“Its Critical, But Mobile is a Support System”

“Talking about the year of the mobile is like talking about the year of the call centre,” said Richard Wheaton, managing director of media agency Neo@Ogilvy, on a panel at todays AppNexus Summit. “Its important, its critical, but mobile is a support system.”

Devaluing was the watchword on the Whats Next for Europe panel, and it caused a couple of heated debates between Wheaton and Microsoft Europe VP of advertising & online Andy Hart, who warned of the potential dangers of an explosion in mobile content.

“Were about to go into an era of enormous exposure on mobile, and Im concerned about an overabundance of supply,” said Hart. “As an industry, we could become a little bit spoilt, and I think we need to be careful.”

Unlike old media, Hart pointed out, which had limited supply, digital inventory is potentially infinite, and that effects the value – in all senses – of advertising.

“Should we be able to run advertising wherever we want, every time a consumer interacts with a device? And in that era, what are the rules we should set?”

Devaluing banners – and agencies?

Neo@Ogilvys Wheaton argued that banner advertising in particular is currently being devalued: “We must not talk down the banner, because it really works. Data tells us it shifts people on, and its still our currency.

“A lot of our clients have an incredibly bad perception of banners, and people think youre mad for talking about buying CPM. Im not saying theyre all worth the same as an interstital ad, but banners do have a value. As an industry, yes we need to be pushing more engaging units, but also we need to be educating on the role of banners.”

Wheaton also argued that the idea of programmatic buying – using demand-side software to select and then micromanage inventory – devalues the role of agencies.

“Its the wrong term, because it just dumbs down what we do some much. Calling this process programmatic is telling people outside of the industry that computers do the work. 

“With clients at the moment, the underlying question is often: do we need you? Because youre kind of expensive. Cant the machines just do it?”

This isnt the whole picture, according to Wheaton. He pointed out that three agencies using the same tool on a campaign can get completely different results, showing the importance of people in this equation. So what term should we be using instead?

“Exchange is a better word,” said Wheaton. “Because it makes it sound like we actually do something all day.”