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Ready For Prime Time

With the technical foundation finally laid, marketers are ready to see just how far mobile video can take them.
  • May 27 2011

Smartphone users who texted to ABC received exclusive mobile video about the TV show Happy Endings.



Michael Becker is an honest man. As North America managing director of the Mobile Marketing Association, Becker is primed to be a cheerleader for the state of mobile video. But ask him, on a scale of one to ten, where we are in the evolution of mobile video and he gives an unvarnished response: a five.

“We see mobile video as a very exciting category that’s still got a lot of room to grow and improve,” he says. “We’ve spent the last five years or so setting up a very robust technical foundation and taking the first steps toward integrating mobile video into our mobile marketing campaigns. Now it’s time to take advantage of that.”

Far from the halting, buffering early days of mobile video, today’s best examples utilize bandwidth-rich 4G connections and high-resolution handset displays to give users the feeling they’re watching portable TV—albeit a tiny one. A report released in May by video service provider FreeWheel attests to consumers’ growing engagement with mobile video. The survey found that news and sports are the most popular types of mobile video, with usage spiking during the NCAA’s March Madness college basketball tournament as well as during the early days following the devastating earthquakes and tsunami that pummeled Japan.

It hasn’t taken advertisers long to see that growing level of engagement, either, according to Kenneth Harlan, co-founder and president of MobileFuse, a mobile ad network that looks to connect more than 400 mobile content publishers with marketers.

“Consumers engage with content on their phones at much higher levels than other media because they are so focused when they’re using them,” he says. “The publishers and advertisers we deal with are becoming very cognizant of that.”

Marketers also are cognizant of the potential for improved ROI with mobile marketing campaigns. James Citron, chief executive officer of mobile marketing firm Mogreet, contends that his company’s mobile video campaigns have generated click-through rates as high as 15 percent, about five times greater than rates for text-only mobile marketing messages.

Looking ahead, Citron not only envisions a day when mobile video will be more interactive but personalized as well, assuming consumers opt in and provide enough personal data about product likes and dislikes. For example, he says his company is working with a women’s shoe retailer on a campaign that would use information from past purchases to tailor future mobile video messages so they’ll more likely appeal to targeted shoppers.

Finally, Citron adds, mobile video will become more social. To demonstrate the possibilities, he mentions a recent campaign Mogreet put together for ABC’s Happy Endings series, which debuted in March this year. The initiative kicked off with print and online ads that provided consumers with a chance to text ABC and receive exclusive content about the show sent to their smartphones. Not only was the effort a success, but Mogreet found that many of those who participated also shared the videos on Facebook, multiplying the campaign’s reach.

“We’re in the early stages still,” Citron says, “but it’s beginning to show its promise. Marketers nowadays are looking to make mobile video an important part of a well-rounded mobile campaign. The future of advertising and marketing will hinge on how we reach consumers on mobile phones through the best advertising medium—mobile video—in the most personal and engaging way.”

Or as the Mobile Marketing Association’s Becker puts it: “The technology is there, the capability is there. Now it’s time to unleash the creative possibilities.”