At the IAB Engage conference in London last year, global Yahoo! chief Terry Semel forecast that by 2010 most people accessing the internet will not use a PC but a mobile phone. A bold prediction? Perhaps. But there’s no doubt a whole new world of potential is starting to open up in this space. The challenge for marketers now is to find the key to unlock it.

With mobile handset capabilities steadily on the rise and the continued roll-out of high-speed networks, distributing rich media content via the mobile is becoming a more viable proposition for marketers. Combine this with the intimately personal and targeted nature of the medium and you have a pretty powerful marketing tool, quite literally, in the palm of your hands. Or – more importantly – your consumers’ hands.

While there are no precise industry figures on how many people now carry mobile phones with multimedia capabilities, a recent study conducted by Ericsson indicated that 60 percent of respondents have mobile phones with camera function, 56 percent have MMS service capability and 25 percent have mobile TV service capability. Also, in the latest Australian Mobile Phone Lifestyle Index, carried out during November 2006, 30 percent of respondents said that their phone was 3G, up from 11 percent the previous year.

While all the vital signs are pointing in the right direction, 3G-enabled handsets are a little way off becoming mainstream. “As this is a fairly new concept, which has not yet fully flourished, the more interactive and integrated campaigns may not experience a huge boost as yet,” says Dimitri Tsitsikas, director of promotions, Messagemedia. “Features like MMS and ring tones are definitely being integrated into mobile marketing campaigns, but as this is currently only limited to users with compatible handsets we will probably have to wait a year or two before we see such campaigns achieve their full potential.”

Although optimistic about the potential of multimedia campaigns, Cameron Franks, regional director of Sybase365, advises marketers not to completely abandon the tried and true. “SMS should remain the basis of the application because of its ubiquity and comprehension by all. Marketers should, however, be looking at richer media applications for those users able to access them to enhance the experience.”

Unlike SMS, where you are limited to 160 black and white characters, rich media opens up a whole raft of ways to engage with consumers – from picture messages to video, audio, email, games and even web-based content. Where the real gold lies with rich media, though, is its ability to encourage the user to actively interact with the brand. “The right creative idea can empower handset users to participate, whether it’s downloading or activating Bluetooth to receive content or uploading media to get involved,” says Ben Cooper, interactive strategist for Host.

As mobile is an opt-in medium, the challenge is to provide something that is genuinely of value to consumers. “The content offered must be relevant,” advises Claire Gunn, director, Breeze Tech. “While Bluetooth technology can enable brands to deliver a vast range of content to consumers’ mobile phones, the content has to be attractive to the consumer in the first place; otherwise there is no incentive to interact.”

Jessica Sandin, head of mobile at Fathom Partners in the UK, agrees: “Interest in mobile advertising has transcended SMS-based marketing campaigns. Instead, the focus is on advertising served up as people browse, download or use mobile content and applications; however, to make it a success, the industry has to take advantage of the unique aspects of mobile and give users something they’d be willing to pay for.”

The need to create content that is relevant and valuable to the user is compounded by the fact that the mobile is a highly personal medium. People are sensitive about the information they receive on it and will have little tolerance for inappropriate or irrelevant marketing messages. With this in mind, it’s important to tread lightly in this space, ensuring that consumers have consented to receiving the information, and that it is the right information at the right time.

“Mobile should not be treated like other channels,” warns Carl Poplett, consumer marketing manager, Legion Interactive. “Mobile marketing engages the recipient in a truly one-on-one basis and as such it should be a rewarding experience for the consumer. Whether it’s an SMS marketing campaign driving you in-store to try a new fragrance or a mobile promotional module promoting a band’s CD, it should offer a reward that is unique and perceived as great value by the consumer.”

So far, the available evidence points to the younger demographic as being the prime audience for mobile marketing. “The 14- to 25-year-olds are still reacting the strongest,” says Sybase365’s Cameron Franks, “though we are starting to see older demographics being encouraged to interact.”

The recent Mobile Phone Lifestyle Index also clearly showed that younger age groups are more open to accepting advertising on their phones, driven largely by their desire for content such as ring tones, games and wallpapers.

Overall, nearly a third of respondents to the survey (33 percent) said they would accept adverts for free or heavily subsidised content, while 26 percent said they would accept ads if they could easily opt out and 21 percent said they wouldn’t mind receiving ads as long as it didn’t affect the performance of their phone. In terms of the type of ads they would accept, over half said they would accept ads that benefited them through incentives (such as free or reduced price content, a tailored offer or subsidised services), while less than 40 percent said they would accept ads even if they were linked to their interests and just over 30 percent said they would if it was about an upcoming event that was of interest to them.

What is possible with rich media mobile marketing?

