Get In, Get Out, Take Names... Sir!

Even at this early stage of mobile advertising, I am suffering eye strain. Some of the banners that I see from the early WAP networks have me squinting to get the details. At least on my Samsung A920 handset, a lot of the creative looks like badly shrunken Web banners or bumper stickers that make me drive too close to read. White text headlines on a dark background or against complex images seem to be the worse culprits. This creative combination just oozes into a blob that doesn't attract my eye so much as push it toward the clearer, bigger text content on the rest of the page. I also find the landing page experience still very hit or miss. Too often I get pushed to a text page that instructs me to call an 800 number (no click to call link) or go to a standard Web site. Oh, okay. Will do, let me write that down.

Clarity, brevity, and meaningful messaging really are possible on this challenging medium, but it takes a deft touch. At OMMA Hollywood this week, Third Screen Media CMO Jeff Janer brought us a campaign for Navy recruiting that really stood out because of its sheer simplicity and coherence. A fairly large banner used a light blue two-tone to show "Navy" in block letters and an "accelerate your life" message in white with a mild movement blur. A text link below invites us to watch the video, and Jeff says this was the first mobile ad to use a click-to-video format. In this case, the medium was the message, however. The video followed through on the "accelerate" theme with one of those hard-strumming rock videos of recruits in action. The after-video landing page reiterates the original creative and adds: "Destined for something big? Do it in the Navy. Get a career. A degree. Serve a greater cause. For a FREE Navy video call [click-to-call link]"

There are a lot of very simple things going on here at once, and together they make the execution effective. There is the theme of acceleration, clearly aimed at youthful ambition but also matching the spirit of the mobile medium itself. Then there is the relevant use of mobile video. In this case the clip both expresses the theme but also matches the offer in the ad -- a free video. Janer says that those who were able to view the mobile video also had a higher click-to-call rate. And the landing page messaging, while blessedly brief, really amplifies and clarifies the first two pieces of creative in a way that leads naturally to a call to action.

From a marketing perspective, the campaign gets it both ways. The branding effect is very strong, but the real point of the campaign was lead generation. According to Janer, the Navy was getting a better response rate from this campaign than it was from its TV infomercial. In many cases, the click-to-call option in mobile text ads is a matter of sheer convenience. In this case, the link closes the loop on a message that is moving you to action.

Mobile media demands efficiency. This campaign was as clean and sleek as it gets. It used the latest available technology in ways that made sense not only to the goals of the client but to the meaning of the message. I didn't need to squint once or waste a second figuring out what this or that piece of creative was trying to do in these dozen pixels. Too many mobile ads seem to be making simple messages look dense and more complex than they are on the small display. This campaign made the complex look and feel simple -- a bit like a well-executed beach assault.

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