Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Ads as Convenience, not Nuisance

Excellent post here from another m-Qube alum, Mike T on his "MikeTrap" blog.

"...at it’s best, advertising elevates and connects us to something fundamentally human..."

Yeah, I get that - and, at its worst - its a polluting blight on the landscape. The Dove "Evolution" ad in Mike's post I've seen before - its good stuff, and it makes a very powerful statement that Dove should be very proud of articulating.

The company I just came out of was first in the door in the mobile advertising space - as such, it experimented a lot with how to get effective, relevant ads to the consumer in a business model that helps support cell phone usage.

Advertising on mobile is not like any other animal due to several factors - First, there is the ownership of a cell phone - it is a more personal device than even your laptop. Your cell phone is uniquely you. You don't let your spouse or girlfriend or kids use it, typically. That makes it feel proprietary to you - you don't want advertises tromping all over it, and you certainly don't want to be pestered by advertising on it.

Secondly, the usage model is different than anything else - television, print ads, computers, etc. It has to do with immediacy - everything you use a cell phone for (phone calls, directions, SMS chats, etc) you want to happen right this very second. When you are doing 80 down I-90 looking for directions to your friend's house, you do not want to wade through a banner ad or sound bite to get what you want.

Thirdly, its a small thing. Tiny screen - iPhone not withstanding. There just isn't physical room for a display ad plus the information the user was really trying to get to see in the first place.

Finally, there are - alas - the carriers. (It always comes back to this, right?) The carriers are overly concerned about privacy perception (as opposed to actual privacy) by their subscribers - so they are being very cautious about mobile advertising, how it gets targeted and how it is displayed...and, they are getting involved in the content as well. (At least in the US.)

So, what's the answer? It really a collection of answers:
  • Mobile ad content needs to be useful to the consumer.
    The ads can't just be dumb banner ads, they need to have some relevance, or even assist, the consumer in getting the information that they were originally searching for...without getting in the way of retrieving that information
  • Mobile ad content needs to be entertaining/interesting.
    The Dove ad in Mike's blog is an excellent example - a small video preroll like that one, prior to watching an actual video requested by the consumer, will be more fascinating/entertaining than annoying. As Mike said, thats what connects us to being fundamentally human. This leads us to...
  • Mobile ad content needs to have "a path to viral distribution"
    What do I mean by this? Whatever application is displaying/distributing an ad (especially a video ad) on a mobile phone needs a mechanism for distribution to my friends - in a very YouTubish way. (If I find something interesting/entertaining, so will my friends.) This means the ad needs to know where it is being sent, and have a method for being allowed to "expire," otherwise you risk having an ad float around the ether for years on end.
Now, where the hell did I put my phone...?

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