The president of the Mobile Marketing Association says that ads on mobile devices will only get better, more widespread and easier to create and measure.
Laura Marriott is president of the Mobile Marketing Association (MMA) and spearheads efforts to get mobile marketing adopted worldwide. The MMA is a global nonprofit trade association with more than 500 members in 42 countries. It works toward removing obstacles to market development; establishing standards and best practices to sustain growth in mobile marketing; and being an evangelist for the mobile channel. Marriott was previously director of marketing for Intrado, and the director of business development at Cyneta Networks and Cell-Loc Inc./Times- Three Inc. Senior Editor Eric Reyes asked her some pertinent questions about where mobile marketing is going.
ERIC REYES: What is the history of the MMA? When and why was it formed?
LAURA MARIOT: The Mobile Marketing Association was initially formed in 2000 as the Wireless Advertising Association (WAA), a New York-based nonprofit trade association. In 2003, the WAA and the Wireless Marketing Association (WMA), based in Europe, joined to form the Mobile Marketing Association. At that time, the MMA had only 10 member companies, which included companies like m-Qube, Mobliss, The Weather Channel, Carat Fusion and Vindigo. The chairman in Europe at that time was Cyriac Roeding, who is our current global chairman, and in the United States, Jim Manis. The MMA remained around 10 to 20 member companies until 2005. At the same time, mobile marketing, in the United States, began to take off – we had interoperability among the carriers, a short code system for ease of consumer experience and a supportable revenue model. The MMA also established four national chapters in Europe in 2003 to 2005 – Austria, Spain, the U.K. and France.
The key differentiator for the MMA is that we have representation from across the mobile ecosystem – working in a collaborative, trusted manner to educate the marketplace and build guidelines and best practices for the mobile marketing industry. Members include handset manufacturers, wireless operators, technology enablers, aggregators, media companies, brands, agencies, market research companies as well as any organization focused on marketing via the mobile channel.
ER: Last year was supposed to be the year mobile marketing hit critical mass. This year, mobile marketing still seems to be finding its way. What are some of the indicators that mobile marketing is continuing to gain traction?
LM: Absolutely right! The number of campaigns that we see launching has grown into the tens of thousands worldwide. Indicators in the United States include: short codes listed on traditional and digital media as an integrated element of the overall campaign. For example, on billboards, magazines, television, etc.; membership in the MMA doubling year-over-year since 2005; the number of award submissions in the MMA award program growing from just over 100 last year to more than 260 in the 2007 program; brands and agencies establishing mobile divisions and hiring mobile specialists within their organizations; mobile has become a line item in the advertising budgets of many very large brands; mobile is being integrated into not only the verticals that want to be in front of the consumer all of the time, i.e., financial services, travel, entertainment, CPG, QSR and automotive, but we are now seeing mobile move even into durable goods and other segments; the growth of text messaging in the United States, increasing from 7 billion a month in 2005 to over 30 billion a month in June 2007; and an increase in number of short codes – the 5- to 6-digit number which helps to facilitate ease of interaction between brand and consumer – issued on behalf of the CSCA has climbed to over 2,600 in 2007.
ER: What has mobile marketing enabled marketers to do better?
LM: Mobile marketing has enabled the brands to develop a conversation of engagement with their consumer – a dialogue about their products and services and a means to effectively measure and evaluate this dialogue. Mobile also enables brands to target their consumers, anytime and anywhere, through their most personal device: their mobile phone. Consumers are in the driver’s seat on encouraging and defining the interactions with their brand – wherever and whenever.
ER: Some say the real gold mine in mobile is m-commerce (to make purchases directly from your mobile device). What is the MMA doing to enable this ability?
LM: The MMA has established a mobile commerce committee that is working on guidelines for digital and physical goods transactions, mobile couponing/ticketing as well as other issues having an impact on the ecosystem. The goal is to always ensure a positive and consistent experience for the consumer.
ER: What do you do to help brands enter into and perfect their mobile marketing initiatives and campaigns?
LM: Education. The key so far has been helping to educate the brands on the role of mobile in their marketing initiatives – and how to integrate a mobile call to action into the overall integrated marketing campaign. The MMA publishes a broad set of mobile case studies, white papers, glossaries and so on, to help to educate on how to use the channel most effectively and to learn from the experiences of other brands that have tried before them. The MMA also runs Mobile Marketing Forums at www.mobilemarketingforum.com, which is our key event series to educate and evangelize on the mobile channel. These are held in every region around the world, four or five times a year and have become the premier event for mobile marketing.
ER: What do you do to help mobile marketers establish better customer metrics in their mobile efforts?
LM: The MMA has launched a measurement initiative, in June 2007, to define the metrics in a consistent manner for the industry. Measurement will be one of the key issues facing our industry in 2008. The MMA and the GSM Association are working together to ensure consistent measurement and metrics solutions for the industry.
ER: Does the MMA help establish best practices for mobile marketers? What are some of those practices initiated by the MMA?
LM: Yes; this is the foundation for the MMA – and we have been leading in the development of cross-carrier mobile content guidelines and best practices as well as mobile advertising guidelines since 2005. Current best practices/guidelines include: consumer best practices for cross-carrier mobile content services; mobile advertising for mobile Web; and mobile advertising for downloadables. The MMA has also published a number of best practices documents which include mobile couponing, mobile search, mobile promotions and sweepstakes, and so on.
