Mobile is the new billboard. It is a present, local and sleek high definition screen resting comfortably in our bags or back pockets. While some rightly claim that it is the most personally connected device in history, others cite that as many as 70% of us sleep within inches of them.

In Australia, where smartphone penetration sits around 50%, there are now more mobile phones in circulation than people.

Phones are how we connect to the world, and browsing is the new form of social grazing. If you have a spare moment, check your phone. If you are in a cab, check your phone. If you are between meetings, check your phone. Just as, if we forget to buy a friend or relative a gift or need to book or find a restaurant at the last minute, we use our phone. If we want to place a last-minute eBay bid or kill a spare five minutes in a game of Temple Run, we use our phone. Outside of the shower, surf or pool, our phones are with us – buzzing, chiming, ringing, shaking, waking us from our concentration to focus on a small but intrinsically seductive screen.

This transformation to mobile or smartphone dependence did not occur overnight, but it is rapidly changing the way we think, interact, and engage with those around us. It is also opening up a wide vista of opportunities for brands to parade before us.

Yet surprisingly in Australia, where smartphone penetration is the highest in the world after Singapore, marketing spend on mobile advertising sits at less than 2% according to PricewaterhouseCoopers, much lower than in markets like Japan or even the US. Moreover, as of late 2011, four out of five Australian websites are not optimised for smartphones, and many of us in the ad industry would struggle to applaud more than a half dozen local mobile ads.

Sure, every other week in Australia someone is declaring the age of mobile advertising to be upon us. But far from strutting into mobile, and really making use of its rich media powers to engage users in the many spare moments they spend swiping, shaking, tapping, watching, typing, talking and socialising, many brands toe the mobile waters as if they were arctic. Or at the other extreme, they are jumping in overzealously like a Scot braving the North Sea for a bucks night dare – showing too much at once and enticing few followers.

Mobile does not need to be hard. Sure, it has been harder in Australia than it needs to be as we waited until late 2011 for most publishers to be ready to accept third party ads en masse. But if brands remember the lessons learnt, often the hard way, from 15 years of digital advertising, and work to engage mobile users with rich, enticing, relevant content, that makes best of use of all mobile can do, without overdoing the trickery like a novice chef adding too many ingredients, mobile can achieve much. As with any ad, entertainment must always balance with utility. Get that right in and many a consumer’s spare mobile moments will be yours for the taking.

 

Duncan Arthur
BY Duncan Arthur ON 22 March 2012
A digital marketing pioneer, Duncan Arthur has more than 13 years of digital advertising experience gained in both sales and media agency roles working with many premium local and international brands. Before joining SAY Media as general manager, Duncan founded and co-founded multiple digital consultancies and start-up companies designed to help Australian corporates benefit from emerging digital marketing opportunities. Prior to this, he launched the digital services division of Initiative Sydney, a business that grew to a $20 million turnover within four years under his direction. Previously he worked in online media planning with OneDigital and as Carat’s first pan-regional internet planner, winning the prestigious M&M award for ‘Best Use of International Media’ for consecutive years.