Direct mail/coupon advertising provider ValPak now has an iPhone app. It's nicely executed and offers a number of ways to get access to deals: searching, browsing by category and a map-based view that shows users all the deals across categories in a specific area.
Previously, after launching a new PC site that was better optimized for mobile, the company saw a big uptick in mobile coupon "prints." In fact the company told me that there was a 25% conversion on average from mobile visitors. In this case "print" meant clicking through to a particular screen that showed a code.
A seach in the iTunes apps store reveals almost 30 apps that represent themselves as coupon providers or offer coupons in one way or another.
I was speaking on Friday to a big online coupon site and they were raising questions about POS redemption of mobile coupons as a barrier. ValPak has solved that problem by simply asking users to "show coupon to business when placing order."
Coupons are a big area of opportunity for mobile. We have plenty of data that support this proposition. Compete's recent smartphone survey also shows that mobile deals/coupons are of high interest to mobile consumers:
Reported about a week ago Epsilon’s Global Consumer Email Study (n=4,084) found that so-called millennials (18-25) are highly willing to receive opt-in marketing messages in email and SMS. According to the press release:
Compared to other age groups, millennials are more likely to use tools such as instant messaging (IM), social networking and text/SMS messages as their primary tool for personal online communications. Over one-third (35%) cited instant messaging, whereas 26% of 26-35 year olds and 11% of 36-45 year olds selected IM.
Another notable difference amongst millennials reveals they were more receptive to both online and offline specials in permission-based emails . . .
Here are the categories of offers that millennials were interested in receiving offers from more than once a day (according to the survey):
Mobile-only categories of offers will be slightly different and include, for example, discounts on meals/entertainment.
Interestingly millennials want more frequent offers, which reinforces their loyalty. Other age groups in the survey were not as open to more than once a day offers. The survey also found millennials respond well to and expect personalization. However, Epsilon also found concern among them about spam, as one would expect.
Source: Epsilon (June, 2009)
SMS is arguably better suited than email or IM for the higher frequency offers (opt-in only) because of its on the go nature and the fact that people are always in possession of their mobile devices. However marketers must be even more diligent about relevance and spam prevention in SMS marketing and on mobile devices generally.
According to published reports the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) is going to begin charging for mobile access in the next couple months. Reuters explains how the pricing would work:
Under the plan, people who do not subscribe to the Journal would pay $2 a week for mobile access, and subscribers would pay $1 per week. Subscribers to both the print and online version of the paper will get mobile for free.
News Corp., the WSJ's parent, is going to start charging broadly for access to its content online. This effort is consistent with the new approach. The WSJ of course has been one of the few publications that has been charging for access to its articles and content since "the beginning." And it represents a rare success story in that regard. The Journal however is not representative of all publications because so many people either get the publication for free via their companies or write it off as a tax deduction.
Effectively then the subscription is subsidized but the US government or corporate employers. In that larger context I would expect that many people will pay for access via mobile. However I certainly will not.
We will see many more publishers seeking to charge for mobile access. But what about when the tablets start to hit? Will that simply be an extension of "online" or will it be considered a separate mobile offering? I'm getting a bit ahead of myself when I ask that question but in three years we will have a bunch of connected tablets in the market and it will be a relevant issue then.
Related: All 30 McClatchy publications join the AP Mobile news network. According to Editor & Publisher:
"Mobile is a key component of McClatchy's overall digital strategy," Christian Hendricks, McClatchy's vice president, interactive media, said in a statement. "Adding all our websites to AP Mobile makes it easier for consumers to access our local news and helps expand overall readership in our newspapers' markets."
