Contact: Mobbing the Mobisode
Welcome to the mobisode, TV-style episodic programs for mobile devices that, depending on who you ask, could well spur the next out-of-home marketing boom. While only a handful of mobisodes currently exist, there are no plans to add marketing content anytime soon, says Jeffrey Nelson, Verizon Wireless' executive director, corporate communications. Even the individual generally viewed as the godmother of the mobisode, Lucy Hood, News Corp.'s senior vice president, content and marketing, notes flatly, "We don't have any marketing partners in our mobisodes."
Product placement within mobisodes remains an option. "If a fast-food restaurant wants to be a part of this, why not use it as a backdrop for an episode?" notes Stewart St. John, whose StewdioMedia Entertainment produces "The Spot" online and for Sprint PCS Vision phones. But given that even the splashiest handset boasts a screen of no more than two inches in length and width, visually highlighting a given brand or label within a mobisode seems a tough sell.
So why is it that so many media types wax euphoric about the mobisode's marketing potential? It doesn't take a market research firm to note that teenagers and young adults put down their cell phones only to sleep and shower.
To be sure, there are myriad challenges that content and cell phone providers must contend with before they can mention mobisodes in the same breath with below-the-radar options like video-on-demand. V Cast costs $15 per month and other service providers are expected to price their video offerings in the same range. "Will mom and dad pay 15 bucks extra for 'The Simple Life'?" asks Joe Barone, president of Virtu Mobile and an adjunct professor at Drexel University.
To a person, pundits caution would-be advertisers not to force the marketing issue. "Media companies believe that advertising is a way to subsidize the cost of creating something like this. I'm not sure if consumers agree, so we have to tread carefully," says Manish Jha, senior vice president of ESPN Mobile.
In the end, most remain optimistic about the mobisode's potential. "The general public might initially say, 'Do we need this?'" adds Andy Nulman, president and chief creative officer of Airborne Entertainment. "But does anybody really need a $5 latte? The [mobisode] content is already compelling. It's a question of when it takes over, not if." Larry Dobrow