Tech giants like Apple, Google and Amazon have all recently rolled out new products and services that will further extend their reach across the consumer mobile landscape. Mobile Marketing Daily recently caught up with Michael Lieberman, co-president of Joule U.S., the U.S. arm of the WPP-owned mobile agency. Clients include Paramount, Unilver and Mercedes-Benz. Besides overseeing Joule’s East Coast business, Lieberman chair’s the 4A’s mobile task force. Prior to joining the agency, Michael was vice president of account development and strategy for The Hyperfactory.
MMD: There has been growing debate lately about what exactly “mobile” means, and whether it should even include tablets since they’re used mostly at home via Wi-Fi. How do you define the term?
ML: Mobile is about understanding more of the consumer behavior and what information they need when they are in a specific circumstance. So what is their need state, what is their mindset, and how do you deliver the right message in the right place at the right time? We’re going to start breaking down the silos of what's considered mobile and what’s considered desktop, and it will almost be forced on us as wearables come into the mix more. The idea of mobile will become quaint because everything, in essence, will be mobile.
MMD: Speaking of wearables, Google this week announced a host of Android-powered initiatives across smartwatches, cars, and health-monitoring. Apple is supposed to launch its iWatch later this fall, and recently unveiled its own home-automation and health-tracking initiatives. How should marketers approach this expansion of mobile?
ML: For me, this is really the exciting place of where mobility is driving to. On one hand, it’s watching your phone become the center of everything. How can a brand outside of just an advertising standpoint create value for its consumers in a unique way?
For wearables, fitness has been the first area to really take off. But we’ll see brands figuring out innovative ways of using mobile beyond advertising. The promise of mobile is what it can deliver to consumers on behalf of a brand to build a stronger relationship. That’s where all this is going, so the greater the capability and acceptance in the home, the more we will be able to do for our clients and partners.
MMD: Will that mainly take the form of creating new apps for these platforms?
ML: Apps will be a significant part because that’s a strong way to plug in. But is it a branded app, plugging into others, is it an extension of what it is otherwise? As possibilities grow, a lot of times on the agency side, you might feel our role is to throw media dollars at something. Our role is really to determine what is the best way to reach and engage consumers to generate a specific outcome. That’s really where our heads are at when it comes to wearables. More so than asking how do we spend on more banner ads to drive X.
MMD: But don’t wearables and the Internet of Things just increase the fragmentation problem that mobile already has?
ML: Oh, it will be messy. That doesn’t mean it’s not a worthwhile endeavor. Everything we’ve seen about how consumers use devices has driven home the importance of a brand being able to prove its value on that device. The companies out there that are nimble and do innovate either create something new in the space, or leverage technology to build better or new experiences…those the brands that will succeed. It’s messy, but that creates opportunity.
MMD: Amazon last week finally announced a long-rumored smartphone with some shopping-friendly features. Do you think that makes sense?
ML: They’re coming into a two-market, no question. We’re down to a two-player ecosystem with Apple and Samsung on devices. But where Amazon has been smart in the past is in creating user experiences that both drive engagement of its product and with other Amazon services. If you look at the Kindle Fire…they created the bookshelf interface, and made it very easy to browse and get into other Amazon services.
So I would not rule Amazon out of this space at all. It’s a question of when consumers start playing with the new phones: Are they still getting a pleasurable experience? And from Amazon’s point of view, is it driving engagement with other Amazon platforms?
MMD: For brick-and-mortar retailers and brands, mobile has always held the promise of location-based marketing. Where is it still falling short?
ML: Where we’re currently lacking on the agency side and the buy side of things, is that we’re not providing our own validation. So we’re relying on vendor services, and in doing so, were a little bit blind as to what we’re really buying. So, I know that’s one of the things that I know is a big issue on this side of the table. How can we get cleaner location data? Secondly, how do we eventually decouple [from vendors] to truly get independent measurement of what it is we’re buying -- and is it really effective?
I still believe it works…and the things location can tell us are incredibly valuable. It’s sorting the right data from the chaff. The capabilities as described are all very similar, and really you don’t know until you try, and most brands aren’t trying four or five different location vendors to see which might give the best results in a test case.
MMD: Is the drive toward native, or in-stream, advertising in mobile a positive, or does it just add another layer of fragmentation?
ML: Where we’ve gone with in-line advertising are custom ways of fitting into content, but not necessarily leveraging a premium publisher’s content for your benefit. So, it’s sort of a half-way ground. It’s a better received unit because it is in a more comfortable context for consumers. But especially with premium publishers, it’s not leveraging their actual content. From a programmatic standpoint, if everyone’s got different specs, this is a much harder thing to put together and buy at scale.
It does create challenges for us, and that’s where there’s an opportunity for someone to come in and develop a way to solve that issue.
MMD: What do you think has changed most in mobile in the last 12 months?
ML: Innovation has actually slowed a bit over the last six to 12 months. We’ve gone so far, so fast, that most of these advances in cross-screen and location are now being tweaked for accuracy, as opposed to seeing companies come out with the next quantum leap. That’s really what we’re looking for on behalf of our clients. Which are the companies that are going to drive the next creative or experiential or measurement platforms that we can take to the next step?