IAB Mobile Forum

Last Wednesday I attended the IAB‘s mobile forum (presentations are uploaded here).

It was an illuminating afternoon, though mainly in terms of what I didn’t take away. Mobile is still nascent as a media platform, and the industry understanding of it is still at a fairly basic (in my opinion) level.

Most information on how people use mobile seems to be on potential behaviour rather than actual (though there were exceptions).   As such, the emphasis of the event was very much on inspiration rather than effectiveness or impact. In part because of the fragmented nature of mobile (different handsets, networks, operating systems, functionality etc), it is difficult to emerge with overarching advice on using mobile.

However, it is clear that it is a medium ripe for innovation. Nearly all of the speakers had case studies as illustrations on how mobile can be used in new and interesting ways. These include:

  • Fitness First cold-texting people with information on their local gym (once people had responded with their postcode)
  • Comic Relief raising £7.8m through people messaging in to pledge donations that would be added to their monthly bill
  • The ringtone from the Cadbury’s “eyebrows” advert was downloaded over 250,000 times in less than a month
  • Pizza Hut’s pizza-building application where you can shake to remove toppings, click to order it (including regional discounts) and play a game while you wait for it to arrive
  • Ikea augmented reality tool to superimpose furniture into your living room
  • An Ocado shopping app that requires a four digit pin rather than a username/password each time you want to purchase.

Despite not coming away stunned, there were some useful pieces of information that I picked up at the event.

  • Chris Boddice from O2 made the comparison of a mobile phone to a personal assistant or life manager – it can do everything from diary management to your shopping via being an alarm clock
  • Alex Kozloff from Orange made the point that in addition to being relevant and innovative, mobile marketing also needs to reassure. Trust is much more of an issue on your mobile (it has people’s lives on it, yet there is no anti-virus or anti-phishing software) and so consumers need to be reassured that your site/brand is trusted and that they aren’t going to be surreptitiously charged for anything. For people who pay for their data, zero-rating can be used whereby the advertiser foots the data charges to visit that site.
  • Justyn Lucas from yodel warned of advertisers getting blinded by technology, and that the role of mobile should be established before deciding on how to proceed. In fairness, integrated marketing is hardly a new piece of information, but it is worth re-iterating
  • Jonathan Abrahams from Admob revealed that they are now seeing more traffic from Andriod than they are from Windows Mobile. This reinforces the asymmetry of mobile use in that while iPhones and Google phones still have relatively small penetration, they are driving the use of the mobile internet
  • The IAB’s Jon Mew said that the user experience should be paramount when browsing – from their first ad effectiveness study (for KitKat), they noted that respondents were much more likely to remember the ad if they had enjoyed browsing the site. Furthermore, regular users of the site were more likely to notice the ads (this was contrary to my assumption that the novelty of mobile ads would cause stand-out, but this effect is no different to other media platforms)
  • Tim Hussain from BSkyB had some great tips on apps – which he argued should provide a richer more creative experience for your customer. He also alluded to the asymmetry of action – in 6 weeks more people were using the Sky EPG on the iphone than on the 300 other handsets it is available on AND the pc combined. He pointed out that the iPhone has a massive advantage in that, from our iPods, we are familiar with iTunes and the iTunes store and so the comprehension barrier has already been overcome.

Tim’s six tips for apps were

  1. Understand the target audience
  2. Ensure the app is different to a mobile website
  3. Make it a destination, not a driver
  4. It should either save time or kill time (I liked this point, even if it does overlook the other uses of an app, such as inspiration)
  5. The idea should be aligned with the brand
  6. The app should be integrated to the wider campaign

Additional statistics I picked up from the event were:

  • Gartner predict that by 2012, 70% of all phones will be smartphones
  • There is an average of 37 apps per iPhone in the UK
  • Orange research suggests that 87% of mobile media users (“anything that a message can be delivered through” – so including SMS) use it at home
  • 95% of us don’t switch our phones off
  • Yahoo! is bigger than Google in mobile search (though I think this will change as iPhone/Google phones etc take share away from the network portals)

Although I didn’t pick up as much new information or knowledge as I was anticipating, it was an event worth attending. I’d particularly recommend Tim’s presentation on apps  – it can be downloaded here.

