Mobile marketing making a move

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While mobile marketing is still in its infancy for b-to-b marketers, recent improvements in technology and higher usage of Web-enabled mobile devices by business executives are clearing the way for more widespread use of the platform as a marketing medium.

Last month, mobile technology providers unveiled new products at the CTIA Wireless IT & Entertainment conference in Los Angeles, while marketers, content providers and analysts discussed advancements in the wireless industry.

The CTIA show attracted more than 15,000 attendees, who packed the expo floor to check out new equipment and services offered by more than 300 exhibitors.

California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger even showed up for a surprise keynote address, in which he urged the telecommunications industry to continue the innovation it has shown with new products and technology.

"Now you can go and watch TV programs, the news and download movies on the cell phone. It is extraordinary what you have accomplished," Schwarzenegger said.

At the show, the CTIA reported that revenues from wireless data services reached $6.50 billion in the first half of the year, up 70% from the first half of 2005.

"Data is now a reality for wireless carriers and consumers alike," said Steve Largent, president of the CTIA Wireless Association. "With healthy increases in wireless revenues and usage, it is safe to say that we are expanding the wireless frontier."

One of the most promising applications for marketers is mobile video.

Research company Telephia last month reported that the mobile TV audience reached 3.7 million subscribers in the second quarter, up 45% over the first quarter. The most viewed mobile TV applications in the second quarter were news, sports and weather, the report found.

"Mobile video is most likely to be the most effective marketing medium," said Kanishka Agarwal, VP-new products at Telephia.

"People watching mobile video tend to have phones with slightly larger screens," he said, pointing to the Motorola RAZR as an example.

"Video advertising is a format that people are used to and react to, while people tend to ignore banner ads."

Agarwal said mobile video is ripe for b-to-b marketers.

According to Telephia, for 24.6% of wireless subscribers, half or more of all calls they make on their mobile phones are for business purposes. "There is certainly a market here [for b-to-b marketing], although it is still in its early stages," Agarwal said.

The obstacles to widespread use of mobile video for marketing purposes include the cost of the phones themselves and airtime for watching videos, he added.

The Motorola RAZR V3 series, which is the most popular mobile video phone, according to Telephia, is priced at about $239. The Palm Treo 600/650 series, the second-most popular mobile video phone, according to Telephia, is priced at about $199.

According to a study released last week by media research company Horowitz Associates, 8% of Internet users said they watch video content on a handheld device at least once a month. Also, 22% of respondents have video capability on their MP3 player or are interested in getting it, while 19% are interested in getting a service that provides Internet video content on their cell phone.

The study was based on an online survey of more than 1,000 Internet users.

Howard Horowitz, president of Horowitz Associates, said technological developments including more seamless access to video, better quality video, better screens and higher resolution will lead the way to increased mobile marketing applications. "The business market will be early adopters of access to video," he said.

Some b-to-b marketers?including FedEx Corp., Microsoft Corp. and Lenovo?have started to test the waters with mobile marketing and are seeing positive results.

"Right now we are in a learning phase, and we're trying to figure out what really works for different types of categories," said Maria Mandel, partner-executive director of digital innovation at OgilvyInteractive, which developed a mobile marketing campaign for Lenovo.

"The marketer really has to give people something of value," she said. "We need to be very cognizant that the mobile phone is a personal device, and we don't want to clutter it up."

Mandel said time-sensitive information works well, such as alerting people to events, special offers or travel information. "You want to give people something they've asked for, and reach them in a very compelling way," she said.

Also at the CTIA show, analysts and corporate executives discussed the use of mobile applications in the workplace and in dealing with customers.

"There are examples of companies that are realizing the business benefits of wireless and mobility in every vertical you can imagine," said Eugene Signorini, VP at research company Yankee Group, pointing to financial services, telecommunications, utilities and health care. "One of the most exciting things to me is in the health care space."

Signorini noted that health care institutions, such as hospitals, have traditionally been laggards when it comes to IT adoption.

"There have been business problems within the health care environment that have been waiting for the technology to catch up in terms of wireless and mobility. Now, we are seeing things like voice-over-wireless, doctors accessing information through Treos and asset tracking in the health care industry."

In a CIO roundtable about wireless applications in the enterprise, Trammell Crow CIO Donald Goldstein said, "The key is, you have to have the backend applications to make this whole thing work, and you have to arm the people that are using these devices with the ability to use them rather effortlessly."

Also at the show, many mobile technology providers announced new products and services that will advance mobile marketing.

Alltel Wireless and mobile search provider JumpTap announced a partnership to develop a mobile search system that will allow Alltel subscribers to search for information across mobile and Web-based providers.

Mobile marketing company Enpocket announced the launch of Enpocket Marketing Engine 6.0, which allows Web publishers and wireless carriers to add banner ads to mobile browsing services. Sprint Nextel is the first to add the service.

Nokia and Warner Brothers announced a deal to provide downloadable content through the Warner Bros. Web site with handsets that use Nokia Content Discover.

RealNetworks announced the acquisition of WiderThan, a provider of ringtones, music on demand and other mobile entertainment services.

Sprint unveiled the Windows Mobile Pocket PC handset from Samsung, which allows roaming on CDMA or GSM networks.

Mobix Interactive announced the next version of its SMS Shoot n' Share, a video messaging application that enables users to share video.

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