Nokia's Navteq is getting (really) serious about mobile advertising. The company has announced the acquition of mobile marketing firm Acuity Mobile. The two firms have been working together since March, 2007, when Acuity's technology was selected to deliver LBS ads via Traffic.com (a Navteq subsidiary). According to the Navteq press release issued this morning:
The acquisition of Acuity Mobile, a US-based company with approximately 18 employees prior to close, underscores NAVTEQ's commitment to and investment in location-based advertising technology and solutions. Earlier this year, NAVTEQ launched NAVTEQ LocationPoint(TM) Advertising which enables advertisers to reach and engage consumers where and when they are making shopping and purchasing decisions. NAVTEQ has been leveraging Acuity Mobile technologies to meet the increasing demand for location-aware advertising services as the volume of location-aware devices and applications has grown . . .
NAVTEQ LocationPoint enables clients to target consumers with geographic precision. In turn, consumers will have advertising move with them, as their mobile mapping applications present ads, offers, coupons, or other promotions, based on their preferences. Advertising capabilities include audio, rich graphics, or calls to action such as routing to the closest advertiser storefront.
Acuity delivers LBS ads but with other targeting layers as well, including time, context and user preference. The acquisition helps stabilize a broader range of mobile advertising capabilities for Navteq, which has seen the PND market (one of its primiary outlets) look less and less viable with the rise of smartphones.
I'm wondering aloud whether Acuity will remain within Navteq or integrated more broadly into Nokia Interactive Advertising. I would also look for more Nokia mobile ad platform/network acquisitions in the near term.
As I said yesterday, reconciling all the conflicting survey and behavioral data on consumers' attitudes toward mobile advertising is difficult. Generally speaking consumers will say they don't like ads on mobile devices, but respond to advertising and offers when they receive them. I said also that more sophisticated (read: smartphone) users are more welcoming of (or less bothered by) mobile ads, especially when the benefits are clear. And the most sophisticated group of mobile Web users is iPhone owners.
Now comes research from Chitika, an online (not mobile) advertising network, which argues based on behavioral data that iPhone owners are the least responsive (as measured by CTR) to ads and that mobile is not the great boon to marketers it's cracked up to be:
Here's what Chitika says about the chart on the right:
Of the 92 million impressions cited in the study, approximately 1.3 million (1.5%) came from mobile browsing. While non-mobile held steady with a 0.83% clickthrough rate, mobile as a whole pulled a mere 0.48%
The presentation of this data and subtleties of the language used (i.e., "mere") suggest bias to me. Every single source I've encountered shows the opposite of this chart: users respond to mobile marketing and advertising campaigns at rates that are higher than online. There must be an "apples to oranges" comparison going on. Although it's not entirely clear from the way the data are presented, the "non-mobile" CTRs appear to be ads responsive to search queries. The "mobile" CTR data I'm going to guess is based on response to display advertising.
Search CTRs in general are always substantially higher than display CTRs because of the nature of "push vs. pull" models.
According to Google's DoubleClick the average CTR for online display advertising in 2008 was 0.10%. Thus, the "apples to apples" comparison is probably mobile CTR of .48% vs. online display CTR of 0.10%. CTRs on mobile search ads should also be somewhat better than online because of the "need it now" phenomenon. Here's what SEM agency Performics said about a recent PC vs. mobile search test:
Performics recently ran a limited test of the smart device targeting capability to promote an iPhone app. We created mirrored campaigns in Google - one targeting laptops/PCs and the other targeting mobile smart devices. After a week, 8% of impressions but 11% of clicks came through the smart device campaign. Mobile searchers had a higher CTR because the ads targeted them better.
Accordingly I believe that Chitika, an online-only ad network, took online search ad CTR rates and compared them to mobile display ad CTRs. Furthermore it should be said that the "click" is not the right metric for mobile (display) advertising. It is, however, becoming the default metric that media planners and pundits are using to talk about mobile performance but it's myopic and doesn't truly reflect impact and value in the context of non-search adverting. (See the OPA study re "latent" effects of online display campaigns.)
One final bit of data on smartphone handset market share in terms of mobile Internet usage from the Chitika study:
Compare AdMob July data for the US market:
The data in the market generally reflect some contradictory things regarding consumer attitudes toward mobile advertising. Majorities of survey respondents (from our surveys and third party data) say they don't want to see ads on their handsets. However, their behavior very often reflects something else: they want offers and will respond to them.