While there is a veritable smorgasbord of rich media options on offer, it is still very early days for the higher-end applications. Here is a snapshot of what’s already out there as well as a taste of things to come.

MMS messaging

At the most basic level – excluding of course SMS – is picture messaging. With most phones these days having cameras in them, this technology has obvious appeal for marketers. There are many examples of picture messaging campaigns already out there in the market, including extensions of the ‘hot or not (voting) mechanic’ and MMS 2 Web applications, as well as MMS to enter competitions – such as the one run by ACME Snowboards using an off-portal distribution system called Broadcaster. ACME wanted to highlight the launch of its new BURN Z1 snowboards to its customer base so it encouraged teens to send in their mobile images of snow action using ACME ski products. The best picture won a BURN Z1 snowboard and action pack.

The extension of sending still image messages is video messaging, which may be in the form of a pre-roll before video content, or a rich after banner. Another way to use mobile video might be to create virtual tours, for example in the context of real estate, or product demonstrations.

Branded content

According to the Mobile Phone Lifestyle Index, the most popular forms of content purchased in the last 12 months were games, followed by true tones, polytones, wallpapers and screensavers. This penchant for content opens up a broad range of opportunities for marketers.

“Brands can offer consumers premium content such as wallpapers, videos and mp3s as a way of engaging consumers and enhancing the brand experience,” says Breeze Tech’s Claire Gunn. “For example, Nike recently ran a Bluetooth outdoor campaign with Breeze Tech, offering consumers a video clip and wallpaper – consumers at Bondi Junction station simply activated Bluetooth on their phone to download the Nike content.”

Games have also proven popular for consumers and marketers alike. As well as providing a source of entertainment linked to a brand, games can also be used to educate consumers about product features. One example is the game TigerSpike built for the launch of the Toyota Yaris last year. The aim was to take the Yaris for a spin around a track, picking up the different features of the car along the way. “You picked up things like an mp3 player, airbags and ABS brakes and it taught you the features of the car,” explains Oliver Palmer, chief operations officer, TigerSpike. One drawback of creating games, however, is handset compatibility. For the Yaris game, no fewer than 28 versions of the game had to be created to overcome this issue!

Location-based services

For years, there has been an air of sci-fi mystique – or suspicion, if you’re looking at it from the consumer point of view – around the idea of location-based marketing. But the prospect of marketers having free rein to hit consumers up with advertising messages based on their physical location is unlikely to ever really come to pass. Given the obvious privacy issues associated with that sort of scenario, and the need for consumers to opt in to receive such messages, the reality is likely to be more of a pull model, driven by consumer demand. Sensis’ Yellow Mobile, for example, allows you to search the Yellow Pages directory using your internet-enabled mobile phone, simply by entering a business name or type.

Another way that the phone user’s location can be used to deliver relevant content is through ‘proximity marketing’ using Bluetooth technology. For example, Nokia recently used the services of Breeze Tech to deliver a ‘Plan Your Day’ program guide at the Good Vibrations music festivals across Australia. Consumers were able to download an application to their phone detailing all the bands that were playing at the event, making it easy for them to see when and where their favourite act was playing.

Display advertising

Display advertising on the mobile is still really in its infancy. Some of the models that are currently being trialled include banners or interstitials on mobile web pages or telco portals, as well as pre-roll advertisements in mobile video content. Recent experience, both here and overseas, seems to indicate that consumers are more likely to accept display ads on their mobile in exchange for free or discounted mobile content, talk time or texts.

Mobile search

Mobile search is similar to internet search, but with some important differences. With extremely limited screen space, the mobile requires much more precise content than the internet. And while it’s not critical to be at the top of the list in web search, it becomes far more important in the mobile environment. Again, this technology is still very much in the ‘emerging’ phase and there are a few different models evolving. One option is to include a ‘click to call’ function, which allows the customer to clink on a link to initiate a direct call to your company.

Mobile internet 2.0

Mobile internet 2.0 is the mobile equivalent of Web 2.0, with user-generated content and social networking being at its core. Like mobile search and display advertising, mobile social networking is at an early stage of its development and consumer adoption is still relatively low compared to its online counterpart. One example of mobile social networking is Kink Kommunity, operated by Loop Mobile Ltd. Kink Kommunity blends user-generated content, instant chat and social networking enablers like private messaging, friends lists, user profiles and tag searching.

“Mobile devices allow users to become further engaged in social networking due to the immediacy of the mobile environment,” explains Paul Grueber, head of business development and marketing, Loop Wireless. “A mobile consumer can create a piece of media via their mobile device and then instantly upload and share their media with the social network all while being out and about.”

The opportunities available to marketers in this space include interacting with consumers in real-time and using the network to promote their brand virally. This may be through competitions, sponsored content or even user-created advertising.

