Apple has collected about a dozen location-based apps in a new featured iTunes area called "On the Grid." While there are many more apps that offer location as a central element of the experience -- yellow pages apps for example or various cityguides -- the bias appears to be toward check-in style apps.
Apple should recognize that location and check-ins are not entirely synonymous. And I would expect the selection to grow over time. Here's what's there now:
Third party sites that monitor the app store recently indicated that it now exceeds 250,000 apps from more than 50,000 developers. Here's the distribution of apps from 148Apps.biz. Somewhat surprisingly books has taken the top spot from games.
Mobile loyalty platform CardStar launched an iPad app. It expands the functionality of the company's earlier iPhone app (and other smartphones) by adding coupons and deals that are tied to users' registered loyalty cards. In other words you see the deals for the companies whose cards/programs you've registered on the app.
Here are the features of the new iPad app:
One of the nice things about the new app is that offers saved on the iPad are in the "cloud." So they're automatically logged on the iPhone and other smartphone apps.
People obviously aren't going to bring the iPad to the point of sale. But they can browse deals on the couch and associate them with their registered loyalty cards. By using the iPhone, Android, BlackBerry apps at the POS, users automatically get the benefit of the coupons previously "clipped" on the iPad accordingly.
In addition, one spouse can clip coupons on the iPad and the other one can use the CardStar smartphone app and get the benefit of those coupons at the POS without any knowledge of the spouse's prior iPad clipping activity.
Adding coupons (tied to loyalty cards) is a logical move for CardStar, whose iPad app becomes something analogous to the Sunday circulars. And the automatic linkage of the deals to the loyalty card/account offers a "closed loop" to merchants. CardStar told me that they're were going to greatly expand the variety and range of coupons offered. However I believe offers presented will remain largely "personalized" via the filter of existing loyalty memberships.
CardStar is compiling some fantastic data on user behavior that it can use in a variety of ways to be determined. The company says it's had two million downloads since launch in 2009 and currently has 700,000 active mobile users.
See our earlier posts on CardStar:
The sleepless bloggers at TechCrunch profile TappLocal, a new LBS entrant that reportedly wants to build a local-mobile ad network. It's partly or largely directed at SMBs and it sounds a little like Foursquare meets Placecast:
TappLocal uses their backend to create a geofence around certain partner venues. When a user crosses that boundary and happens to be using one of the partner apps, a deal indicator will pop-up. A quick click on this area will open a larger area explaining exactly what the deal is. Simply click one more time to verify you wish to use the deal, show it to the store that it’s valid at, and you’re good to go.
The company has two "franchises": nearby, proximity marketing and time-sensitive deals:
Hyperlocal means in closer proximity than just local. Generally this is measured on a more granular basis such as a neighborhood, intersection, or even meters. TappLocal uses advanced GPS technologies, mobile smartphones, and a network of mobile applications to target users as closes as +/- 3 meters* to visit your business.
This platform allows you to instantly notify users, in real-time, of a sale to move perishable items, or to instantly get customers in your door. Imagine being able to put a time-sensitive deal, selling unsold pastries for half off 2 hours before closing, or half off drinks to fill your business with customers from 3:00-5:00pm. Our network would send an alert to all users in the metro-region alerting them that for the next 2 hours they can get your pastries half off, or from 3:00-5:00pm they can get drinks half off. Furthermore, you have complete control over the offer, so it can be whatever you like.
To the extent that TappLocal is trying to attract SMBs it will encounter the familiar -- or perhaps not so familiar to them -- challenges of educating the market and then signing up advertisers.
There are a range of other local ad networks online and/or in mobile. Here is a partial list:
All the major mobile networks offer geo-targeted ads as well.
My guess is that TappLocal will "backfill" with inventory from these networks as it tries to build its own inventory. But again, it will encounter major challenges in acquiring small business advertisers.