A recent AOL-UniversalMcCann study (n=1800) showed that 38% of US smartphone users took some sort of action in response to mobile marketing/advertising.
If the data are segmented by handset and demographics what you find is that more sophisticated users on smartphones are the most interested and the least offended by mobile advertising vs. the general market. Here's recent general mobile user survey data from our April survey:
Now see Compete/TNS data released yesterday:
We have some earlier, very similar findings. When presented with concrete information and offers, consumers are interested -- especially when it means saving money. These are smartphone users who are much less hostile to mobile ads. The 77% figure in the chart at the top goes down to 53% when smartphone owners are segmented out. In other words the number of those using smartphones who don't want ads is 53% vs. 85% for non-smartphone owners.
Finally, InsightExpress released some data that also reflected that the "absence of advertising" was an issue of diminishing importance:
Source: InsightExpress Digital Consumer Portrait (7/09, n=1,210)
Mobile advertising works at levels that far outstrip conventional PC advertising. But many consumers are still ambivalent about it because they fear spam, tracking, incurring costs, etc. There's no easy way to explain the discrepancies in the data and in the contast between consumer attitudes toward mobile ads and actual behavior.
Today at the Mobilize conference Motorola announced it's long-awaited first Android phone the "CLIQ" (from T-Mobile) with "Motoblur." For about 10 minutes it wasn't clear what the phone was called. It seemed like it was called the "Motoblur" but then T-Mobile took the stage and called it the CLIQ. It's officially called "Motorola CLIQ With MOTOBLUR."
This is some of the most confused branding in recent memory. To compound matters it's being called DEXT with MOTORBLUR in the UK and Europe. Putting all that aside, the phone is interesting for a few reasons:
The "MOTOBLUR" social software (MySpace, Facebook, Twitter) is the type of thing that carriers arguably should be doing (i.e., customizable home screen) to remain relevant to end users. Instead, they're building apps stores, which in my mind face very mixed prospects.
Google experimented with pay per call and click to call functionality in AdWords several years ago on the PC and then killed it. Now it appears that Google is returning to PPCall as a mobile ad format. Yesterday the search engine held a conference call/webinar with financial analysts to talk about the outlook for its business. Here's what was said by two analysts on the call about new ad formats that Google is introducing both online and in mobile:
From JP Morgan's Imran Khan (via Business Insider):
Google plans to introduce new ad formats. Google hasn’t made many changes to its text ad format and now sees this as a big opportunity. For example, advertisements for movies may be best in the form of trailers, and product advertisements may be best in the form of pictures and descriptions. The team is currently working on ad formats better suited to mobile, video, picture, maps and local searches.
From Citi's Mark Mahaney:
In an effort to bring more relevant ads to users, Google recently launched four new ad formats and expects to expand these over time: A) Video Ads – Users can play a video ad within the sponsored links section. This would be ideal for movie trailers, video games or companies selling complex products; B) Site Ads – An ad would contain sublinks to more specific products that take users directly to those products on the site; C) Product Ads – Ads that show pictures, prices and description of products; D) Local – Google shows address, directions and in some cases logos of local establishments; and E) Mobile – Google added click- to-call which is a new mobile monetization ad format. (emphasis added.)
PPCall is a natural ad format for mobile for self-evident reasons. The question in my mind is how Google will manage bidding and analytics vs. the rest of AdWords.
Update: Here's Google's official statement after I asked for clarification:
We're indeed working on expanding our click-to-call ads to appear next to high-end mobile search results. The first tests of the ad will likely give users a choice of a Web URL *and* a click-to-call option within the ad. We will then evaluate the results and look into a click-to-call-only ad for high-end mobile.
There are various forms of in-store marketing: coupons on shelves, end caps, on floor, in-store video, POS screens and so on. But here's something really valuable and fresh: Aisle411. We discovered it through the Voxeo blog.
