OMMA Mobile: Ask Them This for Me

My Italian grandmother was forever toiling in the kitchen while we had the traditional Sunday midday feast in the dining room. She was a stout and matronly woman, but Lord knows when exactly she managed to eat to get that way. "Evelyn, get out here," my grandfather always shouted. But of course someone had to keep that relentless line of courses coming, and there was no one in the family who dared usurp Grandma's sacred place beside the stove. "Start without me," she yelled back. "Do you want the pasta sauce to burn?" That usually shut Grandpa up in a hurry. He hated burnt "gravy."

The Mediapost OMMA shows that we cook up work much the same way. With input from all of you (we try to include some of your favorite dishes), we make a menu (panels), shop for ingredients (moderators and panelists), set the table (organize the venue) and serve it up. And like Grandma, the cooks are sometimes out of the room while everyone else is eating. Ensuring that the next panel is assembled and ready to go, putting out fires with missing/late panelists, and fielding those calls from people "on their way" can pull any of us out of the action during critical moments.

I learned this the hard way early on when I ventured to ask the panel a question during Q&A that had already been asked and answered when I was out of the room. Never again. Unless I have witnessed the whole flow of a panel conversation, I now keep my mouth shut.

And while Grandma was undisputed monarch of the kitchen, the programmers of a show like this have to step back and let the moderators, panelists and audience take the conversation in their own direction. At next Wednesday's OMMA Mobile we are lucky to have a roster of moderators whom I would never venture to micro-manage. Folks like Jordan Greene of MellaMedia, consultant Joe Jasin (formerly vice president of corporate development for SK Telecom), Organic's Chad Stoller, consultant Dan Hodges, and Transpera's Frank Barbieri et. al. don't need Grandma telling them to add pepper as they serve their dish. We have all already conferred enough on the front end about where the panels should go and the key flavors to include.

And yet, I inherit from Grandma that monarchical, micro-managing gene and still have questions I would love to ask. So will someone ask them for me? And will you add some of your own, please? For those of you who haven't seen the full agenda and panelists yet, please go here. If you have specific questions you would like to see addressed, let me know and I will pass them on to the respective moderators.

For instance, in our publisher panel, we have the heavy mobile hitters from major cross-platform brands Yahoo (Michael Bayle), NBC (Salil Dalvi), Gannett (Jason Fulmines), CBS (Jeff Sellinger) and ESPN, (Lisa Valentino), all of whom serve as mobile evangelists within larger media organizations. You have to wonder if they are having any better luck than the agency-side mobile evangelists in getting mobile into the sales mix. In the early days of the Web, major media companies had a hard time incentivizing sales forces to push a nascent medium with little revenue behind it. Is the same conundrum holding true for mobile, and did that last war teach them anything for this next one?

I am really curious about what Jordan Greene's media director panel ("The Media Director's Cut") has to say about mobile relative to other platforms. We specifically designed this panel (as we did elsewhere in the agenda) to get voices from outside of the mobile mafia to give perspective. We are trying here to get us out of the echo chamber of mobile marketers talking to one another about how great the platform is and get a clearer sense of where the platform sits in the pecking order (and budget allocations) of emerging media. The director has to consider what this medium is worth, for instance, compared to a spend in out-of-home. How are media directors thinking about this medium in contrast to or combination with the other OOH opportunities? Shouldn't mobile be considered OOH? But what do I know. I just cook here.

Cathy Taylor's (our own Social Insider columnist) panel and Chad Stoller's are especially interesting to me because I continue to think that mobile does more than "extend" social and search media. I wonder if mobility fundamentally changes the game for media that started on the Web but will evolve very differently on a handset. How does a search buy that extends across Web and mobile change when you know that an increasing part of your audience is likely blocks away from your client? Doesn't it change the very nature of the conversation, landing page, offer? And if GPS, 2D codes and voice are now alternative input modes outside of the query box, shouldn't search now get connected into print and OOH package design marketing in some way?

I am also wondering if the mobile social networks have come up with any viable ad formats that might inform the perennial hunt online to get brands effectively into conversations. Don't ask me, I am just trying to make sure the sauce doesn't burn.

And the mobile app panel ("The Store is Open: What the iPhone Hath Wrought") takes a more m-commerce-oriented slant to the much-discussed topic. How does the application platform allow greater integration with other aspects of the sales channels on mobile, like music, direct-dial ordering, etc.? Every time I walk into my beloved Borders now, I have its competition with me -- Amazon. If I don't need something right away, I can scope out the book I want and order it on the spot for a 30% to 40% discount. And Android users have several UPC code readers that can call up nearby stores that charge less. At some point every retailer has to come to terms with this and at least have a defensive in-store strategy, if not a mobile app to counter this effect. Don't they?

Is that the sauce burning?

As we have done in recent OMMA shows with some success, we invite all of you to submit questions for these panels now or in the comments section below. We will pass them along to the moderators as a rough indication of where our audience's interests lie. And those of you attending, feel free to ask some of my questions for me -- because, like Grandma, I know it is better to let everyone eat without over-managing.

Funny thing about Grandma. She always seemed to get her point across, even when she seemed to be sitting back and listening. She was very passive-aggressive that way. So, at least I come by it honestly.

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