After many years of discussion it appears that mobile payments will finally break through in the US in 2011. The SF Chronicle offers a nice roundup of some of the mobile payments initiatives going on, focusing on near-field communications and a company called Bling Nation:
Bling Nation, a Palo Alto startup founded in 2007, is among the furthest along in this emerging field, with more than 1,000 retailers nationwide accepting its payment system. The company provides so-called Bling tags, or small stickers, that affix to the back of a mobile phone and transmit data using a wireless standard known as Near Field Communication.
When users tap the tag on a proprietary reader at participating retailers, it pulls money from their PayPal account. For security, users have to enter a personal identification number for purchases over a certain amount, or when transactions occur at an unusual frequency or location.
Here are the major existing and potential mobile payments contenders in the US market:
As the article explains Bling Nation's appeal to merchants is lower fees vs. traditional banks/cards. It then hopes that merchants will proselytize and evangelize the system to consumers. Companies in Bling Nation's position typically face the proverbial "chicken and egg problem." Smaller players must often build merchant and consumer acceptance for their service at the same time, like Tabbed out or Square. Bling itself has reportedly built some of that scale with merchants.
And where's Google in all this? The company will definitely want to be part of mobile payments. Google's payments platform, Checkout, has largely failed to catch on because of tepid consumer promotion. Google could try and reinvigorate it and/or acquire one of the smaller companies in the space. Watch for a payments acquisition by Google I predict.
Clear Channel Airports, a division of Clear Channel Outdoor, has partnered with Geodelic to create a co-branded airport-centric local search app called FLYsmart. It offers fairly comprehensive information about services, flights, transportation, as well as places to eat and shop within and nearby the user's airport of choice.
Presumably Clear Channel will be extending its ads into the app, appropriate to the location and airport in question.
I found it to be a nicely done application, with a number of ways to view desired information (carousel view, list or map view). I'm not a fan of the Geodelic carousel. According to the press release:
FLYsmart is available now for free download for the iPhone smart phones, with an Android version expected to be released soon. A BlackBerry version is slated for release in early Fall. The app will initially be launched in ten of North America's largest airports including Atlanta, Boston, Chicago O'Hare, Dallas Fort Worth, Denver, Detroit, Philadelphia, Phoenix, San Francisco and Seattle. New airports, of all sizes, will be added each week.
Dedicated to airport advertising for more than 30 years, CCA is the premier innovator of contemporary display concepts that currently handles more than 200 airport programs across the globe. CCA has a presence in 32 of the top 50 U.S. markets with major airports.
Geodelic has done co-branded projects in the past, with T-Mobile initially and then Universal Studios. In each case users get the Geodelic-branded app as part of the partner app (T-Mobile offered a branded version of Geodelic). The same is true with FLYsmart; Geodelic is one of the options (screen far right).
The company will likely pursue a dual course, doing more partner deals like Clear Channel while continuing to try and build its consumer brand and usage -- a much more challenging proposition. But the co-branded download also provides Geodelic with a kind of backdoor into consumer usage.
The Wall Street Journal reported yesterday that RIM was/is in talks to acquire mobile ad network Millennial Media:
Under pressure in the increasingly competitive wireless market, BlackBerry makerLtd. is shopping for a mobile advertising network, people familiar with the matter said.
In recent months, the Canadian device maker has held talks with Baltimore-based mobile ad network Millennial Media about a potential acquisition, these people said. But the talks have stalled over disagreements regarding the value of Millennial, which serves advertisements on its own network of mobile websites. It also brokers ad sales to a group of other mobile ad networks.
The proposed sale price, at which RIM has balked reportedly, is $400 to $500 million. Assuming all this is relatively accurate the failure of these talks may turn out to be a good thing for Millennial in the end.
First, why might RIM want to buy an ad network? The rationale would have to be the same as Apple's: keep developers fed and happy and ensure that its platform and apps have a revenue stream. Beyond this Millennial could help develop/serve ads across the "RIM network" (its installed base of users). According to comScore, RIM/BlackBerry has 42% of the US smartphone market, followed by Apple with 24%.
The similarly situated Nokia previously bought Enpocket, although I think there's essentially nothing left of that organization.