As the industry develops and matures, it is inevitable that our understanding of consumer behaviour and marketing effectiveness will improve – from my various discussions with people in the space there is definitely a market opportunity to fulfill some of these needs. I’m confident that the study I’m about to embark upon will contribute to this.

sk

Image credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/kamshots/

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Foursquare uses for my iPhone

In my post on mobile yesterday, I mentioned that the mobile internet is changing people’s conception of what a mobile can do.

Initially, a mobile phone was purely about communication. This is no longer the case. Broadly speaking, there are four main ways in which a mobile phone is now used:

  • Communication
  • Information
  • Entertainment
  • Utility

To illustrate the multiple ways in which a mobile phone can now be used, I shall give personal examples of how I have been using my iPhone in the month or so I have had it.

Foursquare is Mashable’s tip for the tool that makes location-based services acceptable for the masses. It is not yet available in London, but offers a nice title for the below 4×4 (i.e. four squared) examination of my behaviour.

By the way, I am not going to do a Morgan Stanley and extrapolate one person’s experiences into the behaviour of an entire generation. This is anecdotal only.

Communication

  • Phone – this has been relegated to the position of “just another app”. On the iPhone, it has equal prominence with Mail, Safari and iPod
  • Mail – I have both my Essential and Gmail accounts set up, and reply to emails when away from my desk/home
  • Tweetdeck – my preferred Twitter client, which is free and works extremely well as an app
  • Facebook – A big driver of mobile internet use, according to this report

Information

  • BBCReader – this is an unofficial tool; the BBC should bring an official version to market as it is incredibly useful. I cache all of the top stories onto my phone memory, and then am able to browse the news while on the tube
  • NYTimes – similar to the above, except that it is official and thus much smoother. They’ve started experimenting with disruptive interstitial ads, which I am willing to put up with in exchange for free access
  • London Tube Deluxe – there are free versions available, but a handy tool to keep abreast of closures and delays, as well as planning journeys
  • Flixster – it is US focused, but it does recognise my UK location and tells me my local cinemas and the showings. I can see the Rotten Tomatoes ratings, and review films I go on to see.

Entertainment

  • Slugger – the game that has seen most usage. An addictive home-run derby game, which uses the iPhone motion detector as the aim for your swing
  • iPod – ingeniously, this continues to work in the background while other apps are used. Apps themselves shut down when not in primary use, which means that if the Spotify app is approved, listeners will not be able to do anything else while using
  • Tap Tap Revenge – a Guitar Hero esque game that provides free tracks to play along to, with the option of going on to buy them
  • Simon The Sorcerer – I only downloaded this Monday and haven’t played it yet, but loved it when I was a kid. And at £1.19 it is far cheaper than any (legal) PC version

Utility

  • Calendar – it automatically syncs with Outlook but not Gmail (annoyingly)
  • Clock – I use my phone as an alarm clock. I’m not alone.
  • Camera – I still carry around a digital camera for events, but the camera is good enough for basic daylight photos that can be quickly emailed
  • Voice Memos – I haven’t had a great deal of need to use this yet. Aside from Twin Peaks impressions – “Diane, I am holding in my hand a small box of chocolate bunnies”.

In terms of weight of behaviour, I would estimate the majority of my behaviour is centred on information and entertainment. My phone is incredibly useful in particular situations (thanks to my dodgy sense of direction) but I derive the most consistent usage on my commute. Reading material (whether free newspapers, a book or the Economist), my “standalone” iPod and my Nintendo DS are all seeing far less usage as a result.

However, this is just one anecdote. Some may use it primarily as a communication tool (whether telephony or social media) and others as a utility (e.g. Nike+).

