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.

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