RIM, with its legacy enterprise focus and related "buttoned down" culture, would probably not be a good fit with Millennial and its consumer-facing ads orientation -- unless RIM was totally hands off. There's also the question of whether RIM would continue to operate the broader network or simply focus Millennial's efforts on RIM devices and its developer ecosystem, as Apple is now doing. Apple is, as expected, shutting down the Quattro network to focus entirely on iAds. That would probably also happen at RIM.
Getting into the advertising business might also be something of a distraction for RIM. Arguably buying a network doesn't get the company where it needs to go: better consumer products that really excite people. So while buying a network is one of those things that might make sense on the whiteboard, it might not turn out to "on the ground."
Millennial will probably get bought at some point by someone already in the interactive ads business. Alternatively the company could go public, as has been rumored.
By the same token, if RIM feels that it must have an ad platform/network to compete and to ensure its apps ecosystem remains healthy and grows, it probably will buy someone else. There are a number of other possibilities. My guess would be Jumptap's on deck.
Millennial's July data were released earlier this morning. They reflect what's been broadly reported elsewhere: continued growth of Android (and the iPad). Here are the headlines:
Basically, the story is that Android is now a rapidly gaining number two to the iPhone's number one on the Millennial network.
RIM has grown both in terms of representation on the network and in terms of developer involvement, but the news that Android has passed it is more confirmation that the company is in an increasingly challenging competitive position.
And now for the graphics:
Coupons and mobile loyalty marketing have emerged as a huge area for brands, retailers and potentially small businesses alike. A potentially significant player in that market, ShopKick, formally launches on the iPhone today. Android is coming later.
ShopKick is like a marriage of Foursquare and Placecast's ShopAlerts. I previously posted about ShopKick on Screenwerk:
In a nutshell ShopKick offers coupons and rewards for entering stores and checking in (this extends to store departments in some cases). Users can also scan products for information and additional offers. Points ("Kickbucks") are accumulated toward rewards that include gift cards and promotional products. Inaugural retailers are BestBuy, American Eagle Outfitters, Macy's and Sports Authority.
ShopKick will also show nearby offers and potential rewards to lure people into stores in addition to rewarding them for "walking in."
Separately but in a related vein, Booyah's MyTown is seeking to differentiate itself from competitors Foursquare and Gowalla by offering product check-ins. The company claimed "over 350,000 Product Check-ins a week by our players!" during a test period.
Product check-ins on MyTown are not necessarily store specific. Users scan products with their phone's camera (iPhone) and get rewards or enter to win contests, etc. Inaugural brands in this program were H&M stores and Pantene haircare products.
There a few things significant about these developments:
We get competing views of Apple's iAds from the Wall Street Journal and blog Business Insider. First the WSJ, which discusses the slow rollout and bottlenecks, as well as some developer disappointments:
Since launching its iAd mobile advertising service on July 1, Apple has been slow to roll it out. Of the 17 launch partners Apple named for iAd, only Unilever PLC and Nissan Co. had iAd campaigns for much of July. Of the remaining 17, Citigroup Inc., Walt Disney Co. and J.C. Penney Co.—which tied its campaign to the back-to-school-season—have since launched iAd campaigns and other companies are planning iAd efforts.
Part of the reason some marketers are experiencing delays in getting their iAds to market is that Apple has kept tight control on the creative aspects of ad-making, something advertisers aren't used to, according to several ad executives involved with creating iAds.
But then an almost totally opposite report (based on a single case) from Business Insider:
[T]he ads themselves look really good, publishers and advertisers seem happy so far, and users are actually playing with the ads . . .
Dictionary.com president Shravan Goli [reported] . . .
--iAd eCPMs, or effective cost per 1,000 impressions, are more than $10.
--iAd eCPMs are 2X to 3X the eCPMs he's seen from some other mobile ad networks.
--iPhone eCPMs in general (iAd + others) are 5X to 6X those of other mobile platforms.
