Monthly Archives: March 2010

How to do Clever Mobile Advertising in 2010? Don't copy web!

This is a guest post from Tomi Ahonen. Tomi is an author of six bestselling hardcover books and three eBooks, who is greatly respected by his peers and is referenced in over 60 books by other authors. He speaks regularly at conferences doing about 20 public speakerships annually. With over 250 public speaking engagements, Tomi been seen by a cumulative audience of over 100,000 people. The former Nokia executive has run a consulting practise on digital convergence, interactive media, engagement marketing, high tech and next generation mobile. Tomi is currently based out of Hong Kong but supports consulting and speaking clients on all six inhabited continents. You can read Tomi’s blog here

Its been a while since I last wrote about mobile advertising. The major bodies who report on mobile advertsing stats have all said recently that mobile advertising grew dramatially last year (2009) when the overall economy was in trouble and all other advertising spending was cut drastically. Some analysts suggested mobile advertising even doubled last year. My consultancy TomiAhonen Consulting said mobile advertising globally grew 85% (source TomiAhonen Almanac 2010). When all other advertising declines, and one part nearly doubles, that draws a lot of attention. And today all major ad agencies and digital agencies and major brands are aware of, and designing mobile campaigns – or mobile aspects to multiplatform campaigns. That is all good.

And we’ve had a lot of big news in this space, most of all Google’s big announcement that they do “Mobile First” (and that last year they bought Admob) but also other PC industry veterans from Apple to Lenovo now say the future is mobile. And a lot of major players from yes Apple to Nokia have bought mobile advertising units and there is a lot of development in this space. Mobile advertising is hot.

So how do we do it? Today the vast majority of all advertising dollars spent on mobile go to two major kinds of ads, SMS (‘spam’) ads and banner ads to ‘mobile internet’ pages including WAP. And a rapidly growing ‘buzz’ in the mobile ad space is the adver-app for smartphones, in particular all those cool free Apple iPhone apps.


Yes, we can copy ad concepts from the web (or any other legacy mass media like print, TV, radio etc). Yes, we can copy. That is dumb. That is lazy – if your ad agency comes back at you with ‘banner ads’ or ‘SMS spam’ ads – that is copying the internet models, ie internet web banner ads and internet email spam. Web banner ads themselves are web copies of print ads, and spam emails are the digital versions of our home junk mail.

A new hot area of mobile ad ‘innovation’  [sigh]  is ‘preroll video’ ads – ie used with mobile (and web) video content. Preroll add means you are forced to watch an advertisement before you get to see that video. This is a copy of the TV ad model, where our TV viewing is interrupted to force us to view ads – the format we hate so much, that we buy TiVo and similar PVR/DVR hard disk drive recorders to bypass viewing any video ads. Now some ‘clever’ ad developers are bringing this punitive ad model to mobile.

(Oh, to readers: Long Tomi Ahonen blog warning – this is a complex subject and this blog is not superficial treatment, I include 11 case examples, tons of stats, and showcase unique aspects of mobile. It can’t be short. It runs about 6,000 words so go get yourself a cup of coffee before you start, and you may well want to bookmark this page, I will be referring to this blog as my ‘definitive treatise’ of mobile advertising for probably the next year.)


We can copy from the legacy mass media yes. And if mobile was somehow ‘inferior’ as a mass medium, and ‘deficient’ it might make sense. But mobile is not just the newest mass medium (mobile is the 7th of the mass media in fact, where Print, Recordings, Cinema, Radio, TV and the Internet were the first 6 mass media). Mobile is new, thus ‘difficult’ and ‘complex’ and requires new type of learning – nobody teaches 7th mass media courses (yet) in the universities for ad executives to go and learn. But most importantly – mobile is actually ‘better’ or yes indeed ‘superior’ to ALL legacy mass media as a media channel. Why do I say that?

The internet (6th mass media channel) was considered the first ‘inherent threat’ mass medium, because it could replicate EVERYTHING that the previous 5 mass media could do. You can deliver books, newspapers, music, TV, radio, movies – every content type – as a ‘web equivalent’ experience. Not exactly the same, always, but close enough and often better.

That is not ‘normal’. When a new mass medium is invented, it does not normally subsume all previous media formats. For example radio (4th mass medium) cannot show you a movie (cinema, 3rd mass medium). None of the first 5 mass media were ‘inherent threat’ mass media channels. The Intenet (6th mass medium) was the first inherent threat medium.

