Reasons to be Cheerful

KF Lai, CEO of mobile social network BuzzCity, looks at the prospects for mobile advertising in 2009

KFLai newBuzz City
Advertisers are now realising that mobile phones are not only widely available all over the world, and across all sectors of society but, whats more, are very personal devices, making them a powerful channel to deliver highly targeted and relevant information. New technology means responses to mobile advertising can be tracked back to specific campaigns; for example, it is possible to accurately measure clickthrough rates and provide detailed analytics of pages browsed. Furthermore, with the ability to effectively target campaigns to users with particular interests, or who are in specific locations, many more marketing agencies will begin to recommend the mobile channel.
Despite todays dismal economic outlook, I believe that 2009 may just be the breakout year for mobile advertising. As Ive written before, I do not see the mobile advertising business being affected in a significant way by the global credit crisis; with rate card costs falling and budgets for the more traditional marketing techniques being squeezed dry, mobile has real potential to cut through the noise this year. That said, just what does this year hold in store for mobile advertising? And what services should brands expect from their advertising agencies and ad network providers?

Broader mobile strategies
First of all, more brands and marketing agencies than ever before will adopt mobile advertising and broader mobile marketing strategies. Contrary to the belief among some sceptics that mobile will remain simply an experimental means of reaching new customers, I believe that advertisers will increasingly recognise that the medium provides unprecedented targeting capabilities, due to the personal nature of the mobile phone. Banner advertising via the mobile Internet in particular is set to be big this year, with its opt-in and non-intrusive nature making it both a targeted medium and one that does not violate consumers privacy (contrary perhaps to push marketing via SMS). These distinct advantages will continue to prompt both big brands and smaller businesses to adopt mobile advertising as part of their marketing mix during 2009.
Mobile advertising rates will also continue to fall in line with other advertising methods, making it even easier for marketers to integrate mobile with their overall advertising plan. Those of us in the industry are already seeing this happening across the board, with mobile advertising rates gradually decreasing and normalising due to increasing inventory and the rapid expansion of the mobile Internet.
On that note, use and awareness of the mobile Internet will continue to grow throughout 2009. Whereas Smartphones like the iPhone and the Blackberry have helped generate increased usage of the mobile web in 2008, people with phones that are less feature-packed will also begin to discover the utility of the mobile Internet in larger numbers, further expanding the reach of mobile advertising this year.
That said, falling data prices and the increasing ease-of-use of mobile software and applications we should see will further encourage consumers to adopt the mobile Internet as part of their daily lives in the UK and across Western Europe. I have seen huge growth in mobile Internet usage and mobile ad impressions in multiple countries when this happens. It has helped propel the growth of BuzzCitys mobile advertising network, resulting in more than 18 billion paid ad banners being served globally. In 2008 alone, weve recorded 200% growth in the number of paid ads served, with most of that growth coming from countries where data plan rates have dropped considerably.

Enhanced metrics
As touched upon earlier, however, perhaps the most important step forward in mobile advertising thus far is enhanced mobile campaign metrics, analysis and targeting. This is going to be absolutely critical to the success of the mobile advertising medium moving forward, and companies involved in the mobile advertising and marketing businesses understand this. I speak from experience, as the head of a company that runs a mobile advertising network. Although we offer our clients – both agency and direct – tools for targeting potential customers by all-important general demographics, we are continually working to hone targeting capabilities for our clients, something we are particularly focused on for 2009.
In summary, all signs are pointing toward a big year for mobile advertising. The combination of the overall growth of mobile Internet usage, increased recognition of mobile advertising as a measurable and effective channel, and the recognition that there is a need for enhanced tools for advertisers, should combine to help mobile advertising find a large and growing audience among increasing numbers of advertisers in 2009.