Marketers Bet on Winner in War of Webs

Some Simplify Their Sites for Phones; Steve Jobs Says That Setup Won't Fly

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SAN FRANCISCO (AdAge.com) -- Steve Jobs is betting consumers want to view the web on the mobile phone as they do on computer screens, not what he derided as mobile phones' "baby web" in his presentation introducing the iPhone in January.
Weather.com's WAP site gives traffic updates.
Weather.com's WAP site gives traffic updates.

Which web wins will be critical for marketers hoping to tap the potential of this new media. "I would bet on the mobile web if I had to lay a dollar down," said John Hadl, CEO Brand in Hand, and adviser to Procter & Gamble on mobile marketing who nonetheless believes the mobile web has a long growth path ahead. He said he's not sure Mr. Jobs' prediction will materialize.

Some of the reasons have to do with the obvious limitations of the mobile phone's small screen and slow download speeds. As a result, telecom operators have developed for the mobile phone screen a scaled-down, text-heavy and graphics-light version of the web, technically known as WAP, for Wireless Application Protocol. When a mobile phone dials into a publisher's or marketer's website, it's determined how a consumer is accessing the site (from the PC or a mobile phone), and mobile callers are seamlessly connected those on the mobile phone to a mobile-friendly version of the web. Some marketers have added ".mobi" websites tailored for the mobile phone.

Immediate info
This allows marketers to tailor their websites to consumers' mobile needs and experiences. "Most people are not planning a wedding on their mobile phone," said Louis Gump, VP-mobile, Weather Channel Interactive. They don't want to be linked to another site, as is commonly done with results on the PC web. Nor do they want to have to dig eight pages deep into a website before getting the information they want, he said.

Instead, the Weather Channel's WAP site has been designed for easy access to information likely needed to be required by people on the go -- in its case, of course, the weather. Recently, Weather.com's WAP site added baseball scores because of the summer interest, and live traffic updates, thought to be another big winner on the mobile web. Among the marketers advertising on both the Weather Channel's mobile and PC websites are Hampton Inns and Discover Cards, said Mr. Gump. "There's a lot of crossover," he said. "It's opened up a new avenue for advertising."

Mark Donovan, senior analyst, M:Metrics, said the mobile web is a classic case of less is more. "I don't want the entire internet on the phone -- I just want the things I care about," he said of mobile consumer needs and attitudes. A mobile-phone user on the way to the airport may want to know about flight departures, but someone stuck waiting at the airport might want to plan a vacation using the mobile phone's web connection. "It would be smart for brands to think through these scenarios," he said. "Ultimately, consumers don't care about technology. If you give them what they want, they don't care."

Creative overhaul
One thing is certain, however: Ads on the mobile web will require a major creative overhaul, with new styles of ad units to be developed, said Mr. Donovan. "Tower ads are annoying" on a small cellphone screen, he said. Boris Fridman, CEO of Crisp Wireless, a company that develops mobile websites for marketers, urged advertisers to "create a different experience" for mobile-web users. He added he was "unimpressed" with Mr. Jobs' version of the mobile web as he experienced it on an iPhone. Although Mr. Jobs promised a full PC-style experience, it lacks the flash and dash of a full PC web with, for example, limited YouTube video access.

Even Playboy in the next few weeks will launch a mobile web version of the articles section of its website in the U.S. "Today people want shorter, micro chunks of content" on the mobile phone, said Chris Petrovic, Playboy's VP-digital media.

Then there's the cost. Maria Mandel, senior partner, executive director, digital innovation at Ogilvy, said CPMs on regular websites average $4, but can go to as high as $50 for premium placements; on the mobile web, premiums are $25 to $30, down somewhat from last year's $35 to $40, but "substantially higher" in any case than the PC-based web. Click-through rates on the PC web average 0.2%, while on the mobile web they are 2% to 2.5%, she said.

One banner
One advantage of the mobile web is there is usually only one banner per page, she noted. Ogilvy client Cisco has run a test campaign on the mobile that linked to an ad on its website and it did very well, Ms. Mandel said.

In fact, mobile experts believe that if you advertise on the mobile web, you need to have a branded mobile WAP site to go to. "The mobile web is an engagement channel," said Mr. Hadl. Marketers advertising on the mobile web need to have a landing page for consumers to go to after seeing the ad. "Otherwise why advertise?" he asked.

Mr. Hadl said he played with the iPhone's internet features recently and didn't think the experience was all that Mr. Jobs promised. But in the future, he predicted, neither the "baby web" nor the PC web will be victorious: The winner will be "somewhere in the middle."
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