‘Virtual’ Panel: Challenges in Mobile Space

LOS ANGELES With mobile search and advertising expected to be an $11 billion industry by 2011, mobile marketers nonetheless face a challenge from a population that considers advertising in that medium “unacceptable.”

That was among the top-line subjects discussed by Kevin Perkins, CEO of Greenlight Wireless, Nicholas Covey, marketing analytics and development manager, Nielsen Mobile, and Brian Morrissey, digital editor of Adweek, during AdweekMedia’s Interactive Marketing Virtual Conference and Trade Show yesterday. (The entire presentation is available at www.nielsencast.com under the Virtual Trade Show tab.)

Covey said that Nielsen’s acquisition of research company Telephia (which he described as having been “the Nielsen of mobile”), creating Nielsen Mobile, would help marketers make smart decisions in approaching the market. Nielsen Mobile employs techniques such as “scraping” telephone bills to determine the services and downloads for which consumers are really paying.

Though text messaging is still the most popular application, mobile video is growing fastest, Covey said. He said the 97 percent year-over-year growth in mobile downloading should be considered good news to advertisers looking to target popular applications.

Characterizing the resistance to mobile advertising as “staggering,” Covey said “it is concerning to us that consumers are so concerned about mobile advertising” and it is “alarming” that consumers will be “blindsided” by advertising, which they overwhelmingly do not expect to see on their phones.

But Covey sees hope in research showing that nearly one-quarter of mobile customers would be willing to receive ads “in exchange for something” and 45 percent said they’d trade ads for video. He evaluated the Hispanic market as particularly strong, a bullish market for Univision and other providers.

Among those video-casting on mobile, Fox News (38 percent), Weather Channel (34 percent) and Comedy Central (33 percent) topped the list of content providers getting reach. He said that 21 percent of ads overall are recalled, with e-mails sent to phones (30 percent) leading WAP banner ads (24 percent), which Covey regarded as an encouraging opportunity for marketers.

In his presentation, Perkins enumerated some of the format differences that make it difficult for marketers to grow mobile marketing. He pointed out that published specifications for mobile marketing include considerable differences in pixel depth, bitmap, character and line limitations. Perkins said the keys to ad adoption include use of push vs. pull techniques, making ads relevant to overcome the latent resistance and making them easy to respond to. He cited as good branding examples Carl’s Jr.’s downloadable “hot buns” ringtones. He suggested that the most promising advertising model would involve transactional information putting the user at the center, such as in mobile search.

Citing Airwide Solutions, Morrissey said that fully 89 percent of “major brands” intended to include mobile marketing in their media plans in 2008. He added that many of China’s 400 million cell phone users and India’s 500 million are more likely to use mobile technology to reach the Internet than via computers.

Morrissey said that in the U.S., however, “marketers are outpacing consumers” in adopting mobile for anything but phone calls (per Harris Interactive), leading to mobile advertising being the least trusted of all media. According to Nielsen, only 19 percent of consumers trust mobile ads and more than half (per Harris) find none of it “acceptable.”

Morrissey said the industry should be bracing for the impact of a potential “Gphone” from Google because the company’s expressed interest in mobile as a growth area suggests it wants to govern that landscape like Microsoft controlled the computer with Windows.

Elliot Markowitz, Nielsen Business Media’s editorial director of Web casts and digital events, moderated the panel. Adweek is a unit of Nielsen Business Media.