Why Mobile-Marketing Euphoria Is a Thing of the Past

Talk at Annual Conference Highlights Medium's Struggle to Be Understood

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LOS ANGELES (AdAge.com) -- The mobile phone ain't what it used to be, even a few short months ago.

With hopes of a big boom dashed and a lot of the euphoria evaporated, marketers and media companies talked about rethinking mobile advertising at the Mobile Marketing Association's annual meeting in Los Angeles this week.

Don't understand medium's potential
Marketers are balking at shifting money into mobile advertising because they don't understand its potential at a fundamental level, said Renee Borkowski, senior VP-database marketing at Arc Worldwide. Marketers "are still struggling with their own mobile phones," Ms. Borkowski said. She said the result is a "true gap" between what the industry sees as the mobile phone's future and the realities of dealing with prospective marketers.

Media company executives on a separate panel said there is a big disparity between production costs and how marketers' dollars are used to support mobile content. A few years ago, Fox and its mobisodes for the series "24" were the toast of the young business. But Amy Lorbati, VP-marketing, partnerships and advertising strategy for Fox Broadcasting, said Fox used a "deficit-funding model" to support some of those early projects, and the studio had trouble selling ads.

"It was a hard lesson which luckily came out of somebody's else budget," she said.

Marketers broaden their ideas
Still, marketers also are starting to look beyond those early uses for the cellphone. Mobile companies, for example, recently have been picking up on the use of the mobile for translation services. Jorge Partidas, CEO, LatCel, said one test case targeted 7- to 12-year-olds with a free downloadable educational game teaching 50 basic English terms. It was downloaded by 11% of the Hispanic-targeted users. The game's next version will have a website for reporting scores.

In the automotive industry, Fiat is using the phone to help customers when they drive off, providing a mobile download with information about where to find the local dealership and handy information from the manual, such as tire pressure.

And there might be other applications for marketers willing to get a bit creative. Consider this statistic: Studies show that the highest percentage of consumers (upward of 40%, depending on the study) use their mobile phone in the bathroom.
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