SAN FRANCISCO (AdAge.com) -- Marketers love them and Google is betting its mobile strategy on them. Those shiny new smartphones are changing the mobile-marketing game, but for one agency the iPhone has consistently performed the worst on measures of engagement when it comes to marketing to 19- to 49-year-old females.
Mobile-marketing shop Brand in Hand, whose clients includes Procter & Gamble, General Mills and American Express, has found that in both trials and more than 60 mobile campaigns it has run over the past two years, female iPhone users are less engaged with mobile web advertising than their counterparts who use phones with conventional features. Overall, users of conventional cellphones average 3 to 3.5 more post-click page views than iPhone users, who average 1.3 post-click page views. Post-click page views refer to the actions users take after clicking through a banner ad, such as viewing a video.
Similarly, iPhone users leave a branded web page without taking additional action about 80% of the time; only 12% of non-smartphone users, on the other hand, desert their destination. The study measured users who were clicking through to those destinations from a mobile banner ad.
According to Brand in Hand's co-founder and managing partner, John Hadl, female iPhone users, especially so-called super-moms, are task-oriented and tend to use their smartphones to help them get things done, leaving them little time for brand interaction. They're also likely to be using an app; the "vast majority" of iPhone traffic occurs within applications rather than on the mobile web, according to ad network AdMob.
"When she is in an app doing a task, she is less likely to stop what she is doing and do something else," Mr. Hadl said. Moreover, because an overwhelming number of the apps consumers have downloaded on iPhones have been games, "it's a lot harder to get her to engage deeply in the middle of playing Bejeweled."
It may also be that creative limitations are helping to generate the results the shop is seeing. Many of Brand in Hand's clients are mass consumer brands ranging from cereals to shampoo, all of which require reach and scale, so its strategy has been to build universal sites viewable by the most number of cellphone users. In general, campaigns that drive smartphone users to sites optimized for their handsets tend to perform better, but Mr. Hadl says he doesn't have the luxury of building sites that serve only smartphones.
"One of the challenges [in mobile advertising] is to build mobile sites that cater to all handsets, which can limit you creatively," Mr. Hadl said. "Do I want to reach 4 million moms or 20 million moms?"
Lack of scale
Indeed, for brands that are trying to reach tens of millions of women, and moms in particular, the iPhone lacks the scale to warrant a separate, nuanced strategy. Only about 18% of women age 18-49 have a smartphone today, or roughly 3% of the total cellphone-carrying population, according to Nielsen. About 721,000 moms age 25 to 44 own an iPhone, according to M: Metrics. And for agencies like Brand in Hand, which are under pressure to show results, smartphones just won't cut it, even if most people are expected to have one in a few years.
"God bless you for making something that will take three to four years from now to take hold, but right now, I'm looking for something that will drive sales in the next six to 10 months," Mr. Hadl said.
Moreover, Brand in Hand's clients play in global markets, and countries such as China, Brazil and India will increasingly drive their growth. Many consumers in those countries are leapfrogging PCs altogether and adopting the cellphone as their sole communications tool, making the device a critical means of reaching them. That bolsters Mr. Hadl's argument for universal mobile sites that support the bulk of the world's 4 million-plus phones. While smartphones may be catching on in the West, the cost of a smartphone can be equivalent to somebody's annual salary in developing countries, putting them out of reach for a large slice of the world's populace.
"I can't reach men and women in those countries with a smartphone. It's not going to happen," Mr. Hadl said. Though he said iPhones have done well in male-targeted campaigns that his agency has run, "marketers can't just assume that smartphones are predominant, and therefore always the best investment for reaching all active mobile audiences."