On the iPhone, Software Is Content

When It Comes to Next-Gen Mobile Devices, Marketers Should Consider Building Apps

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Chad Currie
Chad Currie
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These last few weeks we saw both Google and Apple put on a big show for their Android and iPhone platform advancements, respectively. The close timing of these events has prompted some to talk about a coming Android/iPhone war, but I think that's missing the point. The timing of both events is mostly coincidental and, besides, I think there's room for both in the market anyway.

More remarkable are the similarities between these two events and what they tell us about where mobile is heading. Geo-positioning, open applications, gaming and synching with the cloud were common themes at both. But the most telling thing to me was that both announcements were made at developers' events.

This is not something you see often -- major, game-changing consumer devices being announced at a developer forum. Development conferences were once, well, too nerdy. But any new platform must have the support of developers or else it never becomes a full platform. Microsoft used this strategy well when introducing the Xbox 360. Even though Sony introduced a technically more powerful system, Xbox 360 had more well-designed games in the beginning. It was a terrific hedge that demonstrated the power of software over specs. By doing the same now, Google and Apple are showing their cards. Mobile devices will live and die by the applications they offer.

We marketers have been doing our dance of anticipation for some time, trying to figure out the marketing angle on iPhone and its kind. If it attracts eyeballs, we want a part of it. And we have patiently waited for mobile devices to grow up and welcome us aboard. It hasn't happened in any real volume yet and I think we should be ready to wait a little longer.

The mobile experience is still about focused utility or entertainment. And even at the speed of 3G, data and screen space are too precious for consumers to share with advertisers willingly. The rush right now is to create applications that will make these devices worth having. Only then will media inventory as we know it become available for our advertising.

I see another way, though. If you want to get onto these devices, become an application developer yourself. Does your product offer some utility that could extend into the small-screen? Can you create a game that entertains and drives interest in your brand? Apple and Google are putting custom applications in reach of more people, so why not be a part of that?

On the mobile phone, software is the content. As with any branded content, if you bring value you will be welcomed. If not, then you can wait for inventory to open up to sponsor someone else's killer app.

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Chad Currie is VP-group creative director at T3, where he advises interactive creative direction for clients including Marriott, JCPenney, JPMorgan Chase and UPS.
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