One of the greatest things about the App store is the customization it affords us. Rather than just changing the look of a phone, we can now alter the functionality.

Therefore, if we are to understand how mobile media is to be used (and potentially how it can be monetized), we first need to understand people’s motivations and interests. And since customization is near limitless, we need to try and do this at the individual level.

sk

Image credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/sigalakos/

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A new era for mobile?

Mobile phones on a train in Japan

I’ve been speaking to a lot of people about mobile recently – partially because I have finally got an iPhone, but primarily because I am working on a project around how mobile phones fit into the media landscape.

Mobile phones as a technology are unquestionably mainstream, and have been so for about a decade. There are currently more mobile phones than people in Europe, and a recent study suggested that children get their first mobile when they are eight years old.

However, mobile as a media has taken a lot longer to infiltrate mainstream behaviour. There have been numerous false dawns in the past – notably around mobile TV – but the time for mobile does finally seem to have arrived.

And the driver for that is the mobile internet.

SIDENOTE: The mobile phone has found some exceptionally important uses in the developing world – Mo Ibrahim‘s work is a good place to start in this respect – but my research is focusing upon the West, and primarily the UK.

The four factors that have been influencing take-up of the mobile internet (in the UK at least) are

  • Faster network/connection speeds
  • Emphasis on unlimited data packages (even on pay as you go tariffs)
  • Greater choice of content
  • Better (in functionality and usability) handsets

In my opinion, the third and fourth points are a result of the iPhone. Relative penetration of the iPhone may still be low, and few of its functions may actually be “new”, but both the iPhone and the App store have changed the public’s conception of what a phone is and what it is used for.

To indicate how revolutionary it is, consider how many other phones are referred to by their brand name? Only BlackBerry, and that is arguably because it the initial emphasis was on email rather than telephony. The iPhone managed to set itself far apart from all other handsets on the market. It is aspirational and has caused other manufacturers to fundamentally change the way they design and market their handsets.

Furthermore, the iPhone has disrupted the mobile market. I believe iterative upgrading of handsets is still the most prevalent form of changing phones, but a significant minority are abandoning the previously well-formed “upgrade curve” and converging around high-end smartphones.

By changing the perception of what a phone is, a new coalition of users can be persuaded to change their willingness to pay. A person may have been willing to pay £20 per month for their mobile subscription to make calls and texts. However, that person may be willing to pay £35 per month for a smartphone subscription that gives them email, games, maps, videos and so on in addition to calls and texts.

These people may still have different levels of comfort with technology, and thus usage of the different features will vary, but the capability is there for all to engage in this new behaviour.

And that is quite exciting.

Not just in itself, but also in the effect this behaviour has on consumption of other media channels. The mobile extends the PC behaviour in complementary and competing ways, and it is important to understand the relationship that the two platforms have with one another (in addition to the other media channels – this remote record tool from Sky is a great example on how mobile can feed into the core business).

The environment is fast-moving and volatile, but it does appear that mobile is finally emerging as a media channel to be reckoned with.

I anticipate this a topic I’ll be returning to on numerous occasions – both here and on the Essential Research blog where I hope to update on the progress we are making on this project. In the meantime, I’m bookmarking all relevant articles and blogs here.

sk

Image credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/cocoarmani/

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Putting PR research in its place

Ben Goldacre‘s Bad Science column frequently exposes less-than-stellar research findings that have been subjected upon the general populace. He’s always worth reading, and in the past has even inspired me to vent at some of the ridiculous claims.

But his latest column on PR reviewed data has, surprisingly, caused me to reconsider my stance.

In it, he compares the recent advertorials that the Express ran (which were outside of the rules) to these sorts of surveys. This led to a response from one of the main perpetrators  – One Poll – and they (sort of) agreed.

