Reaching Users on the Go: New Opportunities in Mobile Marketing

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There are more than 212 million cell phones in the U.S. (that’s two out of every three Americans according to Pew Research) and over 34.6 million mobile Internet users as of June 2006, according to the “U.S. Device Census Report for Q2 2006″ from Telephia (http://blog.searchenginewatch.com/blog/060830-115725, August 30, 2006). The growing user base and the technological maturation of this medium deliver validation to the mobile phone and, as a result, marketers are making the move to monetize the mobile platform. Mobile ad spend is expected to climb to $11.35 billion worldwide by 2011, according to research firm and conference organizer Informa Telecoms & Media (http://uk.biz.yahoo.com/06092006/325/mobile-ad-spending-set-jump.html, September 7, 2006).

With companies sprinting (no pun intended) to launch a mobile campaign, it is critical that they assess their options before jumping in. Why is that the case? Getting it right is crucial. The mobile phone is, after all, personal – it is the one device that a consumer carries everywhere, all the time. It is possible that those who take the approach of delivering non-intrusive and relevant content may realize tremendous success. Those who take a more flippant tact can damage their brand permanently.  So what choices do marketers have?

The first option is mobile pay per click. Pay-per-click advertising is one of the most essential and effective means of gaining brand awareness and visibility on the Internet.  With the boom in mobile phone use, one could suggest that it would only be a matter of time before this advertising model’s second incarnation was introduced – mobile pay-per-click ads. A recent Mobile Marketing Association survey found that three out of every ten respondents had used mobile search for the first time in the past month. With search comes pay-per-click ads.

An indication of this trend comes from companies such as go2, a mobile Yellow Page directory service. Through a recent partnership, Yahoo! Search Marketing ads now appear in go2 mobile search results. Yahoo! has also announced a roll out of their mobile ad program to the United States and the United Kingdom. This beta program places Yahoo! Search Marketing ads alongside Yahoo! search results on many mobile phones. Advertisers pay on a per click basis.

Even Google is testing the waters, by leveraging their AdWords technology to allow customers to purchase text marketing messages in Google search results conducted on mobile phones. Advertisers using the service need a mobile web site and only have to pay when someone clicks on an ad, which is primarily targeted to the person’s local market. With this offering, when a customer does a search through Google on their mobile phone, they will receive two lines of text – the advertiser’s message along with either a web link or a toll-free number so they can click or call.

Pay-per-call ads have also made their way to the mobile phone, targeting ads to customers and providing them with a phone number that they can call to acquire additional information. Some merchants place a higher value on phone leads and many are willing to pay a higher bid price for the perceived higher value. As seen, companies such as Google are already making the move, testing a new mobile offering, which can be purchased through the AdWords interface. Pay-per-call programs work in a similar way to pay per click; advertisers pay every time a customer calls their business (instead of paying for a click to their website).

A third option for those looking to go mobile is pay-per-text advertising (Text = SMS or Short Message Service in the U.S.). MIVA (which includes the former FindWhat and the European search engine eSpotting) recently launched this ad format in the United Kingdom via “118 118″, the UK’s number for directory assistance.  Unlike the United States, where users have the option to request a text message of a phone number when calling directory assistance, the process in the UK is that “118 118″ automatically sends these messages directly to the caller. Consequently, advertisers can now buy a MIVA product called TXT//ADTM – the text space below numbers sent in response to “118 118″ inquires. TXT//ADTM is sold on a category basis, known as Ad Groups.

In a scenario using the UK’s “118 118″ directory assistance service, a digital camera company could purchase space in all text messages sent in response to inquires for companies in the “electronics and appliances” Ad Group. Their ad could also offer “10% off each digital camera” or a similar promotion. The end result may contribute to greater brand recognition and ultimately increased sales. Research shows that 93% of consumers want to receive this information, with 8.3% saying that they would use the number and 64% saying that if they didn’t use the advertiser’s number immediately, they would at some point in the future (Saville Rossiter-Base ).

It is clear that mobile marketing will soon, if it does not already, represent a growing phenomenon in advertising, with the growth of the mobile Internet and skyrocketing mobile ad spending as the leading indicators.  In the months and years ahead this medium is very likely to increase in its importance to both advertisers and consumers. The key is to look at all of the options, identify which are best for you and then leverage this medium in a way that delivers value, but does so in a way that does not sour the customer’s mobile experience. Your customers are on the go. Are you?

About the Author

Recognized by The Guardian as a '50 Women to Watch' and MT's '35 Women Under 35', Chrysi is a founding member of MIVA (then Espotting), the first company to launch Pay-Per-Click Ads in the UK. She is now responsible for MIVA's global marketing strategy.

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