want ads is 53% vs. 85% for non-smartphone owners.
Finally, InsightExpress released some data that also reflected that the "absence of advertising" was an issue of diminishing importance:
Source: InsightExpress Digital Consumer Portrait (7/09, n=1,210)
Mobile advertising works at levels that far outstrip conventional PC advertising. But many consumers are still ambivalent about it because they fear spam, tracking, incurring costs, etc. There's no easy way to explain the discrepancies in the data and in the contast between consumer attitudes toward mobile ads and actual behavior.
Today at the Mobilize conference Motorola announced it's long-awaited first Android phone the "CLIQ" (from T-Mobile) with "Motoblur." For about 10 minutes it wasn't clear what the phone was called. It seemed like it was called the "Motoblur" but then T-Mobile took the stage and called it the CLIQ. It's officially called "Motorola CLIQ With MOTOBLUR."
This is some of the most confused branding in recent memory. To compound matters it's being called DEXT with MOTORBLUR in the UK and Europe. Putting all that aside, the phone is interesting for a few reasons:
The "MOTOBLUR" social software (MySpace, Facebook, Twitter) is the type of thing that carriers arguably should be doing (i.e., customizable home screen) to remain relevant to end users. Instead, they're building apps stores, which in my mind face very mixed prospects.
Google experimented with pay per call and click to call functionality in AdWords several years ago on the PC and then killed it. Now it appears that Google is returning to PPCall as a mobile ad format. Yesterday the search engine held a conference call/webinar with financial analysts to talk about the outlook for its business. Here's what was said by two analysts on the call about new ad formats that Google is introducing both online and in mobile:
From JP Morgan's Imran Khan (via Business Insider):
Google plans to introduce new ad formats. Google hasn’t made many changes to its text ad format and now sees this as a big opportunity. For example, advertisements for movies may be best in the form of trailers, and product advertisements may be best in the form of pictures and descriptions. The team is currently working on ad formats better suited to mobile, video, picture, maps and local searches.
From Citi's Mark Mahaney:
In an effort to bring more relevant ads to users, Google recently launched four new ad formats and expects to expand these over time: A) Video Ads – Users can play a video ad within the sponsored links section. This would be ideal for movie trailers, video games or companies selling complex products; B) Site Ads – An ad would contain sublinks to more specific products that take users directly to those products on the site; C) Product Ads – Ads that show pictures, prices and description of products; D) Local – Google shows address, directions and in some cases logos of local establishments; and E) Mobile – Google added click- to-call which is a new mobile monetization ad format. (emphasis added.)
PPCall is a natural ad format for mobile for self-evident reasons. The question in my mind is how Google will manage bidding and analytics vs. the rest of AdWords.
Update: Here's Google's official statement after I asked for clarification:
We're indeed working on expanding our click-to-call ads to appear next to high-end mobile search results. The first tests of the ad will likely give users a choice of a Web URL *and* a click-to-call option within the ad. We will then evaluate the results and look into a click-to-call-only ad for high-end mobile.
There are various forms of in-store marketing: coupons on shelves, end caps, on floor, in-store video, POS screens and so on. But here's something really valuable and fresh: Aisle411. We discovered it through the Voxeo blog.
The company works with retailers (big boxes) to help consumers locate products on store shelves -- within the store. I don't have a dollar figure but I know from personal experience that this is a problem: consumer wants to buy something but can't find it on the shelf. The salesperson is either ignorant, not available or otherwise unmotivated and so the consumer winds up frustrated ("I guess it's not here"). How many sales are lost because somebody can't find the item they're seeking and give up?
Consumers are prompted to call 1-877-AISLE411 by an in-store display. They're taken through a DA-like menu (store, city, item) and ultimately directed to the aisle where the item is normally stocked ("sippy cups are in aisle three"). The system also gives stores the opportunity to promote other items (upsell related items) and specials of one sort or another.
It's pretty interesting. Here's a quick demo with call flow.
AT&T has revamped its successful YPMobile iPhone app and included local business video profiles and PPCall ads. Previously there had been no ads on the app. According to the press release out this am. The main changes are the following:
It hasn't yet shown up (for me at least) in the iTunes store so I wasn't able to test out the video or take any screens of the ads. However PPCall is, for obvious reasons, well suited to mobile handsets and I imagine AT&T/Yellowpages.com will see some nice volumes to their advertisers from the iPhone app.
Beyond its own mobile app Yellowpages.com advertisers gain mobile distribution through Bing: