HP's Media Chief: Why Mobile Ads Don't Cut It

Berg Says Marketers Must Cater to Consumer Needs, Not Just Push Messages

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SAN FRANCISCO (AdAge.com) -- Scott Berg's got a bone to pick with mobile marketing.

Hewlett-Packard's worldwide media director controls a budget of $829 million and is a big fan of nontraditional media. HP, for example, is devoting 70% of its back-to-school budget to online and viral messaging. Yet Mr. Berg is frustrated by the limitations of mobile-web advertising; marketers who push out ads rather than allowing users to opt in; and strategies that overlook the most important consumer need in mobile marketing: search.
Scott Berg, Hewlett-Packard's worldwide media director
Scott Berg, Hewlett-Packard's worldwide media director

"We've had experience with advertising on the deck of some phone carriers -- just didn't work out for us," Mr. Berg said. HP also tested off-deck ads on the mobile web and came to the conclusion that search, at least for the time being, is the way to tackle the new media.

Tangible search terms
"I would much rather spend the money on the search terms than the advertising because I can track it, I can understand it, I can tweak it based on consumer needs," he said.

The key, he believes, is for marketers to realize people are using their phones for information -- and smart advertisers will market around that rather than simply pump out a steady stream of ads. He said HP's latest mobile strategy, which is set to roll out next year, will be based on the thinking that the mobile phone is a utility for consumers.

"I have a number of concerns about the push technology. One of the big ones is there's going to be a huge backlash by consumers if we start to push text messages or voicemail messages, and that's going to lead immediately -- immediately -- to legislation against this type of activity," he warned. "Right now you have the do-not-call list. That could possibly get more stringent, in my opinion, if marketers tend to go overboard in push technology in mobile phones."

Trying to be useful
Instead, Mr. Berg said he is defining a strategy that will tie in with HP distributors, resellers and others so the mobile phone will prove useful to consumers at the point of purchase. Many of those efforts will be related to search, a much different process on the mobile phone than on the PC.

"When you're walking around, you're looking for a place to go, a place to go shop. Perhaps you're trying to check a price within a store and checking to see if there's another better price online," he said. "How can we utilize the natural use of mobilephone technology in the way that search is applied to it in an everyday benefit back to the consumer?"

But Mr. Berg said not all HP mobile-marketing efforts will be limited to search. He said the company's Yahoo March Madness HP Courtside '07 promotion, which provided scores and information during last spring's men's college basketball tournament, drew more than 890,000 unique visitors.
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