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Friday, February 08, 2008

OMMA Mobile: A Day Later...

Let's see how much of the OMMA Mobile Conference I can distill into one blog entry. A day later, certain highlights emerge as I share what I learned with the water-cooler set, among them:

The opportunities afforded by mobile handsets are explosive (in my opinion). As long as mobile campaigns provide UTILITY (useful information and ways to save time and/or money), RELEVANCE (messaging customized by situation, location, and/or user profile), and CONTROL for the user (so they can't be spammed), this always-on, always-on-you medium is poised to be "The Thing" (according to Aegis CEO David Verklin, one of yesterday's speakers).

I'm not a media person, so it's the ideas I was there to hear. Verklin was pushing integrated campaigns where mass media (like TV) invites consumers to opt-in for mobile permission marketing. He touted achieving "100% composition", which he called "the dream of any media planner."

Similarly, Nokia's Ad Business Director of Global Brand Solutions Jeremy Wright marveled at how few brands were using mobile to improve the performance of offline ads. Why slap your web address on an outdoor board (and ask people to remember it when they get back to their computer) when you can invite them to text a keyword to a short code for instant results and information (using the phone they have in their pocket or purse)? Said Wright, "Acting on impulse. Shouldn't that be what advertising's all about?"

Back to Verklin, he quoted a deprivation research exercise where 18-29 year olds were asked, "Which would you give up first: the internet or your cellphone?" The results were overwhelming in favor of keeping the phone, and many respondents muttered "stupid question." Why? Because they access the internet on their phone, so they wouldn't be giving up the internet at all. In fact, for many, the cellphone is their primary tool for accessing the web, and this is especially true in other parts of the world.

Verklin also showed some support for mobile video, adding that ad dollars will always chase things that look and feel like TV. As soon as broadband made the internet TV-like, the money followed. Now electronic out-of-home is getting popular. If mobile can succeed as another "TV surrogate", look out.

"Mobile is a channel, not a strategy" said Paul Cushman, Director of Mobile Sales for Yahoo! during the Enter The Titans session. Louis Gump, VP of Mobile for Weather Channel Interactive, explained how every advertiser starts off with a cross-platform buy typically involving Weather Channel TV,, and some mobile, but many return asking for mobile-only campaigns because of how surprisingly well they perform. Reasons? The single banner at the top of their mobile web page does well because, like any mobile banner, it doesn't share the screen with any other advertising. Also, weather is a leading mobile search category (understandable), so their mobile site is among the most popular.

Gump also challenged advertisers to "think beyond the click". Where are they taking the mobile users? How can they leverage the heavily-loaded opportunity to engage an interested user on their phone (which is also a payment device, when you consider the ability to apply charges to a user's monthly bill)?

It reminds me of that scene in Swingers where T (Vince Vaughn) tells Mike (Jon Favreau) that he's like a big bear with teeth and claws, and the girl across the bar is a little bunny, "and you got these claws and you're staring at these claws and you're thinking to yourself, and with these claws you're thinking, how am I supposed to kill this bunny, how am I supposed to kill this bunny?!" Well, the phone has these massive teeth and claws, and that user who clicked? You get the idea.

They're so money and they don't even have cellphones.

The last session of the morning featured The Giant Killers, or the mobile startups expertly taking aim at the mobile space. David Goldman of Comedy Time ("the 7th most watched video channel on mobile and the only independent in the top 10") told of challenging Comedy Central with mobile-purposed video content featuring more close-ups, sound designed for cellphone speakers, and appropriate plotlines and running times for mobile viewing.

Barry Chu, GM of Advertising at Medio Systems, spoke of competing with the big boys of search by customizing the display of results for the small screen and emphasizing local search (again, understandable). And MocoSpace's VP of Marketing Jim Gregoire claimed that for many users of their mobile social network, mobile is the 1st Screen (not the 3rd, behind TV and Web, as it is for us older folk). In this way, he said, MocoSpace is more fulfilling than MySpace because your friends are always on (i.e., they always have their phone) and it's easier to meet and interact with new friends.

I texted a question for this panel about their mobile ad inventories (admittedly because I'm designing the ad platform for my own project, mobile sports chat and photo sharing utility The best answer I got was from Chu, who explained that mobile search ads offer click-to-call buttons instead of the traditional web links. Pretty cool.

That was it for the morning session, and speaking of sports, keep an eye out for my recap of the afternoon, where I'll explain what Sprite is doing to revolutionize this year's NBA All Star Slam Dunk Contest...

Just like 2007 Dunk Champ Gerald Green (above), Sprite is getting the jump on their competition.

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