Get In Now, Yahoo Goin' Mobile Panelists Urge Marketers

Vodafone is slated to lower the price barrier for mobile Web users in Europe this June--with flat fee pricing that will allow them to browse as much as they want from their phone, and create a wealth of opportunity for advertisers.

That announcement was one of a number of industry "tipping points" touted at the Yahoo "Goin' Mobile" Summit, and the message to marketers about the future of mobile advertising was loud and clear--get in now, and do it right!

While the mobile ad market is exploding overseas, it's no secret that developments in U.S. mobile Web service consistently lag at least 12-18 months behind the markets in Europe and Asia. Cost may be a key deterrent for users, but the lack of standardized technology--from handsets to networks to mobile software operating systems--is a bigger factor for advertisers.

According to an Informa study, the U.S. mobile subscriber population is predicted to grow to 290 million by 2010--so while Jonathan Bulkeley, CEO of Scanbuy, advised marketers to urge handset manufacturers and service carriers to deliver the necessary technology, they can't afford to wait. Companies like MobiTV and Qwikker are working with the existing infrastructure to offer advertisers a number of options.

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MobiTV brings users live TV, VOD and digital radio on mobile phones, and in addition to purchasing standard short-form ads, companies like Jeep have opted to sponsor entire channels, serving "advertainment" in the form of branded original content.

Qwikker uses Bluetooth technology to deliver mobile content in conjunction with out-of-home signage like bus shelters and billboards. Through partnerships with established OOH media firms, the company is using mobile advertising to "introduce measurability to a medium that is traditionally very difficult to measure," said Saul Kato, CTO and founder, Qwikker.

Before they jump headfirst into the mobile ad market, however, both advertisers and agencies need to establish some standards. While the Mobile Marketing Association (MMA) is slated to release a formal code of conduct within the next few months, MMA President Laura Marriott offered an overview of best practices.

According to Marriott, mobile ad campaigns need to be entertaining and relevant while integrating other media channels, but most of all, "they should be about consumer pull, not advertiser push." Recent studies have shown that mobile subscribers are open to receiving ads in exchange for premium content, but ad clutter, irrelevance or being forced to opt-out would quickly degrade their experience.

Yahoo's sales team has been helping advertisers and publishers maximize their mobile ad campaigns, but they're also developing new mobile strategies that leverage contextual data from user behavior on the breadth of the Yahoo network as a whole.

"This is a critical time for the marketplace," said Dick O'Hare, vice president global strategic partnerships and emerging marketing channels, Yahoo. "There's a huge audience with a high affinity for the [mobile] channel--and our actions now determine whether their experience with mobile advertising will be positive or negative."

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