OMMA Mobile: The Afternoon Session…

Here it is, your recap of the OMMA Mobile Conference‘s afternoon session last Thursday…

(See my report on the conference’s morning lineup, my disclaimers about not being a media guy, my Swingers reference, and my oozing excitement over the potential and possibilities of mobile marketing here.)

Lunch was really good, and it was followed by the important Mobilizing the Agency session. One standout was Jeffrey Stier, SVP of New Business for JWT, where they have embedded a mobile agency to consult on all marketing matters. Stier claims that they now assign a mobile marketing expert to every core brand team. If that’s really true, I greatly admire their commitment to experimentation. (Yes, as high as I am on mobile, it’s still an unproven experimental ad medium — one that EVERY AGENCY should be experimenting with.)

Another Jeff, Mediacom’s Director of Digital Media Jeff Malmad, offered that “Data will drive mobile”, supporting (Starcom’s) Angela Steele’s emphasis on understanding the consumer. “Mobile ads need to be so relevant that it doesn’t feel like advertising,” said Steele. And what about privacy? Well, Amazon knows a lot about us and that’s all good because they recommend the right stuff, right?

Steele went on to say that in the Awareness-Consideration-Purchase chain there are mobile opportunities throughout, and that agencies should meet with every mobile vendor to learn as much as possible about what’s out there. One of those vendors, mobile agency Ipsh!, was represented on the panel by Bryon Morrison, who evangelized mobile as a “fantastic” direct marketing medium. Then he dropped, “How valuable is the opt-in relationship?” Well that’s the magic question.

The breakout sessions followed, and I’m a broadcast producer by trade so naturally I checked out Big Screen Little Screen: TV Phones It In, where I discovered…

-ITV (interactive television) is alive and well and it has nothing to do with your remote control.

-Two years ago Bravo TV tried asking viewers to text their choice for the winner of Project Runway and the response was huge. Now they boast one of TV’s leading mobile platforms including location-based mobile social networking, a mobile Project Runway fan club, and a brilliant new idea where on-screen product placements trigger an instant text message to viewers containing brand info/deals/coupons/whatever relating to the product they just saw. So much for taking product placement impressions on faith!

Airplay offers mobile games to play along with live TV event programming like sports (NBA, NFL, NCAA Football) and award shows. They even set it up so users are served ads on their phone synchronized with the advertisers they see on TV. Very cool.

Telescope (great name) is helping Sprite with their sponsorship of the NBA’s Slam Dunk Contest next weekend in New Orleans. I presume Dr. J and ‘Nique and the rest of yesterday’s dunk kings will be there again judging the early rounds, but this year THE FANS WILL GET TO DECIDE THE DUNK CHAMP when they vote for one of the two dunkers in the final round VIA TEXT MESSAGE. Everyone who votes receives a text invitation to visit an innovative and already popular branded mobile social network created by Sprite called The Yard. They’re going to get a lot of votes (mine included), and The Yard is going to get very crowded very fast. Best mobile hook I heard all day.

Let me repeat for emphasis: Sprite (the soda brand, not a tech start-up by the same name) went out and created a fully branded mobile social network experience (where they remind people to drink Sprite quite a bit I’m sure) and now they’re letting the fans decide the Slam Dunk contest for the first time ever in exchange for a personal invite to hang out in their Sprite-soaked virtual mobile “Yard”. As my one-year-old niece says, Big. So big.

How Open is Open? followed and turned out to be a pretty technical discussion about the openness of the mobile landscape. The word “open” in mobile was compared to the word “change” in politics — everyone talks about it but it means different things to different people. Google Android will allow outside developers to create mobile apps for all to use, but who will provide dependable support? The best analogy I heard was that mobile web browsing today is like web browsing used to be for AOL customers, i.e., not open (but the iPhone’s browser is open).

The day concluded with an analysis of the myths (or truths) surrounding the mobile marketing space today. Some quick highlights:

-SMS (text messaging) is the ultimate User-Generated Content, according to Amobee CEO Roger Wood, who talked about intercepting text messages, converting them into MMS messages with a graphic ad tacked on, and then sending them on their way to the originally intended recipients. No way, you say? Well what if it made sending and receiving text messages free?

-Rhythm NewMedia offers free ad-supported “video snacking” (2-3 minute shorts) on your phone, where practically nothing is free. The question is, do people want lean back-style video viewing on their phones?

-Enter Tony Nethercutt from AdMob, who reported that banner ads on mobile WAP sites that included the words “Watch the Video” saw clicks go up 3-5 times.

-During January’s NFL playoff games, ESPN actually drew more visits to its mobile WAP site than to its regular website, despite a high number of iPhone users who typically browse the non-WAP web. I guess people watching games have their phones with them but they don’t always have their computers.

-The mobile carriers started out as voice service providers and now they’re being railroaded into becoming media companies. As media companies they sit on piles of user data, all of which could be used to serve highly-targeted ads. They’re also dealing with a drop in talk time and a rise in other services — texting, photo messaging, game playing — that they need to monetize. So how are they making the transition? Not well, not yet.

And t

hat’s why mobile may not explode for a while, despite its enormous potential as an always on, always on you marketing platform with your wallet (your cellphone bill) built-in. Peter Kim attended the conference and blogged that mobile just isn’t ready, but that shouldn’t stop us from experimenting heavily to learn what will work when the time is right. Agreed.

So I began the day as a big believer in text, and by the end I’d confirmed that virtually every phone has SMS capability so text message campaigns (inspiring users to opt-in for useful, relevant brand info and deals) are ready right now as ultra-modern permission marketing vehicles, and that SMS ads can be a bridge to mobile WAP sites featuring more branded bells and whistles. But I also learned that mobile banner ads (large in relation to the overall screen size with a one ad per page limit) are another very effective means of driving people to your mobile web offerings, depending on how and where you use them. What you do beyond the click is up to you.

The bottom line is this, borrowing from MediaPost columnist Steve Smith’s summary to close the conference:


…and seriously, how can it not?