Mobile is disrupting the entire marketing ecosystem -- and Kate Watts, a managing director at Huge, Chieh Huang, co-founder and CEO of Boxed, and Media Kitchen President Barry Lowenthal discussed how agencies and clients are adapting at the 4As Transformation Conference in Miami during a session moderated by tenthavenue's Michael Lieberman.
"Eight years ago, the app store was just being invented," says Huang. "The most powerful thing for your clients didn't even exist. When you think about retail in five years, you just never know [what will be the next big thing]. It is incredibly powerful and sobering at the same time."
Mobile has introduced "friction" into the marketplace through its ability to create new roadblocks to reach consumers, says Lowenthal. He equates the mobile revolution with television's similar path. "Think about how we watch TV,” he said. "It is an interrupted model [with commercials disrupting the content]. No one wants to be in a friction environment." And additional innovations like the remote control, VCR, and DVR, created more friction, he added.
It doesn't have to be this way for mobile, since the medium is still undergoing growing pains. Google and Facebook have done a great job of developing seamless experiences, says Lowenthal. "Agencies need to remove friction if they want to succeed. It will happen when we learn how to work with Facebook and Google better."
And right now, most companies are looking to others for effective strategies. "CPG, retail, and auto in particular like to look at what it is the other guy is doing," says Watts. Her agency has always created a five-year roadmap for its clients, but now the shop can really only plot out one or two years in advance due to the uncertainty of what may be the next big thing, particularly in mobile.
The panelists all agree that advertisers need to develop spots that encourage participation with their phones. Pharmaceutical provider Pfizer, for instance, has elevated its brand corporate communications efforts with a shift toward more personal channels, says Watts. And out-of-home media, in particular, has evolved since people now take a picture of a billboard and post it on their Instagram feed.
Mobile has also increased consumers' expectations. They want content to load faster and brands to anticipate needs based on their behaviors, says Watts. You will have Uber arriving before you even walk out the door, she predicts. Also, she adds, the communications' beacon sensors will start working for you rather than to track you. "It's happening faster than you think," she said.
With mobile’s disruptions, ad agencies need to reorganize their internal structures to better meet the needs of its clients. Too many companies still see social media and mobile as afterthoughts, the panelist said. One of the first big arguments Huang had with his startup investors was whether his company needed a social media person. Social, he said, is something agencies and clients alike have to take seriously, he said. “If you have one person out of college doing social out of 20,000 employees, it is indicative how seriously the organization is taking [mobile]."
And those that don't create strong mobile experiences risk falling behind. "When I see iconic brands with only 3,000 likes, I think what is going on here?" says Huang.
The panelists cite Netflix as the "gold standard" for doing it right. The platform has great content, a low price, is streamed fast, and keeps your place on every one of your devices. Or to Lowenthal’s point earlier in the discussion, it’s a pretty frictionless user experience.