NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Around this time every year, the same industry rallying cry can be heard: This will be the year mobile marketing finally breaks out. But for WPP Group and a host of clients, 2008 finally was that year. Or at least the year mobile went from being a possibility to a permanent part of some brands' integrated media strategy.On the strength of successful campaigns with Unilever, Virgin Atlantic and the Olympics, WPP out-of-home agency Kinetic is now re-branding its former Kinetic Mobile unit to become Joule, a new dedicated mobile agency. Joule will be integrated across all of WPP's Group M agencies, which include Mindshare, Mediaedge and Mediacom, as well as execute mobile campaigns for non-WPP clients. Joule CEO Michael Collins said the new agency comes at a time of two tipping points for the mobile industry: the advent of the iPhone and the subsequent application/smartphone craze created in its wake. "It's no longer a question of 'if' or 'when' brands should be doing something with mobile," he said. How Unilever used mobile
For Unilever, that means making mobile a key part of recent campaigns for Axe and Dove, which it has done by adding text-message voting and code-scanning elements to larger print and online buys. "We really saw 2008 as the year for us to take a more active test-and-learn approach to enter 2009 as hitting the ground running," said Jay Altschuler, senior lead communications manager for Unilever's personal care and ice cream brands. "Short-form content is a great, efficient way to deliver brand assets to create further dialogue, so we literally use mobile as the glue to connect the entire campaign." Despite spending projections for 2009 being curbed left and right, Mr. Collins is still bullish about mobile marketing's ad spend this year, estimating the sector will still see growth rates well into the double digits. "Brands are just starting to figure it out, but there's a huge amount of energy around it," he said, adding that about a third of Group M's client base is currently experimenting with mobile marketing. As mobile marketing matures into becoming a more web-like medium, so do the click-through rates. A recent Kinetic campaign for Virgin Atlantic, promoting the airlines transatlantic flight from New York to London, used out-of-home to drive consumer to a WAP site, where they could register for coupons for movie tickets, as well as text-message sweepstakes and trivia games. Exceptional results
The campaign won the Interactive Advertising Bureau award for mobile campaign of the year, and achieved a click-through rate of 2.25%, with an additional opt-in rate of 1.2%. For the still-fledgling mobile market, that's exceptional, Mr. Collins said, especially when the cost-per-thousand users is often double what marketers pay online, due to the high engagement. A successful click-through rate on a typical mobile campaign is often anywhere from 0.5% to 5%, he added. Group M isn't the only agency group upping its investment on mobile in 2009. Publicis Group's VivaKi, the umbrella unit for Publicis' media and digital agencies, is partnering with companies like Mobile Discovery to create integrated mobile campaigns for print, online and even radio. Mobile marketing is forecast to grow from $708 million in overall revenue this year to $2.2 billion in 2012 -- a compound annual growth rate of 26%. Mobile Discovery CEO David Miller said mobile marketing is taking three different forms: informational, "warm lead" (an interactive element that earns a response from a consumer), and transactional. "What we are working towards is allowing the advertiser to define an experience they want the consumer to have. When the consumer sees the ad, or hears the ad, they can trigger that experience for the phone," he said. "So when you see an ad, depending on where you are in the buying process, you can fall into one of those three categories." Bumps ahead
But mobile marketing still has some major in-roads to make in consumer adoption, especially as phone carriers continue to open up their networks to allow marketing messages through Bluetooth and other wireless technologies. Patrick Quinn, CEO of media forecasting firm PQ Media, said mobile marketing's best chance of future growth is to continue to integrate itself as part of the consumer's daily media experience. "Advertising and marketing hasn't been the breakout everyone has expected for technology reasons, and different technologies with cellphone devices," Mr. Quinn said. "But the convergence of mobile and digital out-of-home technology will create a real force of outdoor and out-of-home advertising."