In their own words, “We’ve been providing branded, stat-based news copy to the nationals for more than ten years now. Why do you think we do it? Everyone is aware this is a branding exercise…”

Unlike the advertorial row, the transaction is non-monetary and thus legal. The journalist is essentially outsourcing part of their responsibility. In some ways, it is like a landlord taking on a lodger, with the lodger earning their keep through “chores” rather than paying rent.

Does it matter? I don’t disagree with One Poll when they say one of these survey stories can be entertaining and provoke discussion – though I might replace the word “entertaining” with “momentarily diverting”.

But I disagree when they say that the surveys are valid. In terms of validity, I would subjectively rank this approach as thus (moving from invalid to valid):

  • Made up data
  • Straw poll of close friends
  • Accumulating opinion from one source (e.g. comments from one news story)
  • PR survey
  • Hypothesis testing survey
  • Exploratory survey
  • Census

I have issues with their validity not so much because of the financial motivations of respondents, but because of an obvious inability to replicate the answers. They don’t have an objective truth.

To use one of their most recent press releases as an example: Man City fans are among the poorest in Britain. If the survey were repeated tomorrow, I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see a totally different result.

SIDENOTE: This post isn’t meant to disparage this sort of research (I’ve done that already), but for supposed experts they can surely create better copy than ”It’s no surprise to see Chelsea up at the top and the other big London clubs. They have a loyal ban base with supporters around the country and obviously have some money to spend.” Aside from spelling and grammar, perhaps they should have made the correlation between geographic disparity and affluence a bit more explicit…

While I still think this approach (to both research and marketing) is nonsense, I’m no longer against it appearing in newspapers. What I would like to see, however, is an explicit admission that it is a one-off accumulation of non-representative opinion at a single point in time (or something slightly catchier). It is not fact that Man City fans are among the poorest – it is just the result from a single, dodgy survey among people that live on the Money Saving Expert forums. These surveys are views, not news.

And with that caveat, I have no issue with this method. While labeled as market research, it is not something I, nor my company, would participate in and so we aren’t in competition with these practitioners. There is evidently a market for this sort of product, so good luck to those pursuing it.

One Poll have worked with some big names so they must be doing a good job in their niche. That niche is nicely summed up by their “No coverage no fee” results-driven model. The legal equivalents have been stigmatised as “ambulance chasers” – I wonder whether this type of service can avoid a similar slur…

sk

Image credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/daveknapik/

PS I’d be interested in hearing from anyone who has commissioned a PR survey of this nature. Outside of the value of the column inches being greater than the cost of the survey, has there been any tangible, noticeable benefit to engaging in this sort of activity?

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The perfect day

It’s wedding season at the moment. I’ve had the pleasure of attending two so far this summer, with another two over the coming month.

I love the fact that they are all different:

  • The first wedding was quite alternative, with Philip Glass as entrance music, pageboys dressed as dinosaurs and a cake based on Tatlin’s Tower
  • The second wedding was fairly traditional (though non-religious) and held in a beautiful country barn
  • The third wedding will include a Tamil ceremony

I’m not sure how the fourth wedding will proceed, but I’m pretty confident that it will be completely unique.

I’m also confident that the forthcoming ceremonies will proceed as perfectly as the first two did.

This is because a wedding is the perfect day for the happy couple and their families and friends. It is planned to precision with every detail accounted for. The day is utterly unique as every element is completely bespoke.

This requires a lot of trust in the agents and parties responsible for the individual elements. But the couple have their vision and by laying down the specific parameters they can be reassured that the day will proceed flawlessly.

The analogy is an obvious one but it is worth making.

Perfect execution needs perfect planning, which in turn requires a perfect briefing.

The wedding couple know exactly what they want to achieve. They communicate this to all involved, who then know precisely what they need to do. They use their expertise to make this happen.

Now our projects may not be as life-changing or as unique as a wedding, but if we want to achieve the best possible outcome, then putting as much thought and effort into the initial project briefing as possible will go a long way to achieving this.

sk

Image credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/motodraconis/