The company works with retailers (big boxes) to help consumers locate products on store shelves -- within the store. I don't have a dollar figure but I know from personal experience that this is a problem: consumer wants to buy something but can't find it on the shelf. The salesperson is either ignorant, not available or otherwise unmotivated and so the consumer winds up frustrated ("I guess it's not here"). How many sales are lost because somebody can't find the item they're seeking and give up?
Consumers are prompted to call 1-877-AISLE411 by an in-store display. They're taken through a DA-like menu (store, city, item) and ultimately directed to the aisle where the item is normally stocked ("sippy cups are in aisle three"). The system also gives stores the opportunity to promote other items (upsell related items) and specials of one sort or another.
It's pretty interesting. Here's a quick demo with call flow.
AT&T has revamped its successful YPMobile iPhone app and included local business video profiles and PPCall ads. Previously there had been no ads on the app. According to the press release out this am. The main changes are the following:
It hasn't yet shown up (for me at least) in the iTunes store so I wasn't able to test out the video or take any screens of the ads. However PPCall is, for obvious reasons, well suited to mobile handsets and I imagine AT&T/Yellowpages.com will see some nice volumes to their advertisers from the iPhone app.
Beyond its own mobile app Yellowpages.com advertisers gain mobile distribution through Bing:
Facebook's new mobile iPhone app is a considerable upgrade over its previous one. I won't do a review of the app, but it offers much more utility than before (including chat, notes, photo uploads, etc). We'll continue to see new features and various enhancements in future versions too (next up is probably video uploads). There's also been some speculation that it could become a mobile apps platform within an app (others are pursuing this approach). While all but a relatively small number of highly successful Facebook apps basically languish online, mobile offers an opportunity to reinvigorate the strategy.
There's also Facebook's payments strategy, which could expand to mobile (it's already got a relationship with Zong using mobile phones to pay for virtual goods online [watch for a potential acquisition of Zong by FB]). Then there's the recently announced expansion of Connect from the iPhone to the broader mobile Internet.
Facebook also just announced a relationship with Nokia integrating Facebook (via "Lifecasting with Ovi") into the N97 and new Nokia N97 Mini phones. Here's a promotional video showing how it works:
The company also said in August that it has 65 million users globally who access the site from mobile devices. That's reportedly more than triple what it was in December, 2008.
Clearly mobile is a very key part of Facebook's strategy now and could make it a dominant globaly player in mobile across a number of fronts, including, potentially advertising. It's probably only a matter of time before Facebook becomes an ad network. Indeed, if I were Facebook I would take a look at buying one of the leading mobile ad networks top accelerate that development.
U.K.-based Juniper Research predicts that mobile marketing tools, such as coupons or "smart posters," will help spur growth in near-field communication (NFC) mobile payment transactions from $8 billion in 2009 to $30 billion by 2012.
The newly released report outlines the opportunities for both mobile payments and mobile retail marketing and includes forecasts in the emerging market of NFC-enabled handsets.
Report author Howard Wilcox sees mobile coupons as a particular interesting marketing opportunity for point-of-sale mobile transactions:
"Many people focus on the use of NFC for payments but in fact it is poised to revolutionise the way many people shop too. The ability to tap smart posters and receive coupons and product information also presents new channels to market for merchants.”
San Francisco-based mobile ad network Greystripe has received an additional $2 million in series C funding, after raising $5.5 million earlier this year. This round comes from a new investor, Peacock Ventures (a joint venture fund of General Electric and its NBC Universal unit), bringing the total amount raised by Greystripe to $17.5 million.
Greystripe's appeal to investors is largely based on the company's flashy, gaming-like advertising that appears before a free download for iPhone users. According to reports, as part of the deal, Greystripe will supply ads from NBC Universal brands such as Sci-Fi Channel, Bravo, and MSNBC to its network of ad-supported mobile and iPhone apps.