--iAd fill rates are around 70%-80% now that Apple has started letting app-makers advertise for cheap in other apps.
USAToday has a similar article based on early developer feedback. There are other critical articles about Apple's creative control and low fill rates. However I would argue that iAds have succeeded whether or not Apple or the initial developers specifically make money off them. Here's why:
In short, iAd has helped jumpstart mobile advertising across the board and will result in better more creatively engaging ads for all. In that regard it's a success despite all the criticism of Apple and its slow roll out.
There have been other mobile classifieds marketplaces but none with the potential heft of Nokia. Craigslist has many associated third party apps on the iPhone that mobilize its listings content; eBay of course has had great success in mobile, to name two big names.
Nokia has now created Listings, a sales and services marketplace aimed right now at the developing world. It's only available in India during the beta test.
The downloadable app features several categories of information:
The success of such a service is all about penetration and inventory. If lots of people use the service it could become quite successful and potentially generate meaningful revenue on a global basis. User experience is key but more important is getting the listings content into the system so that users show up.
The service is also more likely to succeed in countries where there aren't already established online marketplaces, which means developing nations primarily. Yet if the content is there and the UX is good enough it could potentially compete elsewhere in world, in Europe perhaps.
There are a number of giant, global mobile advertising companies or "platforms" emerging. Beyond the big brands, Google, Yahoo, Microsoft, there are Velti, inMobi and Amobee. Of the latter three, Velti and Amobee are more similarly situated, while inMobi is an ad network doing ad sales directly.
Today Amobee announced that "it has been appointed by Gruner + Jahr Electronic Media Sales (G+J EMS) to represent 75% of premium mobile content in Germany. Amobee will become the exclusive partner in mobile advertising, serving billions of ads impressions per month."
Amobee explains that Germany is the "largest single-country mobile ad marketplace" in Europe. The company also claims that it can, through its carrier partners and publishers, "reach around 1 in 7 mobile users on the planet every day."
Previously Amobee acquired mobile ad agencey RingRing Media. The company says its ultimate goal is to create "the industry’s largest mobile advertising exchange dedicated to connecting publishers, advertising agencies and brands to premium inventory in real-time, on a global scale."
There are many other mobile ad "exchanges" and ad mediators in the market, including AdMarvel, Smaato, Nexage, Mobclix and others. Over the next year the mobile ad market is ripe for M&A as major players try and build more global scale. US-based mobile ad network Millennial Media has indicated it may try and go public.
Former Tellme CEO Mike McCue is off with his new company Flipboard; and mobile navigation provider TeleNav has named former Tellme executive Dariusz Paczuski as marketing VP. It also announced Tom Erdman as enterprise solutions VP.
Paczuski was responsible for Bing and Tellme carrier strategy at Microsoft. Before that he managed consumer services at Tellme. Prior to Tellme/Microsoft, Paczuski was at AOL running search. He was at Netscape and several other online companies before joining AOL.
Paczuski will be responsible for consumer product marketing and mobile advertising and commerce for TeleNav, which is behind many of the carrier GPS navigation tools and products. TeleNav now has to compete with formidable challenges from free navigation services offered by Google, Nokia and Mapquest.
In case it isn't clear, deals, coupons and local offers are very hot and will continue to be. The incredible rise of daily deals (e.g., Groupon) and the evolution of Foursquare as a couponing and loyalty platform reflect this. Indeed, deals have emerged as a uniquely popular and critical form of mobile marketing. I previously discussed data showing significant (100% YoY) growth for digital coupons.
In the iTunes app store alone there are more than 245 stand-alone apps that respond to the query "coupons." And there are well over 100 daily deal providers in the US market. But how many "vendors" can and will the market support?
Historically coupon sites were plagued by an "inventory" problem; there wasn't enough content there to be useful or that interesting to consumers. Cellfire, an early mobile coupons pioneer, was the exemplar of this problem until the company switched to grocery coupons. This was also a challenge with ValPak's PC site as well. Models that emphasize "push" (daily deals, ValPak's blue envelope) require less "inventory" than "pull" (search) models.