Mobile TV

Based on a recent study by its global Consumer Lab, Ericsson claims that one in four Australian mobile phone users have access to mobile TV services and a third of those already use the service. In terms of interest in content, the survey showed that the top three were news (with 49 percent of respondents expressing interest) comedy (43 percent) and sports (29 percent). The company is currently trialling mobile TV advertising with the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation. The interactive advertisements being used in the trial are able to be customised to ensure their relevance to individual viewers, and tailored to the customer’s age, gender, location and personal interests.

Mobile ticketing

Although widely embraced in Europe and North America, mobile ticketing – where a barcode is sent to a mobile phone as an alternative to a printed ticket – is only just starting to take off in Australia. For event organisers, mobile ticketing can be a convenient, cost-effective and eco-friendly alternative to conventional ticketing systems. It also provides marketers with the opportunity to include company logos, advertising clips and movie trailers. Plus the tickets can be used to give consumers access to special offers and discounts on food, drinks and merchandise or VIP areas.

In the UK, a record number of mobile tickets – 20,000 – were used at the recent 02 Wireless Festival events in London and Leeds. On a somewhat smaller scale, Telstra, Village Roadshow and MessageNet successfully trialled the technology last summer with the film Happy Feet. Telstra customers who pre-booked to see the film were able to receive their ticket via their mobile phones. Customers would then present their mobile ticket for scanning at the cinema to gain entry into the movie.

While most marketers are taking a ‘wait and see’ approach to the more cutting edge applications, strategies such as MMS messaging and branded content are clearly becoming well-entrenched elements of the mobile marketing mix, particularly for youth brands. Whether rich media mobile marketing will actually take off in 2007 is a matter that’s up for debate. But one thing’s for sure, it’s going to be an interesting space to watch.

Case study: Johnson & Johnson’s Clean & Clear Mobile Kiosk

Client: Johnson & Johnson
Agency: Communicator Interactive


Presented with a target audience as unpredictable as the teenage
girl, Communicator knew it would take more than a clever incentive or
quirky promotion to get Johnson & Johnsons Clean & Clear the
product recognition it desired. The challenge was to promote the Clean
& Clear product within the teen girl target audience and increase
both brand value (qualitative – survey results) and sales (quantitative


Targets were to:

  • exceed a three to five percent conversion ratio against purchase
  • exceed the goal of two minutes spent at the kiosk per customer
  • increase ‘intent to purchase’ and consumer brand perception of Clean & Clear, and
  • move Clean & Clear up the survey rankings (from a current position of second behind Clearasil).


The Clean & Clear, Supre in-store wireless point of sale (POS)
interactive kiosk was devised to bring the brand to the consumer whilst
out shopping with friends. Housed within a giant, purple cleanser tube,
an online interactive promotion encouraged customers of Supre
(predominantly teenage girls) to engage with the kiosk through a major
prize draw (iPods) and lots of minor prizes that could be instantly

After purchasing a product from Supre, the consumer was directed to
the kiosk where they were told a prize could be claimed upon the entry
of a barcode. The kiosk screen offered features such as fashion tips
and beauty related trivia. Prizes included music vouchers, relevant
mobile content, Girlfriend magazine subscriptions, Clean & Clear
product packs and weekly draws for iPods. Participants would be alerted
to their instant prize via their mobile phone.

Rich media content such as polytones, true tones and wallpapers were included in the instant prize pool.

The kiosks were trialled over a series of test phases, keeping the
sites in controlled environments in order to draw upon key learnings
prior to an extensive national (Australia and New Zealand) roll-out.
These test sites were set in rural locations (south-west of Sydney).


The kiosks were well-received in all participating states with
entries remaining consistent throughout the course of the campaign.
Online redemptions of prizes were steady and the number of entrants who
returned to the kiosk for multiple visits were encouraging. But it was
the survey results from the kiosk that presented the most valuable
findings. When asked how likely they were to tell their friends about
the interactive kiosk 56.5 percent of all entrants responded
‘Definitely’ with a further 24 percent of entrants responding with
Very Likely. Just over 80 percent of entrants felt much more positive
about the Clean & Clear brand after interacting with the kiosk with
50.7 percent of all entrants stating they would definitely purchase
Clean & Clear the next time they needed a skincare product. (A
further 25.3 percent said purchasing Clean & Clear would be very
likely in the future.)

The survey results exposed a 24 percent increase in purchase intent
and 16.41 percent of entrants polled agreed that Clean & Clear,
over all other brands in the category, was for people like them.
Twenty-six percent of all entrants who took the survey cited Clean
& Clear as the experts in teen skincare, over other brands with the
same market sell.