Gartner's is the latest in the flood of mobile ad forecasts to hit the market. As reported in MediaPost, here are the highlights:
The leading region (probably based on the number of subscribers and handsets, rather than the characteristics of the ad market) is Asia, followed by North America and Europe, according to the IT consulting firm.
Gartner says the leading ad category will be display, followed by search, apps and SMS.
The company also sees smartphones constituting 45.5% of handset sales by 2013. This may be aggressive, however. It depends on pricing chiefly. But developments such as the BlackBerry Storm being cut to $50 (in anticipation of Storm 2) and the $99 iPhone 3G will continue to drive smartphone growth.
In addition the upgrading of feature phone capabilities is a bit of a wildcard in mobile ad forecasting. Certainly SMS is a universal platform that is handset "agnostic," but other types of ads will likely make their way into improved feature phones over the next few years.
Related: Separately, Forrester said that European mobile Internet penetration will be 39% by 2014. My belief is that this figure is conservative. However the degree of engagement is highly variable and dependent on dataplan and smartphone adoption.
And the EU is investing in LTE to boost mobile Internet speeds and growth. This will help drive adoption. In Europe mobile subscribers pay considerably less on average than in North America.
The mobile ad networks have gotten together and carved out a day to woo brands during Advertising Week in New York later in September. Dubbed the Mobile Advertising Summit, the event is sponsored by four mobile ad networks:
The agenda is full of agencies, with some big names from traditional ad agencies, including:
among others . . .
Yesterday the news came out that ad network AdMob had acquired the assets of "mediation layer"/aggregator AdWhirl. This likely sets the stage for an exchange play (in earnest) by AdMob, analogous to what Yahoo has with RightMedia on the PC.
AdWhirl enabled iPhone developers to sign up for ad units/inventory from a wide range of ad networks, to improve fill rates -- it was promising 100% -- and optimize CPM/CPC revenue in addition. At one point AdMob had said it was no longer going to work with AdWhirl but later decided not to go through with that move. Now the former has bought AdWhirl.
Deal terms where not disclosed. AdWhirl had reported $1 million in funding and so I'm guessing that the purchase price was south of $10 million (perhaps several million shy). Reportedly AdWhirl will now expand to encompass other apps platforms, including Android, BlackBerry and so on.
In expressing its objections to AdWhirl's methodology at the time, AdMob VP Ali Diab said in a blog post:
What we have also found over the last few months is that mediation layers significantly impair AdMob’s ability to optimize the selection of ads for the apps that choose to use them, by obstructing our view of these applications’ traffic profiles. These traffic profiles are a key input parameter that we use at AdMob to select the right ad for the right app at the right time. By working directly with the publisher, AdMob is able to generate a much more accurate profile of the traffic, in terms of both volume and timing, generated by a specific iPhone app, which will enable us to optimize the revenue potential that we can deliver for the app.
Now AdMob has embraced the "mediation" concept, perhaps shrewdly so. AdWhirl can now be the basis of a broader marketplace or exchange that will reach multiple smartphone platforms. AdMob thus gets a kind of "hedge" if the mobile ad market should start to heavily favor exchanges vs. networks. Other networks, such as Quattro, have been experimenting with delivering third party ads along with their own to publishers.
AdMob CEO Omar Hamoui provided the following statement to TechCrunch:
Our open source solution will be both for the client and the server. We anticipate there will be many independent servers run by developers, and possibly our competitors as well. Once we release the code into the community, we think it will be adopted widely.
Most developers use mediation layers for percentage based inventory allocation. This is not something that you can game or manipulate. The mediation component either fulfills the percentage allocation or not. We are committed to making this solution as open as it needs to be to make everybody comfortable. We also expect the market will hold us accountable to this course of action.
The AdWhirl team has visited our offices over the past several days as we have worked through this deal. However any claims that we have historically been sharing data with AdWhirl or manipulating how it works for our benefit is completely false.
Since the news broke we’ve been talking to developers and they agree that the key is an open and transparent solution. We expect to be held to that.