For those publishers, apps and sites seeking to build consumer brands and destinations, aggregation of others' deals has become a key strategy. Yipit, RetailMeNot, TheDealMap, 8Coupons and Shooger, among a number of others, are seeking to be one-stop destinations for offers of various sorts from a broad range of sources. Some of these players also seek to cultivate direct relationships with advertisers as well.
Accordingly, the coupons and deals ecosystem has "sellers" that own the advertiser or are the source of the deal, consumer-facing brands that distribute offers and those entities that try and do some version of both. ValPak does both, so does Groupon, so does Yelp. Google aspires to do both. Google of course is the ultimate, if imperfect, coupon "aggregator" because search is how most people online find deals. And Ask.com has a dedicated deals site.
In the daily deal segment, Yipit is angling to become a "one stop shop" for consumers. It only distributes others' offers. Shooger, which started in Florida and has recently expanded nationally, also seeks to be a comprehensive consumer destination, though it also allows advertisers to create coupons. The site also now crosses platforms. Shooger just launched its online presence after being exclusively a smarpthone app.
One of our most popular webcasts was on mobile coupons with Shooger and ValPak. And our next webinar will be on daily deals with Yipit and Closely.
While the entire deals segment shows no signs of slowing winners and losers will emerge in the near future -- though many companies on the consumer side (though not hundreds) can succeed. There's a land-grab going on for consumer awareness and usage. Winning sites and apps will need to offer both great content, which means comprehensiveness outside of the daily deals, as well as superior usability -- and probably cross-platform distribution for maximum and brand-building purposes.
Shooger is taking aim at all three.
A recent Research In Motion-Forbes survey of 305 executives at leading U.S. retailers with $100 million or more in annual revenues showed they were mostly bullish on mobile and moving quickly to adopt it as a key customer retention/loyalty and marketing channel. The chief motivation for "going mobile" was the recognition of customer adoption of mobile devices and the desire to capture a "first mover advantage."
Sixty-three percent of survey respondents indicated they were already in market with some form of a mobile program: "in pilot programs" (39%) or "expanding rapidly" (24%). Ten percent said they had "already widely implemented" mobile and only 7% said they "did not plan to pursue," while 20% responded that mobile was currently "under evaluation."
Of those using mobile 61% said their efforts were "somewhat integrated" with their other maketing/advertising channels. Thirteen percent said their mobile intiatives were "completely integrated," while 17% reported they were "not at all integrated."
Which of the following statements is closest to your company’s attitude/approach towards development of a mobile channel?
What mobile tactics are you using today—and plan to be using in one year?
What are the main factors that drive your mobile channel efforts?
How are your investments in the mobile channel performing to date?
Source: Forbes-RIM (n=305, 4/10)
Recent US consumer survey data from Insight Express found that 82% of respondents were using their mobile devices in the store, while shopping.
Source: Insight Express, n=1,300 (Q2, 2010)
A considerable number of retailers (47% in the Forbes survey) are clearly recognizing how consumers are interacting with mobile devices and responding rationally. And another contingent (24%) is responding to competition, following those early adopter-retailers into mobile.
Here's what the Forbes survey revealed were the top mobile spending priorities:
The bulk of retailers were spending less than $10 million annually on mobile, with the largest single group (34%) spending under $1 million. However 29% were spending at least $11 million and, of that group, 9% were spending $25 million or more. For 66% of respondents mobile represented 10% or less of their total marketing budgets but they expected mobile spending to grow as a percentage of their overall budgets in the next several years.
The "big picture" that emerges from this survey is that retailers so far see mobile primarily as a customer service and retention/loyalty channel and not as much as a new customer acquisition channel.
The relatively new ITA OnTheFly iPhone app -- BlackBerry and Android are coming -- provides one of the better mobile travel experiences. The catch is you can't book anything directly with the app. You must go to a preferred airline's app/site or call. The company, which Google is in the process of acquiring, says that its mobile app offers a "demonstration of ITA's QPX airfare shopping engine on a mobile app."
