Last week’s Marketing Week Live event in London was, for me, further confirmation that the mobile industry is far more ready to provide a marketing platform for brands and organisations than the marketing industry is to embrace mobile.
In fact – in a whole host of ways – the marketing world still doesn’t get mobile and, after all these years, we are still in the education phase.
Let’s take a simple example: the adoption of mobile barcodes or QR codes. Now, OK, not everyone in mobile – let alone everyone in marketing – is a barcode reader enthusiast. Indeed, there are plenty of mobile people out there who will tell you that simple short code text messaging response or engagement mechanism is currently more effective.
But mobile barcode adoption is on the rise. Scanbuy, for example, reported a 1,600 percent growth in mobile scanning in 2010 and a further 800 percent rise in Q1 2011; and even if the numbers pre-2010 were small, we’re certainly in hockey stick graph territory.
So you would think that a cutting-edge event such as Marketing Week Live would be awash with QR codes and mobile engagement tools. Wrong.
Now this is no scientific survey, but I strolled the aisles of the Online Marketing Show element of the event and checked out the booths for the presence of barcodes and QR codes on displays and on literature. Among the 80+ specialist exhibitors in that area, there were – at the most – ten who prominently featured a QR code on the booth.
In fact, there were digital marketing agencies proudly proclaiming themselves as among the UK’s top ten who not only didn’t have a QR code on their booth, they also didn’t even list mobile barcoding among the campaign tools at their disposal. This is in the part of the show that specialises in how brands can engage with their consumers online.
Charlie Hunter is head of media planning at O2 in London. His very job is to engage with media agencies and sell the benefits of the O2 network as a means of engaging with a target audience.
“We can use our customer CRM data to really understand the audience,” he said. “To ensure that we only engage with them on things that we believe will interest them. It is goldmine information for advertisers but we are still very much in education mode with the agency world. We’re certainly far more ready for them as an industry than they are for us in general.”
Speaking to the mobile specialists at the show, it was a familiar tale. OpenMarket works with ad and media agencies on campaigns targeting mobile users, often through the use of short codes. EMEA Marketing Director Andrew Darling summed it up: “Too many ad agencies and media buyers simply see mobile as an extension of online – they don’t regard it as a platform in itself,” he said. “They have moved forward from the ‘spray and hope’ days of mass market advertising to a more targeted approach, but they don’t yet get just how terribly clever the mobile ecosystem can be for them – or indeed that a personal transaction device is sitting at the end of the line.”
The lack of adoption was also experienced by Dave Marutiak, the newly appointed MD of Scanbuy in the UK. He was touring the booths evangelising directly and making a simple point to virtually everyone he met.
“As soon as I stepped on a booth, I was scanned,” he explained. “Each company had its simple reader supplied by the organisers and scanned my visitor badge to capture my registered information. As a visitor to their booth I just wanted to be able to do the same. I wanted to take my phone, go to a QR code on the booth and capture information about the company I was visiting. Sadly, very few of them were able to offer me that facility,” he said.
But there was some light in the tunnel. Simon Melaniphy of digital agency Refreshed Media was a major QR code enthusiast. The booth, his business card and the literature available all carried codes.
“I’m a big fan,” he volunteered. “These codes can extend a campaign right into the hands of the people you want to reach. I think the advertising and marketing world is only just scratching the surface of what can be done and I’m surprised more firms here are not using codes.”
Thank you, Simon. It’s a start. Of course, the truth is that the mobile industry doesn’t really need the marketing industry to wake up and smell the roses, so to speak. We’ve got quite a nice thing going on already, thank you. But looking at falling reader and viewer figures in traditional media, and the ability that brands now have to engage directly with consumers, I think the sooner the marketing world understands the opportunity and fully embraces it, the better it will be for their future.
One person I spoke to (who didn’t want to be named in this piece) raised a cheeky question. Is part of the mobile adoption problem financial? Rewards for media buying agencies and their heads are often tied to commission and those multi-million pound deals are driven by TV and national media deals, so that’s where the incentives are greatest.
Wow. Do you think if the mobile industry charged a lot more to advertisers to reach its customers the agencies would be more inclined to recommend the medium? Surely that’s too simplistic and cynical, isn’t it?
The editorial views expressed in this article are solely those of the author(s) and will not necessarily reflect the views of the GSMA, its Members or Associate Members