Turning Cellphones Into a Computer Mouse to Interact With Brands

Impact Mobile's Gary Schwartz Touts Entertainment Value of Wireless Devices

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Who: Gary Schwartz, president-CEO of Impact Mobile

Why you need to know him: Mr. Schwartz's company promotes mobile as a media channel for marketers and media agencies and aims to turn the cellphone into a computer mouse to access entertainment content and interact with brands.
Impact Mobile's Gary Schwartz says innovative brands are following the consumer across multiple platforms.

Credentials: An entrepreneur in the IT industry, Mr. Schwartz founded a production company in Tokyo before heading up several business-to-business ventures, including Thinksmith and Middleworld. In 2002, he formed Impact Mobile, based in Toronto. He is a graduate of Columbia University and Stanford University.

Who are your clients? "Leading advertising agencies, handset manufacturers, wireless carriers, print publications, Fortune 500 brands as well as channel partners for sports and music venues." Those also include Major League Baseball, the National Basketball Association, the National Hockey League, the Arena Football League, college campuses, Nascar and record labels, among others.

And what do you do for them? "We provide end-to-end marketing solutions, which enable brands and agencies to use the mobile channel to activate and measure traditional media and communicate directly with the consumer. ... We provide mobile onto ClearChannel taxi tops, design live mobile-to-Jumbotron brand integration for stadiums, drive sales with mobile [code]-redemptions-on-burger-wrappers," in addition to coupons and subscription services.

What kind of branded-entertainment deals have you recently brokered? "We do not focus on branded entertainment as a premium service to the consumer, but rather as promotional currency for the brand. Typically, the brand provides branded entertainment [in the form of mobile content such as games, music, ringtones and information]."

You compare the mobile phone to a PC "mouse" or a mobile "remote." Why? "It's Pavlovian: When you see media you want to click and change it. The mobile consumer wants to use their phone as a mobile mouse to click and activate traditional push media. We give them that channel control."

Why isn't there a consensus yet on what entertainment content on your phone will look like? "It's a combination of handset and carrier limitations, which have made it a clumsy experience for the consumer. Additionally, in North America, the mobile phone is still perceived as a communication device, not an entertainment device. Lastly, IP rights holders have traditionally done a very poor job embracing the public in any digital-interactive medium. We believe consumers in North America wish to purchase content once, and have the ability to enjoy that purchase in their home and in their car as well as on a portable device, be it a laptop, MP3 player or cellphone. Until these issues are addressed, all digital-interactive mediums will elude IP holders incremental revenue from the masses. Personally, we believe there is more interest by the consumer to self-publish than purchase."

You recently inked a deal with in-game advertising firm Double Fusion. What kind of work will both of you do together? Through the partnership, gamers will be able to interact with in-game ads and receive personal identification numbers, tips and other content via their cellphones. Messages can range from sponsored tips and tricks to hidden game codes and free or premium mobile content from the game, creating value for the gamer and higher return on investment for the advertiser. Wireless instant messaging can connect gamers when not in the game world.

"We are very excited to work with Double Fusion to offer brands the ability to extend their console and PC in-game experience to mobile. The innovative brand is following the consumer across multiple platforms. This will be truly a 360-degree brand offering. Mobile is an ideal bridge media."

How do you measure success for your clients? "In addition to measuring each time a consumer interacts with a marketer's message, as well as earning revenue for a brand and increasing customer loyalty, we measure success simply by achieving the specific goals of each campaign. It has been our willingness to experiment that has led us to learn what does and doesn't work in the mobile channel. We are a very client-focused company. Impact Mobile shares this knowledge and works very closely with our clients to ensure their success."

What are some lessons you've learned working in this space? "Mobile is the most intimate of all marketing channels. It's not enough for the brand simply to reach out to the consumers. They must provide the consumer an easy, enjoyable value-driven experience. Most of our competitors simply focus on the technology or the campaign. We help brands build community."

There is still some confusion as to what branded entertainment actually is. How do you define it? "The confusion of this term is widespread amongst those who work in the mobile channel vs. those who wish to access the mobile channel. We don't define it, but rather work with our clients' definition of branded entertainment."

What are some good examples of branded entertainment that you've seen recently in the mobile space? "We've not seen anything capture a majority market share. We believe the market isn't there yet."

And bad? "Not naming any campaign specifically, an ineffective solution would be one that is too focused on delivering content and not starting a two-way conversation with the consumer."

Working in the mobile world, what kind of devices do you carry around? "I like to be handset- and carrier-agnostic. Ideally my programs are accessible to 90% of the target consumers regardless of their phone."

Which phone do you use? "RIM, plus a Samsung A900."

What do you do on your downtime? "Work."

What's on your iPod? "All the classics, with an emphasis on jazz. I usually keep a good selection of new artists that my kids are listening to as well."

What's on your TiVo?: "78.5 empty gigs."
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