The article in which that quote appeared asked the question whether AdMob would maintain AdWhirl as a "neutral" exchange or whether it was going to favor its own advertising. Commenting on the deal, along those lines, Greystripe CEO Michael Chang said the following about a potential "conflict of interest" for AdMob:
“We believe that it is a conflict of interest for an ad network to own a mediation company. A mediation company needs to be a separate entity to do its job of unbiased optimizing of a number of ad networks.”
If AdWhirl does remain neutral and open as AdMob CEO Omar Hamoui promises it should continue to thrive. If it becomes biased toward AdMob's own inventory or in some other way, new "meditors" will rise up to replace it.
According to the Pew Internet & American Life Project, based on a review of historical survey data, the top daily activity for US teens is text messaging. In other words, teens text more than they do almost anything else. In addition, we've reported on mobile SMS campaigns that reflect response rates that are often 2X to 10X higher than online advertising. Yet T-Mobile has said that SMS campaigns in Europe with well-known brands were, on average, 30X more effective than online display advertising.
Here's Pew's teen activities chart:
In addition SRG reports (n=2,000) that for young women (12 -24), mobile is the technology with the greatest impact on their lives:
You should join us then for the forthcoming webinar in Thursday, August 27: SMS Marketing: Direct Route to Consumer Engagement, featuring 4Info and ChaCha. We'll provide an overview of the market and they'll provide cases and concrete examples of SMS marketing in practice.
It's free and if you sign up you get a copy of our corresponding white paper -- also for free.
Scarborough Research has found that the combined category text/email now exceeds "Internet sites" as one of the ways that US consumers obtain coupons. Newspapers remain the top source.
The firm's recent consumer survey found "that 8.6 million (8%) of U.S. households currently acquire coupons via text messages and/or email." According to Scarborough:
Those consumers who obtain coupons via text messages and/or email tend to be young, affluent, educated and female. Scarborough data shows that they are 14% more likely than the average adult to be ages 18-24; 51% more likely to be a college graduate or have an advanced degree; and six percent more likely to be female. Where do these consumers live? The top local market for text message and/or email coupon users is Providence, RI. Twelve percent of households in Providence typically obtain coupons via text message or email. Washington D.C., Atlanta, San Diego, Austin and Chicago, where 11% of households get coupons via this medium, are also among the leading markets for this activity . . .
While I understand the logic of grouping email and SMS together, they're two distinct mediums. However, we've also found high levels of consumer acceptance of mobile offers and coupons (vs. other types of mobile advertising) in our consumer research.
AdAge features a piece that advises mobile marketers to start looking beyond the iPhone. Yes, that's prudent advice as a general matter; the iPhone represents a tiny slice of the handset market. However, if you're talking apps then it's all about the iPhone -- at least right now. The app experience is less significant on Android; it will grow over time and as more Android devices enter the market it will become a potentially important apps platform.
Rhomobile and Appcelerator (and others) have "write once" native apps development platforms. This scenario will become more common, allowing publishers and developers to more efficiently build apps across the major smartphone platforms. Right now, however, among smartphones it's really mostly about the iPhone:
According to Nielsen (pre 3Gs), iPhone users:
As the AdAge article points out, if you want reach beyond the iPhone, you can and should think about the mobile Internet. Google itself is increasingly banking on the browser as its "cross-platform" strategy. However if you need an app to create the optimal user experience then it's: iPhone, BlackBerry, Android, Windows Mobile and Symbian (outside the US) in order of potential reach.
Related: After iPhone exclusivity ends, AT&T is looking to a "plethora" of devices to constitute its "second act." AT&T reportedly envisions a broad range of connected devices with related consumer subscriptions to the network.
PaidContent has used Nielsen data (from an article in Mobile Marketer) on unique visitors to compile a list of the largest mobile ad networks. Here's the list according to the site (based on monthly unique reach in the US):
I invite the companies on the list (or comScore) to dispute it and provide their numbers.