Any money put toward mobile ad platforms last year came from marketers' discretionary funds, but now mobile marketing is a dedicated line item in their budgets, Jay Emmit, president of the Americas, mBlox, a global mobile transaction firm, told some 400 attendees at the 2006 Mobile Marketing Forum.
"It's a significant shift in the advertising world -- [mobile marketing is] now mainstream; it's out of trial mode," he said.
The banking and financial sectors were responsible for some of the more innovative uses of the emerging medium in the past year, as when MasterCard used text messaging as part of its fraud-alert program. P&G, which won the Mobile Marketing Association's first Overall Excellence award, has developed the Ad Lab, a program where key marketing executives on more than a dozen brands have been educated in mobile opportunities such as mobile video and text messaging. As a result, a flurry of new efforts and programs will be rolling out from P&G brands starting next year.
Still, mobile marketing continues to have its hangups, Mr. Emmitt said. Mobile companies don't have a foolproof method of ensuring that ads for sexually explicit material, gambling and other adult-aimed content will stay off cellphones in the hands of kids. Wireless carriers led by Sprint have begun to warm up to providing marketers with targeted mobile advertising opportunities, a move than may not find fans with privacy advocates.
Marketers and agencies are also demanding better measurement tools. "I want data," said Eric Bader, senior VP-digital at MediaVest. There's "not a lot of 'M' in the CPM," meaning there's not a lot of mobile included in ad rates determined by cost-per-thousand (CPM) consumers. Another stumbling block to mobile marketing's success is the inability of marketers and media buyers to buy ads across carriers: In the current setup, ads with each wireless service provider need to be negotiated individually.
Kim Olson, marketing director, Sprint Mobile Media Network, said marketers need to present strong, compelling mobile offers, "not just put a logo up." She declined to answer a question from the audience on the carrier's share of ad revenue.
Not so fast
Not all attendees were convinced that mobile has turned the corner. Courtney Jane Acuff, associate director, Denuo, said many marketers have not made a commitment to an interactive budget, let alone a mobile-marketing budget. "There's a big difference between a discretionary budget and an actual budgeted dollar," she said. Ms. Acuff added that next year, when the 2008 broadcast TV "upfront" ad-selling period is conducted, she will watch to see if mobile is included as part of the offerings. That "will dictate whether mobile is happening or not," she said. "It didn't happen this year."
A study this month from JupiterResearch found 22% of companies advertising online also are doing mobile marketing. Overall, the study predicted mobile ad spending to more than double from a predicted $1.4 billion this year to $2.9 billion in 2011.
A number of the conference's attendees, particularly those representing the wireless carriers, noted the fragile nature of mobile marketing in light of the threat that comes from unscrupulous marketers, such as spammers. "Those in it for the short term: We will find you all and kick you out and never see you again," said Christopher Black, director-mobile marketing and interactive media, Cingular Wireless.
And one conference speaker had some old-fashioned advice based on lessons learned from the internet's growing pains. "Pop-ups -- don't do it," cautioned Greg Stuart, president-CEO, Interactive Advertising Bureau. "Don't let it happen."