Maybe I am a bit too steeped in mobile media to appreciate the gee-whiz factor that newbies experience. But do most of you still consider it some kind of treat or magic to see a video clip on your cell phone? Some mobile marketers continue to treat video as an end in itself rather than as a medium, and it seems to me that the shelf life on that idea expired a while ago. For instance, a number of magazines in recent months have experimented with 2D mobile codes.
This American derivation of the QR codes that have proliferated for years in Japan uses a cell phone to snap a unique icon on a page or package in order to pull down some form of media in return. You could get a mobile Web link, images, audio or video out of the exchange. The model has been tried and dropped a few times in recent years by print publishers because there are a number of technical and educational hurdles involved. In the incredibly fragmented universe of cell phones, thousands of models manage the process differently. It requires some detailed instruction. And the code itself is fugly. It usually detracts from the creative execution around the icon.
But more often than not lately, mobile video is the payoff for the 2D code. In the February Sports Illustrated Swimsuit issue, SI partnered with 2D provider JAGTAG to insert six of these little icons throughout the issue. The end result was a 20-second clip on my phone of one of the models. No biggie. Bikinis are everywhere. This is supposed to be a reward? And generally, I find that most of the video "payoffs" from these first print-to-mobile experiments are treating a video clip as a prize, whether it has any real editorial or entertainment value.
SI just announced that the 2D code program in the swimsuit extravaganza netted 100,000 "engagements" which I take to mean instances of someone activating the code. 100,000 out of the millions of issues of Swimsuit 2010 circulated and passed along seems strong for a nascent format but I wonder if the results would be better if the in-print come-on offered more than just a mobile video clip of a model. How about the punch line of a joke delivered by our model? Or something, anything, that actually complements the print experience with a video follow-through? I whine about all of this because I think there is a real opportunity here for advertisers in this platform of MMS messaging (multimedia sent like a text message). The most interesting part of the SI mobile video execution was not the bikini clad models but in this case the effective sponsorship. The end of every clip has a slide of our underwriter: "Compliments of Trojan Ecstasy, America's #1 Condom."
All puns about good fit aside, the ad is effective in its brevity and placement. Unlike a pre-roll, it is neither tedious nor avoidable. You get it before you even have the opportunity to drop out of the video. It has the benefit of frequency, a simple message that occurs at the end of every video in the SI/JAGTAG sequence.
I think the potential for short, short form video sent directly to the phone via MMS is incredible. But we need someone to start thinking beyond video for video's sake and make the content match the format and the use case. The ad model is already here.