Your iPhone Is Your (Media) Wingman

I know: It’s a ridiculous title.  But stay with me for a minute.

When you go out with your friends, there’s always that one person in your group who makes things happen: the so-called wingman.  Because of this friend, you talk to new people.  You dance with strangers.  You might even make a date for next weekend with that person you never would have approached on your own.  Thanks to your wingman (or wingwoman), you’ve made new connectionswhether long-term or fleeting — and were introduced to new people or experiences.  When it comes to media, smartphones do this, too.  Are they going to get up and talk to that group of girls in the corner?  No.  But what your wingperson does for you with people, your phone does for you with other connected devices.

I’ve been amusing myself with this metaphor for a while now, since reading Mihael Mikek’s response to the IAB’s April report indicating that interactive advertising revenues have surpassed those of broadcast television.  In his piece, Mikek looks specifically at the portion of this increased interactive revenue that can be attributed to digital video: approximately $2.3 billion, making it the fourth-biggest digital format, following closely behind mobile.  He continues: “Mobile ads are a team player, creating symbiosis with other marketing channels. A significant portion of online consumers use multiple devices at once, shopping on their tablets and working on their laptops while watching TV with a side of texting, tweeting, or Facebooking on their phones. This creates an extraordinary, albeit complex, opportunity for advertisers to reach their (very) targeted audiences through a behavioral orientation instead of a device or platform specific constraint.”

And that’s where my metaphor comes from.  Mobile isn’t selfish; it wants to help other devices connect — not just with the phone but also with each other.

The first connection mobile made was with desktop.  Advertisers executed online campaigns in a vacuum, for a long time, completely separate from mobile, even after it began to gain credibility as an advertising platform.  Eventually, the industry figured out desktop/mobile cross device capabilities, allowing for targeted, high-impact branding, like video and interactive rich media, to move from the desk to the handheld (where video and interactive content had previously been rare, due to load times and bandwidth concerns).  By taking an educated guess that the same devices belong to a given consumer — they reside at the same location, connect to the same WiFi — we could be smarter about how and when to reach that individual, targeting her with the right content, in the right place, and at the right time.

In its wingman role, mobile has also forged a strong connection with television.  This isn’t a data-driven connection (although it might eventually be, as smarTVs and connected set-top boxes become increasingly popular).  Instead, this connection is forged by asking consumers to interact with televised (ergo, video) content through Shazam or Twitter.  Mobile’s place here is letting consumers interact and engage. 

As media platforms are proliferating, the mobile wingman has the capability to bring other formats to the party, so to speak.  We’ve already connected to your devices at home (your desktop and TV).  So who is next on the guest list?  Mobile is the device you take with you when you leave your house, so digital out-of-home (DOOH) is the logical next platform.  Like desktop and TV, DOOH can be leveraged in visually interesting video campaigns — now on a screen far bigger than either of those.  So if mobile knows that content is relevant to a consumer on a television or a desktop screen, and it’s becoming possible for mobile to engage with DOOH screens, it’s only a matter of time before the same highly relevant content that showed on a consumer’s personal screens can play on the ones in public.

Historically advertisers tried to take the TV approach to DOOH, asking consumers to send a text, tweet, or tap an NFC tag, rather than using DOOH as a retargeting platform.  These have proven not to work very well.  However, thanks to the proliferation of location data created by mobile devices, we are now able to connect from mobile to DOOH (and vice versa) in much more sophisticated ways. 

Though your iPhone-wingman can’t buy a stranger a drink at a bar on your behalf, it can be used to enrich your day-to-day media consumption, ensuring that solid, engaging content that is right for the consumer but might be forgotten, ignored, or poorly optimized on its own screen is still accessible and highly visible elsewhere.

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