OnTheFly allows side-by-side airline price comparisons, easy airport and date selection and interactive mapping. Should the ITA deal pass regulatory muster the travel comparison app could quickly become part of a more comprehensive Google travel app/tool.
One of ITA's "properties" is Needlebase, which scrapes, organizes and de-dupes unstructured data from the Web. Here's a rudimentary example of its capabilities:
As you can see all sorts of related content and information have been collected regarding the destination city: events, dining, attractions.
While other OTAs and aggregators provide additional information about destinations and vacations, Google's in a strong position to quickly dominate consumer traffic in the consumer travel segment if 1) ITA's purchase is allowed and 2) it packages the presentation of content in an elegant way -- especially with this broader data.
Ironically, while the former may be a near fait accompli the latter is not. Google's local and mobile properties are proliferating and it will be somewhat challenging to bring all the data, capabilities and interfaces together in coherent ways.
Thanks to Gary Price for the tip.
Forrester, late to the LBS party, tells most marketers to "wait and see" on Foursquare and other LBS apps/sites. The chief complaint is that adoption is not large enough for most large marketers to care and it's a mostly male audience according to the firm's survey data.
AdAge covers the findings:
Almost 80% of location-based service users are male. Close to 70% of them are between the ages of 19 and 35, and 70% have college degrees or higher. Forrester also found these location-app users to be influential . . . and they are especially receptive to mobile coupons and offers . . . This small audience is still attractive to some marketers. Forrester recommends that gaming, consumer electronics and sportswear marketers lead the way with testing these apps . . .
To its credit Forrester does recommend that some brands and marketers go after this audience, which is acknowledged to be populated with influencers. Here's the survey breakdown:
Image credit: AdAge
While the general underlying advice -- marketer know thy audience -- is sound, the danger is that this data and the coverage surrounding it will create a "negative halo" and cause some marketers to think they can "wait another year" before testing and engaging with mobile in general. They cannot.
There are a number of LBS apps and mobile websites focused on local that are mainstream now (e.g., Google, Yelp, Yellowbook). In addition, retailers and brands should be considering mobile loyalty programs (including SMS) and actively testing them today so that later they won't be in the "trial and error phase" -- while their competitors trounce them with innovative campaigns and best practices developed while they hestitated.
Mobile loyalty marketing and mobile brand marketing have have already proven effective and in many cases much more effective than online. (However mobile shouldn't be considered a stand-alone medium.)
Regarding the 4% audience metrics, they could mislead marketers as well. The US mobile Internet is already 75 million people operating at different levels of engagement. With more people buying smartphones daily those numbers may cross 100 million by the end of this year.
There's also value in being able to test campaigns and marketing tactics outside the glare of major media and large public audiences. In many ways these smaller audiences -- still in the millions -- offer a great opportunity for marketers to try and fail and refine their approaches for broader application later.
CardStar offers mobile users the ability to manage all their loyalty cards from one app. We first wrote about innovative application in March:
Cardstar is a fascinating company that sits at the intersection of offers and deals, which is fast-growing category online, and mobile loyalty marketing which is already very powerful. In terms of the latter category, we ran into Jay Highley, formerly of Tetherball360. We discussed some of the response rates to these mobile loyalty campaigns and he was sharing data from actual campaigns, which saw response rates of 20% to 40% in some cases.
Today the company announced several upgrades for its iPhone app. The bigger deal is the announcement that it is integrating with Foursquare to enable check-ins when users are showing/scanning their specific store barcodes at checkout. Both Foursquare and CardStar are mobile loyalty apps; the difference is that CardStar requires on-site presence to scan a barcode, whereas Foursquare allows check-ins remotely.
"One of the major pain points with LBS check-ins continues to be the inability to verify the customer was actually on-location when they checked in," explained CardStar's press materials. "This is especially important now as more retailers offer incentives/rewards based on the number of check-ins and demand a more automated redemption system."
