Mobile-media chiefs' pitch falls on deaf ears

At CTIA, big advertisers rapped for holding back

By Published on .

[las vegas] What are you waiting for?

That was the prevailing sentiment as a record 40,000 attendees swarmed the strip here last week at the CTIA Wireless 2006 conference. Amid all the ebullience, marketers were chided for exercising caution in embracing the nascent mobile-phone-advertising market.

"This is bigger than Oprah!" exhorted Will Hodgman, CEO of mobile measurement firm M:Metrics, in a presentation sponsored by the Mobile Marketing Association.

Mobile research firm Ovum valued advertising expenditures on the mobile phone last year at $45 million, far below that of the Internet or TV. And while it's on a trajectory to grow to $1.26 billion by 2009, that's less than half the smallest advertising category measured by TNS Media Intelligence last year-$3 billion for outdoor. Mr. Hodgman stressed that the 150 million mobile phones in the U.S. are capable of sophisticated functions that make them ripe for marketing from text messages to mobile video ads. In an effort to defuse the argument of some consumer groups, which have labeled advertising on cellphones intrusive "m-spam," he said his company has found consumers will tolerate well-targeted mobile ads.

That contention was supported by Pricewaterhouse Coopers research. "Consumers are willing to trade information about themselves for content," said Paige Hayes, director of the firm's advisory practice. What they dislike, she said, were ads not relevant to them.

Louis Gump, VP-mobile, the Weather Channel, and president of the Mobile Marketing Association, said marketers should understand that in and of itself, "mobile marketing is not a strategy," but "part of the media mix."

Tom Burgess, CEO at mobile-advertising and marketing-software provider Third Screen Media, said mobile CPM's have risen to $35 to $50, in part because of a 3.5% to 4% click-through rate, much higher than Internet click-through rates. His company, he said, has signed some six-figure deals with advertisers he declined to identify.

Needs time to grow

Much of the marketing establishment, however, isn't biting. Richard Gerstein, chief marketing officer at Alberto Culver Co., said mobile, "like any new medium, needs time to grow and prosper" and "would be "more applicable to certain brands than others."

Dave Luhr, chief operating officer at Wieden & Kennedy, the agency for one of the country's most forward-thinking marketers, Nike, said mobile will be a powerful medium one day. But not today.
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