Remember the last scene of the film "The Candidate?" Robert Redford's dark-horse character Bill McKay comes out of nowhere to challenge an incumbent "shoe-in." A rag-tag army of spunky and idealistic staffers led by Peter Boyle help McKay win against all odds and expectations -- even their own. During a victory celebration, McKay yanks his campaign manager into a spare hotel room. Boyle wonders why the new Senator is so glum after finally getting what he sought so long and hard. In the line that ends the film, McKay asks, "Now what do we do?"
Yesterday it seemed to me that mobile marketing was in a similar position now. After all of the hype, Mary Meeker's (oft-cited) blessing, staggering growth, mobile is on everyone's radar. Just what the industry wanted. Now what?
There seemed to be some question from the agency side about whether the mobile economy was ready for the level of investment that appears to be coming its way. More than one agency executive suggested that the money was ahead of the medium, in that back-end metrics, accountability, comparables with other media, and best practices were now going to be scrutinized and expected. The fragmented and incomplete state of mobile measurement was cited several times as one of the biggest barriers to bigger budgets.
We may also be taken by surprise by m-commerce. According to Fandango's CMO Ted Hong, on some weekends the company sees up to 20% of advance movie ticket sales come through mobile. Jordan Greene of MellaMedia told of a bank client whose app lets people deposit a check just by snapping phone cam images of it. When hard retail business starts moving onto the mobile platform, then the hard ad money is sure to follow. Several people yesterday suggested this may be coming sooner than later, since many of the e-commerce relationships brands have already established online are morphing into trustworthy m-commerce relationships. I wonder myself if the app platform is going to help accelerate this further. Apps so effectively recreate the brand environment of some e-tailers' Web sites that they make it easier for the customer to transfer their trust as well. I have ordered tickets and books through the Fandango and Amazon apps, and I am sure it was the presence of familiar online UI and branding that made me comfortable with the process. As apps feel more like Web widgets and the phone becomes just another way to access the Internet with which we have become familiar, m-commerce just becomes e-commerce.
If anything is being "tested" in current mobile marketing, it is the consumer, first and foremost. On our stellar brand panel of executives from Coca-Cola, Fandango, Kraft, and Zippo, all of them spoke about the consumer intelligence they are getting from watching people interact with their apps. Brent Tyler, promotions manager at Zippo, said that there is a direct correlation between the skins people select for the lighter in his app (which he says has been downloaded 10 million times!) and the best-selling models of the real thing. Several people throughout the day echoed Tyler in saying that their apps have become no-cost focus groups.
The coming of the Apple iAd was met with cautious enthusiasm. Wiley Matthews, mobile director at OMD, said that the Wall Street Journal's story about there being a $1 million minimum commitments required for advertiser entry to the platform was flat-out wrong. Matthews has been briefed by Apple and OMD is working with the company on the iAd rollout. In fact, a lot of people seem to be under NDA. When one attendee asked what kinds of targeting would be available from Apple, there were a lot of anxious looks across the panel and no one authoritative answer, although it looked as if most members had one. The long, litigious arm of Apple did something otherwise unimaginable: it made five ad agency executive go mute.
Actually, I came out of both the panels and hallway discussions with the distinct impression that Apple's relations with media and advertising are mixed. Our publisher panel was asked about the iAd and most felt that it was unclear whether this was going to be friend or foe. Was this something they would sell on the disadvantageous rev share terms Apple proposed? Almost everyone agreed that the publicity around the iAd would help move the cause of mobile advertising forward, but it was still unclear whether major media publishers would want to be involved. And if that is the case, how much control will the advertisers have on the social and game apps in which their ads appear?
On the analytics and metrics side, Greg Yardley, vice president of product at Flurry, said that the implications were still unknown surrounding the much-discussed restrictions Apple seemed to be placing on measurement and device-level information gathering on third parties in iPhone OS 4. If the new rule were interpreted strictly, he said, then even detecting that an ad was being served to an iPhone could be prohibited. No one really knew for sure.
That seems to be a persistent theme when it comes to all things Apple lately: No one really knows for sure.
Many thanks to the superb panelists, moderators and speakers at OMMA Mobile yesterday. Several attendees commented that they were impressed by the level of frankness many of the participants brought to the party and their willingness to share successes, failures and doubts.
If the money is starting to flow into mobile to the degree that many indicated yesterday, then the industry will need more of that candid talk in order to be ready to answer the candidate's question: What do we do now?