Outside Our Bubble: Mobile - 'Ewww! What a Mess'

Laptop-Angry-AIf you keep your eyes just on the ad spend projections, the sheer velocity of usage statistics, and the panel after panel that we ourselves and many others put on stage at the countless industry events, mobile looks like the place to be alright. The supply side of every emerging platform is always about cheerleading, of course. But even on the buy side, agencies are themselves looking for the next big thing to sell to their clients.

Keeping the hype, well, hyped serves a lot of interests. But it is always worthwhile to get outside that bubble of self-congratulatory fervor and listen to the media buyers and planners when they are not in a mobile-centric mood.

At Thursday’s OMMA RTB event, the lead panel of agency honchos didn’t even engage the mobile question until an attendee asked.

“Ewww,” responded moderator Joanna O’Connell, Forrester’s senior analyst, who admitted that she is trying to resolve this year to stop beating up on mobile’s weaknesses. Still, she said, “Mobile is a mess.” Concurring with Joanna’s “Urggggg” ( I am not doing the sound justice), however, Andy Chapman, leader, digital investment, Mindshare NA, said, “I would groan a little longer.”  

Agreeing with conventional wisdom about the huge opportunity in mobile, all three panelists voiced persistent concerns with where the industry is now. “We are all fumbling in the dark figuring out how to make this work,” added Chapman. He agrees that clients and agencies need to do a better job of putting “mobile up front and into the overall strategy.” But just as important is the mobile experience, which he argues is just porting the Web to a handset.

Michael Lampert, VP, group director, media at Digitas, says that his teams are trying to get beyond tracking devices and instead figure out changing consumption patterns to see where they need to be. If the metrics aren’t there, that is not a reason not to do it, he says. They have already discovered that the value of “serving just ten display images is not as valuable as dispaying five display images and five mobile images.”

“Users are there, advertisers are not…yet,” says Jeremy Hlavacek, VP strategy and business operations, Varick Media Management. Creative units and data are the major hurdles.

They all seem to agree that the buy side needs to help the medium become as “smart and sophisticated” as the desktop -- even though the mobile platforms are far behind the Web in metrics and creativity.

As much as they all agree that diving into mobile is inevitable and advisable, I think it is that first gut response from Joanna and Andy that tells us a lot about where mobile is for many on the client and agency side, especially on the tiers above those who have been assigned to specialize with mobile. It feels like a mess to many of them.

Specifically, it sounds like they need more cases that go beyond illustrating the predictably strong results from isolated campaigns. They need more cross-platform studies that show how mobile is amplifying and improving the investments they are already making elsewhere. And perhaps they need more cases that focus more on integration within the plan -- how, when, where and to what effect mobile was a part of the initial concept of a broader cross-media effort.

You can see the full video of Joanna’s panel here.   

Tags: agency, mobile, rtb
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