ER: What does the MMA do to help streamline mobile search? Do you suggest standards?
LM: To date, the MMA has not suggested standards for mobile search; however, we have published two thought leadership pieces which include an introduction to mobile search and mobile search use cases, which outline the best practices and options for offering and evaluating a mobile search solution. These are published through the MMA mobile search committee and include the participation of leaders across the mobile ecosystem and our membership.
ER: Do you track innovations in mobile marketing strategies and mobile technology? How is that knowledge integrated into the mission of the MMA?
LM: Yes; the MMA is at the forefront of defining and participating in the initiatives which are helping to shape our industry – and works with our members to ensure we continue to self-regulate industry developments and stay in front of the trends. The MMA is an action-oriented association designed to clear obstacles to market development, to establish standards and best practices for sustainable growth, and to evangelize the mobile channel for use by brands and third-party content providers. The MMA has helped to guide the development of a sustainable ecosystem to ensure consumer privacy and protection is assured.
ER: What does the MMA do to fight mobile spam?
LM: Unsolicited messages, overall, are prohibited according to the MMA guidelines. The MMA guidelines ensure that mobile is always an opt-in experience for the consumer. This means no push-based campaigns – all consumer pull. The MMA also defines rules which prohibit the selling of third-party lists, so that the mobile channel does not experience the issues that we have seen in other digital media types. Our consumer best practices have become the base set of rules for messaging, mobile Web and IVR transactions in the United States, and have been integrated into wireless carrier contractual agreements so that all vendors in the ecosystem adhere to these guidelines. The industry has also launched a monitoring initiative which tests each short code campaign to ensure compliance against the consumer best practices guidelines.
ER: Is it difficult to convince brands of mobile marketing’s viability?
LM: Historically, there has been a belief that mobile is complicated. We encourage brands to first define their strategic objectives for their campaign and then determine which mobile solution will work best to achieve their goals. Once a brand starts their first initiative and sees the results, they generally continue to deepen their experiences with the mobile channel. Success rates in mobile have often been more significant than those you see in other media. The numbers speak for themselves.
ER: Are interactive agencies prepared to scale for mobile campaigns? If not, what do they need to do?
LM: Yes; 2007 saw a significant shift in how agencies are handling mobile. Many agencies have spun out digital divisions, i.e., AKQA Mobile, while others have ramped expertise internally by establishing mobile groups or mobile experts. In the early days, mobile was treated as a portion of the interactive business; for mobile to truly take off, it needs to be treated as its own business and own line item. Mobile is not the Internet. There are five very distinct media types within mobile, which include voice, downloadables, mobile Web, video/television and messaging. Mobile expertise is essential to ensure the media types are integrated effectively into a cross-media initiative. The other trend has been the development of a large number of mobile agencies in that companies are specializing in mobile creative and campaign development. These agencies are having a significant number of successes worldwide. A proof point of that success was Omnicom’s purchase of mobile agency, ipsh!, in 2006.
ER: Is there a difference in best practices standards between the U.S. and the rest of the world? Is there a push to get the whole world to practice the same standards?
LM: Yes; every market has its own regulatory and legal considerations which need to be considered. The goal of the MMA is to develop global guidelines, where possible, regional guidelines where necessary and local as required. A global brand is looking for ease of market entry when they are launching a program, and consistency is key. Many campaigns today already cross regional and local boundaries, so a consistent set of guidelines is ideal. Perhaps the best example is the mobile Web advertising guidelines which have been launched by the MMA. There is consistency in formats and creative across NA and EMEA – and the hope is to bring the APAC guidelines to the same formats by early 2008. The MMA has also published a global code of conduct which protects the consumer’s experience, privacy and protection being paramount.
ER: How is a successful mobile marketing campaign measured?
LM: Today success is generally measured by interactions, but these have varied according to operator and vendor. The MMA has a measurement committee working to define a consistent set of ad currencies, reporting criteria and cross-media effectiveness measurement in order to gain the best insight into mobile.
ER: How is the consumer being enticed to view mobile marketing?
LM: Mobile has become an integrated element of traditional and digital campaigns today. Mobile promotions and sweepstakes have been driving interactions with the consumer particularly through participation TV programs like “Deal or No Deal” or “American Idol.” Providing the consumer with exclusive information, coupons, opportunity to win, etc., have all helped to drive the interactions between brand and device. And, the consumer is receptive.
ER: Do marketers need new models to gain mobile marketing success? How does the MMA help to discover these new models?
LM: Initially, brands were repurposing content from other media for mobile, and while this does work, creative made for mobile content and solutions is key to long-term success. MMA research has shown that consumers are most interested in interactions that deliver information exclusively to them on their device, information that they cannot get through any other channel. The MMA helps brands by sharing case studies of what has worked successfully in markets around the world.
ER: What does the MMA do to help streamline the total mobile Web experience?
LM: Education is key. Reach is currently an issue with the mobile Web, so educating brands and consumers on how to use their mobile device will be critical to long-term success. Operators play a key role in encouraging mobile Web adoption by providing attractive data packages and compelling content to help encourage consumer adoption.