A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Branding Campaign

When I pop open my phone and hit the mobile Web, I may be coming into the platform in one of several different modes, but none of them is quite like my relationship with the Web. The Internet is always on and humming in the background of my foreground work. I dip into it for breaks, for mail checks, and often for deliberate research. On my phone, I am almost always after a quick check of headlines, email, RSS feeds, or maybe a deliberate search (movie times, the answer to a trivia question, mapping an address). The phone is not a site I naturally associate with deep drilling or even a platform where I expect to be in a shopping or exploratory mode.

And so, unless an advertiser is pushing mobile content that will enhance my personalized phone experience here and now, I assume most ad campaigns on phones are more branding exercises than anything else.

That is pretty much what Joao Machado, online associate media director, Mediaedge:cia, was expecting when he helped bring the Land Rover LR2 campaign into the Sprint network. He wasn't expecting the campaign, which had a rich LR2 landing site, to be a place where mobile browsers would actually research and engage with a brand. The company planned the campaign with broad targeting for age, income and gender -- but also a very general content base of weather and news sites, both on and off-deck. Meanwhile, another piece of the LR2 campaign was highly targeted ads on the make and model pages of the major car research sites on the standard Web, the sorts of buys designed to drive people to dealers.

"But we didn't expect mobile to be such a huge generator of leads," says Machado. "What we found was, we generated more leads from our mobile campaigns than we did from our make and model pages."

Intrigued by the effect, they followed up more aggressively in the LR3 campaign where the main change to the landing WAP site was a video demo. That video addition seemed to double the number of leads. "What we thought was branding turned out really to be huge engagement within the WAP site," Machado adds.

For the next campaign, the high-end Range Rover, the WAP site slimmed down to two pages to be consistent with the online site that featured mainly a video virtual test drive. The WAP side had an 800 dial-in and click-to-call. This third campaign actually tripled the leads the LR3 campaign had generated. Machado had similar experiences with a Jaguar ad run aimed merely at raising awareness of a car model that was not even available yet. Leveraging L.A. Auto Show traffic on Yahoo and MSN's mobile portals, the ad produced 17,000 video downloads and 64,000 different engagements. It led to a year-long mobile program for the XF model (now running on Yahoo's March Madness mobile site).

"It changed the way we are approaching digital in 2008," Machado says. What had been a series of one-offs in a lifestyle ad budget last year evolved this year into a full-blown mobile channel with its own budget in '08.

Despite the success, it is still a bit of a puzzle why mobile users would engage with luxury auto brands to this depth. In many cases this starts with media that is barely targeted for auto, like weather, and yet it performs better (here, at least) than the traditionally micro-targeted online vehicles. Generally, the campaigns are seeing hearty 5% CTRs on the front end and unusually good conversion on the back end. Mediaedge:cia is still trying to figure out what elements are driving this. Is it the creative, the product types, the uncluttered nature of the mobile environment? Is the audience just being aspirational and clicking on something they will never really buy? But in the end, the tracking is on people who are interested in finding a dealership, so whatever the rhyme or reason, the ROI on this is pretty easy to measure and compare. And, as Machado told me, "the results are just too good to walk away from."

Which may sum up the entire mobile platform right now for those who are experiencing success. We don't know much about how and why people are accessing the data channels on mobile yet, nor what consumer model they may be in, or why they would click on an ad at a given time. And yet, it can produce results that are just too good to walk away from.

Tags: mobile
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