Agency Execs Tout Mobile ROI, Growing Budgets

Eric Bader of Brand in HandCiting case studies for household brands ranging from Vicks DayQuil to Tide, mobile experts gathered at an industry conference Monday said the medium is increasingly going mainstream and is proving more effective than traditional channels.

For marketers, "the key is to figure out 'what am I providing to the consumer that's useful' and they will follow you," said Vladimir Edelman, CEO of Ansible, Interpublic's mobile marketing agency, speaking on a panel spotlighting mobile success stories at the Interactive Advertising Board's Leadership Forum: Mobile seminar in New York.

Panelists stressed utility as an important feature of mobile campaigns, taking advantage of the cell phone's role as an always-on, on-the-go device. In that vein, Eric Bader, president and co-founder of mobile marketing firm Brand in Hand, highlighted a mobile campaign for Tide offering tips on how to treat certain stains. Another, on behalf of Pringles, featured a tool for creating a mobile shopping list.

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Edelman pointed to an application Ansible created for Verizon in connection with the Tribeca Family Film Festival that allowed users to appear as movie or cartoon characters via green screen, with finished videos delivered to cell phones.

These types of interactive campaigns lead to higher engagement and higher return on investment for advertisers, according to panelists. "Interactions per dollar have been very competitive with other media," said Bader, noting that mobile campaigns still have far smaller budgets--typically far less than $1 million--than traditional marketing outlets.

Keynote speaker Maria Mandel, a senior partner and executive director of digital innovation at Ogilvy, cited average click-through rates of 2% for mobile banners compared to .20% for their counterparts on the PC-based Web. While acknowledging that click-through rates will likely decline as mobile advertising matures, Bader noted that marketers are gaining more confidence in the medium.

"What we're finding is that brands are all re-signing for programs because they've found audiences," Bader said. "For the dollars they're spending, it's worthwhile."

Panel moderator Julie Ask, a research director at JupiterResearch, noted that half of marketers surveyed by Jupiter say they are spending $50,000 or less on mobile campaigns. But Bader and others said they're increasingly seeing mobile budgets in the range of $250,000 to $750,000.

Ansible's Edelman said $50,000 was the minimum to be able to do "something interesting" with a mobile campaign.

Using mobile ad dollars to focus on Hispanic consumers was especially encouraged because that demographic is overrepresented among cell customers. Hispanic and African-American audiences index 30 to 50 times higher mobile users overall, said Jupiter's Ask.

Some 56% of English-speaking Hispanics with a wireless handheld device use a non-voice data or information application on the average day, according to a recent study of mobile use by the Pew Internet and American Life Project.

"You're making a big mistake if you're overlooking mobile activity among Hispanic audiences," Bader said. "They're great audiences to reach and getting very good interaction rates."

Underscoring the large Hispanic mobile presence, Edelman noted that Ansible launched a mobile companion site for BabyCenter en Espanol, the Spanish-language version of the parenting site, before an English-language one.

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