When approaching mobile, "you need to forget your Web education," Alexandre Mars, CEO of Phonevalley and head of mobile at Publicis Groupe, told the audience at OMMA Global San Francisco.
The mobile marketing space has been dominated by apps -- which, the panelists discussing the mobile "Platform Wars" agreed, are little more than fancy HTML -- and they might not be the way forward. "Apps can be cool, but they're gimmicky," Mars says.
How do developers -- the appmakers -- view the platforms? Many of these are the proverbial two guys in a garage, says James Min, managing partner, Montgomery and Company. "Let's be honest: You smoked a lot of weed and you came up with some great app."
"It's hard to vote against Apple as the winner in this space," says Tom Bedecarre, CEO, AKQA. "It's been instrumental in having clients see what marketing can do beyond just placing an ad." But it's too early for Apple to run a victory lap, he says.
Again, apps haven't cracked the code on scale.
Speed of impact and scale are what clients are looking for. Less than one percent of budgets are put into mobile, Bedecarre points out. It's only when people see the power of integrating mobile into campaigns that scale and speed of impact are generated.
Mobile is more than just a nice little add-on. But there's still a long way to go.
The first winner in the mobile world is AdMob (the Google acquisition of which is currently being examined by the FTC), says Mark Kvamme, partner, Sequoia Capital. "If you guys know who the next ones are, please give me a call. We'd like to invest in them."
Then there is the killer app for mobile: voice. (Which, it should be noted, Google might be better positioned to capitalize on).
Kvamme has a Palm Pixie, because, he says, "the iPhone is a terrible phone." More people in the audience at OMMA Global in San Francisco applauded than either Apple or AT&T would have liked. (Although, to be fair, Kvamme did recuse the American Telegraph and Telephone Company to some extent, saying "it's not all AT&T's fault".)
Mars had to ask the pertinent question (after all, Kvamme is a savvy VC): "Did you invest in Palm?" (The answer is "No.")
But where voice really comes into play is internationally, where smartphones are out of reach and language barriers present a Tower of Babel conundrum when it comes to text ads.
If you look at the global market, Nokia is the clear winner. Will that translate or is it going to be a Google-Apple-RIM battle? How do they have such a clear lead internationally?
"They sell cheaper phones,"says Min. "Nokia has been focused on low-end handsets," agrees Phonevalley's Mars. They have 600-mm handsets in India. "It's enough for them."
That is the short answer, and most of the answer in terms of sales. But it's not the whole story. With the dramatic percentage of mobile searches that come from iPhones and Android as opposed to any other phone, those users are much more valuable to Google and advertisers.
Can a campaign for only one platform be successful? "The answer is yes," says Mars. "But 99 percent of clients are asking only about the iPhone," and there is much more that can be done, he says.
And when the right client is matched with the right platform, it can work very, very well. AKQA worked with Volkswagen to launch the new 2010 GTI using only the iPhone, says AKQA's Bedecarre. The German carmaker saw an almost immediate 80% jump in leads, test drives, and quote requests. All this was achieved at less than 5% of the budget of a traditional model launch.
Because it is the always-on, always-with-us device, the potential is huge.
"When mobile can solve the problem of real-world attribution, it's going to be huge." says Min. "Not any one company is going to do it, but a number of them can."
But mobile has intimacy issues. The screens are relatively small, even on the new smartphones, and that's valuable real estate. It's also a very personal device. "I kiss this more than I kiss my wife," quips Kvamme. "If you give me irrelevant ads, it's going to piss me off."