Gartner estimates that the market for mobile advertising will grow to $11.4 billion this year, driven by smartphone and tablet growth. Globally, that amount will grow to reach $24.5 billion in 2016, and revenue from mobile advertising will benefit all parts of the mobile ecosystem, creating opportunities for app developers, ad networks, mobile platform providers, and more.
In order to realise the value of this growth, Google has made a new service available called The Full Value of Mobile, this online tool is designed to help businesses that use Google’s suite of mobile advertising services measure how their mobile marketing efforts are affecting their business, online and offline. The site provides businesses with simple equations and benchmarks that address the different parts of a Google-deployed mobile marketing campaign, measured across the various services that Google provides.
This is Google’s attempt to address the elephant in the room, the problem of measurement that has plagued mobile marketers for the longest time. But perhaps the problem isn’t simply one of finding the right metrics.
It turns out that mobile is disruptive on several different fronts. In the past, the lines between traditional media and online/digital/internet were reasonably clear. In order to be online, the consumer had to be sitting at a desk or table, in front of a computer or a laptop, equipped with a browser which was used to access web pages on the internet. It made sense to treat the online space as though it was simply another display space, where banner ads could be deployed as part of a larger campaign, with content derived from existing assets.
Then along came mobile and changed everything. Smartphones offer a host of functionalities above and beyond voice and messaging capabilities, and their increased computing power combined with services like GPS and the flexibility of apps have really changed the game. Tablets and ‘phablets’, too, have moved the locus of computing, so users can be mobile within the home (and engage in online activity from the sofa, for example) and seamlessly move out and beyond so now users can be online anywhere, at any time, and can use their devices for almost anything.
Mobile is now being used tactically to gain traction for other, traditional media, and conversely, campaigns are designed so that their traditional media points to or provides ways to access mobile assets. Take, for example, a well-designed augmented reality app that lets users point their phones at print media, and then delivers engaging, interactive video content. Aside from helping consumers make the transition seamlessly to more content, while keeping them focused on the brand message, this app can also bring users to relevant websites, help them engage with the brand on social media networks, and even connect them directly to customer service associates directly via voice or chat, or indirectly via email or SMS.
The question, really, is whether this is the best use of mobile, which can in many cases stand on its own as a medium, or which in the bigger picture, is more a mode of engagement more than anything else.
Even measurement can be a bone of contention – while it has become accepted that mobile is an intrinsic part of closing the loop of consumer engagement, traditional means do no justice to the contribution of brand engagement via social networks, or the top-of-mind awareness generated by viral video sharing. It’s clear that these activities are definitely part of the engagement process, but how much of the final value of the purchase decision do we assign to them? How do you calculate the brand equity or the trust generated by positive interactions with the brand? The old currencies of measurement, long used to work out the effectiveness of advertising campaigns, do not include the means to calculate these intangible effects.
It may be that it is time for us to change the way that we think about communication itself. The traditional advertising/marketing/public relations triad has already been blurred by social media, and more and more mobile activity blends utility and entertainment while removing the hard sell. Mobile is challenging the norms of the marketing communications/industry. Brands are already exploring the value of generating and owning their own assets, and moving into the mobile app space previously owned by publishers and developers. The brand-agency relationship may not survive contact with mobile, particularly as brands evolve their own approaches, and as brands need to invest for the longer-term in building relationships with consumers.
Even words like ‘consumer’, ‘customer’ and ‘user’ may be losing their value – new terminology may come as new ways of considering the relationship between brands and these digital citizens arise. What is clear, for now, is that this is a time of change: it will be interesting to see what the final shape of our industry will be, and who is left standing (and where!) when the dust finally settles.
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