Here are pre-digested quotes from CardStar CEO Andy Miller (not Quattro's Andy Miller):
Our recent Foursquare survey shows that a large percentage of SMBs (mostly restaurants) currently using Foursquare don't really know if it has helped their businesses. Roughly 70% of respondents said they were tracking check-ins, however.
Source: Opus Research, Search Influence, Dream Systems Media (6/10), SMBs offering incentives on Foursquare
CardStar has collected tremendous data on customer behavior that can be used to push and target offers to users of its apps, more of which are coming. It is evolving into a promotions platform beyond a simple but efficient customer card loyalty tool.
Foursquare early on became a loyalty platform and is becoming a new customer acquisition tool as well. It will be interesting to see whether this CardStar-Foursquare integration becomes a model for others and, then, whether Foursquare becomes a Twitter-like promotions platform that pushes offers through third party apps such as CardStar.
My suspicion is yes it will.
Mobile ads provider Crisp Wireless has teamed up with Verve Wireless "to bring Crisp’s rich media mobile ads to Verve’s global local media and newspapers." Verve develops and hosts the mobile sites for more than 700 newspapers in North America and Europe.
Quattro Wireless started out building mobile websites for companies and then became an ad network. The rest is, as they say, history (Apple). Similarly Verve is effectively now a local ad network that will offer a range of ad unit types and capabilities to marketers and publishers via Crisp. According to the release:
Verve publishers will utilize Crisp’s ad formats and interactive features, such as location-aware and click-to-call, and will have capabilities to deliver campaigns to smartphones and tablets, including Google Android devices and Apple’s iPhone and iPad.
Verve is one of several mobile ad networks and exchanges targeting the local market specifically:
Of course the traditional ad networks for mobile (e.g., JumpTap, Millennial, Yahoo, Google/AdMob) also offer geo-targeting as well.
The following are some "takeaways" by Citi analyst Mark Mahaney from the recent IAB Mobile Marketing Conference in New York (we didn't attend):
These data reflect a nice snapshot of the market today. There's higher engagement with mobile ads but the medium is more complex and challenging in some respects, as the search data suggest. Android is an increasingly viable #2 platform to the currently dominant iPhone.
Feature phones (and SMS) should also not be neglected. While smartphones in the US constitute about 23% of the market, that means non-smartphones are 77%. While the numbers will become more balanced over time there are still lots of people on feature phones in the US and around the globe.
Though many will not say it publicly many digital agency executives and industry observers believe that ad standardization killed online ad creativity. Some also believe that standardization paved the way for so-called "banner blindness" and consumer willingness to simply ignore much of what passes for advertising online.
This led the Online Publishers Association last year to introduce huge new display ad formats, used by selected sites such as the NY Times. Their explicit aim was to revive online ad creativity and grab consumer attention. According to the press release put out at the time:
These new advertising units reflect the publishers’ desire to achieve four key objectives that will guide the evolution of online display advertising into its next phase:
Yesterday the IAB published a document called "Prevailing mobile in-application advertising formats." Not standardization per se, it seeks to "codify" mobile ad formats in use today but stops short of recommending consistent ad units at this point:
Any effort to promote simplification of ad formats must make it easier or cheaper to produce creative for the medium, without stifling the creativity of those designing content or advertising for that medium. At this stage, the in-app ad landscape is too new and dynamic to be ready for creative standards.
The IAB intends this document to offer guidance to both sellers and buyers of in-app ads. We plan to maintain this survey as a living thing, responsive to the astounding pace of change in the in-app ad landscape. We envision updating it as new formats emerge on the scene and gain traction, and as devices and platforms evolve (we note that the iPhone 4’s screen resolution will render much of this document obsolete if that device catches on and older iPhone models leave the market). We’d also like to highlight not just the more popular formats, but also new and innovative ones as well.
While standardization promotes media buying efficiency it also threatens to diminish the excitement and creativity of the new medium. The IAB was wise to restrain itself and let mobile (and tablet) advertising develop organically -- at least for now.