Monday 23 August 2010

That wonderful chap Mark Freeman, the first creative in mobile.

If you were fortunate enough to see my fellow Movement-er (or should it be Mover?) Mark Freeman's standing-ovation-worthy talk at IAB Engage for Mobile (note: IAB membership required for this link, but not for this one) then you are certainly a much better person because of it.

At the post-event schmoozing Mark was collared by Ewan MacLeod and asked a bit more about his views on mobile and the current compulsion for apps.

So if you didn't see the talk, or aren't an IAB member, you can still feel the warm afterglow generated by just listening to the great man by checking out his vox-pop here:

Tuesday 10 August 2010

Google nailed it for me!

Yesterday afternoon, I went all tourist-y and took the wife and kids on a day (afternoon) trip to London.  Having worked in Town for a few years now, I'm pretty blasé about travelling around and some of the sights - but for the kids, used to the Shires as they are, this was a real treat.

We took in Covent Garden, the Natural History Museum, the Science Museum, the Diana Memorial kids playground in Kensington Gardens and a meal at Bella Italia before catching a train home.  What's the point in telling you all that apart from the vain hope that by linking to them there may be some freebies in it for me?  Well, apart from the detail being vital in padding out this blog post beyond a paragraph, it helps to demonstrate the usefulness of Google on my mobile.

Being an Android owner (HTC Desire), my device came with a fair few Google services built in and those that weren't I soon installed.  So armed with the full suite of Search, Voice Search, Maps, Navigation, Translate, Goggles and Street View (and a good 3G connection of course) I was pretty much able to organise the day on the hoof.

Not sure what the opening hours for the museums were?  Thanks Google.
Not sure where the museums were and how to get there on the tube?  Thanks Google.
Not sure how to get to the playground?  Thanks Google.
Not sure where the nearest Bella Italia was (we had vouchers) and how to get there?  Thanks Google.
Not sure what times the train back ran?  Thanks Google.
And all that with only needing to put up with the odd advert here and there...

So come the end of the day, in addition to having a couple tired and happy kids, we avoided any of the usual friction points such as "where are we going?"; "are you sure this is the right way?"; "what do you mean it's closed?"; and "HOW LONG do we have to wait for the next train?".  And so we had a couple of tired and happy parents too!

I can't help but admire Google for the way that they produce apps and services that are fundamentally useful.  Yes, there are some misses along the way (Wave being a good example) but they find a way to produce hit after hit after hit.  Putting the mobile focus aside, what about Search, Gmail, Maps and Street View, Docs, Calendar etc. etc....?

Over at Mountain View they have certainly hit upon a formula for innovation and success.  And it's built around one thing - ADVERTISING.  Yes, there is the accumulation of user and location information, but that is all used in order to make the advertising more relevant (i.e. more useful to the consumer and costly for the advertiser).

So thanks for nailing it for me Google.  Oh, and well done on achieving near-omnipresence!

Friday 6 August 2010

Mobile. There's too much crap out there.

I've been thinking about writing a positional piece on Mobile for a month or so now but had never got round to starting it (the closest I got was my last post which was basically about the need for marketers to consider the channel in the same way as they do others, such as email).

To be honest, the reason that I hadn't written it thus far is that I've struggled to make my up mind how to frame it.  I've thought about the rousing ("It is up to us to make sure Mobile succeeds"), the industry-effacing ("If I hear someone say that this is the year of mobile again I'll....") and also the confrontational ("Why would you NOT use mobile?").  In the end, a discussion amongst some of the bods here at Movement hit the nail on the head for me.  To cut a long story short, we were talking about what we as a team need to do to ensure that we're producing award-worthy work, and we discussed some of the things we have seen that are the complete antithesis of what we want to achieve.  Hence the title.

In truth, all of those other statements are relevant to this - we in the industry do have a responsibility for making the channel succeed; we all know that the climate in the market right now is as conducive to success as it has ever been; and equally we all should know that Mobile is unique in its ability to operate in both isolation and (more effectively in my opinion) in conjunction with other channels - for example, it can act as the catalyst that takes a person from seeing a poster to registering an email address or visiting an online store, via a simple text-in CTA.

So, to address the title, why is there so much crap out there?!?

I am sure that most of us can think of a couple of examples of really poor uses of mobile:  the iPhone app that gets 100 downloads or if it does achieve more, delivers little/no consumer benefit and is removed by the user in a week; the SMS message that links to a poorly rendered mobile site or even worse, a www site that makes no consideration for mobiles; or the nation-wide (i.e. not just London) campaign that requires the consumer to have a device with GPS and a Foursquare account.

In a recent meeting with a digital agency we were discussing a concept they had for an iPhone app and I had the temerity to suggest that a Blackberry app or, to be honest, a mobile site would be more appropriate given the regional focus and the reach and functionality that they required.  Their response?  "Really?  But an iPhone app is so coooooooool!"*.

Dear God.

The campaign objectives were secondary to the desire to do something perceived as cool.  Personally, I think that makes it anything but, so I mentioned that the only nominated activity for this years D&AD for Mobile Marketing used the extremely passé SMS (and a rather large crane of course).

That surprised them.

I've spent a bit of time being flippant about this kind of thing, making light of the fact that marketers and agencies are on the whole still struggling to 'get' mobile, but it's not something that should be made light of.  If you've been in Mobile for a while now, you may remember the first dawning, back in the early days when brands were prepared to spend a bit of cash buying (purported) opt-in lists and sending push campaigns, running text-in competitions and maybe even building WAP sites.  Back then Mobile was the new-kid-on-the-block and had the opportunity to break new ground, but unfortunately it only managed to get itself an ASBO.  Poorly and/or dubiously executed campaigns all too often resulted in low response, high opt-out and poor RoI and, ultimately, meant that brands withdrew their cash.

Well, we're in the middle of the second dawning, and the excitement is here again.

Right now, we have all the advantages that the relentless social, cultural and technological progress of the last few years has brought us.  The mobile phone has become ubiquitous; smartphone penetration is on an exponential curve; the Apple vs. Google tussle (that is dragging RIM, Nokia and Microsoft along) is driving technological advancement; and industry bodies such as the IAB are helping to further the cause.

And so it is all the more important that we don't mess it up again.  You could argue that the pace of process is immutable and that mobile will become a mainstay in the marketing mix whatever.  I would suggest that we're in a fairly precarious position - that the market is as fluid as it has ever been and we are not yet over the tipping point.  It is important that the understanding of Mobile - how, when, why and where to use it - continues to grow.  We need to keep challenging the beliefs and perceptions of both our industry peers and clients.  We need to ensure that the marketing objective is always first and foremost - doing something that is perceived as cool or is award-winning with then follow naturally.

The aim should be for everyone to produce work that makes contemporaries think "I wish that I did that!", because it delivers against objectives.  Nothing more.  And unfortunately, there isn't enough of that out there right now.  There is too much crap.

* Note: Extra o's added for effect.