Now, mobile comes along and can deliver everything that all 6 previous media including the internet can deliver. Remember, it need not do it ‘as well’ – a movie is better in the cinema than streamed on our laptop. But yes, even books – even books – sell on mobile. All six mass media are already available on mobile – people do watch movies – you and I do not, but our kids do – on tiny screens of smartphones (and Sony PlayStation Portables, and iPod Touch’s), no problem. So yes, mobile is the newest inherent threat mass medium.

But the reverse is not true. None of the previous six mass media can do everything mobile can do. Take for example the ringing tone. A global industry worth 6.5 Billion dollars (said Juniper in 2009). Thats over 4 times bigger than the total global music sales on Apple iTunes. Yes, ringing tones are that big – worth a quarter of the total global music industry, just ringing tones alone. And do you install ringing tones onto your laptop? How about onto your TV set? Do you install ringing tones to your seat at the cinema? How about the newspaper you read, did it give you a ringing tone option for the paper? Only mobile can deliver this new entertainment content type. Only mobile. I have hundreds of such examples in my books and on this blog. Things you can only do on mobile (as a commercially viable business, obviously). But one 6.5 Billion dollar industry sector of the ringing tone is plenty to prove that mobile can do something we can’t do on any older mass media.

I have been cataloging the actual unique aspects of mobile – so mobile can do EVERYTHING we can do on older media, but beyond that, mobile has unique abilities you can’t do on any older mass media. Because we can replicate all legacy 6 media, and then we have unique abilities that the legacy cannot do – that is why mobile can be called a ‘superior’ mass medium. It can copy everything the first six can do – while none of the first six (including the internet) can copy all that mobile can do. And then that mobile has unique aspects not possible on any of the legacy 6 media. Yes, mobile is superior as a mass media channel (but not superior for every individual content type, such as mobile is not the superior video/movie-watching medium, nor is it the superior gaming platform etc)

How many of them do we have? Eight such unique attributes already. Eight abilities that only mobile offers, which can’t be done on a PC or netbook or iPad or Kindle or PSP or digital camera or DVD or digital TV. Eight unique abilities that only mobile the 7th mass medium can offer, that even the internet, the 6th mass medium cannot match. If we have ‘unique’ abilities, then WHY please WHY tell me WHY any ‘creative’ at any ad agency would bother copying the old tired models of older media. Especially if consumers hate those older models? Especially if consumers actually like the more advanced mobile ads? (ie those which are not copies of broken concepts.) Who in their right mind would copy a model that consumers hate? WHY?


Yeah, its no secret. We’ve discussed them at length at this blog and in my books. Mobile has 8 unique aspects that cannot be replicated on any legacy mass media. They are:

1 – Mobile is personal
2 – Mobile is permanently carried
3 – Mobile is always on
4 – Mobile has built-in payment method
5 – Only mobile is always present at the creative impulse
6 – Mobile has the best audience measurement (better than next best by factor of 10)
7 – Only mobile captures social context of consumption
8 – Only mobile enables augmented reality (as a consumer-oriented mass media device, AR can also be done on custom tech like the military)

If any of these is not ‘obvious’ to you (“Tomi, are you sure ‘permanently carried’ is not the same as ‘always on’“) then please go read these in-depth blogs explaining each. The first 7 are best described here. And the lastest, 8th unique benefit is described here. If you are employed in the media-related industries, and that obviously includes advertising – you HAVE to memorize this list and understand these points fluently. If not, its like being a blind person, listening to a TV broadcast and thinking its essentially the same as the radio.

The point is – that if mobile has ‘unique’ abilities – then you’d be pretty dumb as a ‘creative’ executive in the ad industry, if you ignored those, and only copied older formats. Its like not understanding that cinema offered ‘moving pictures’ and you could design ads that had ‘motion’ – far more compelling for many types of ads, than the still images we had in the older media concept of print. You can’t do motion in print. But if you just copy legacy ad concepts and do not understand these 8 newer unique aspects of mobile as a mass medium, you are telling the cinema owner to show a still slide as an ad. Or telling the TV ad guy to play the radio ad on TV.

My point – I hope you are hearing this – if you copy banner ads, spam SMS, or preroll ads – you are being LAZY and soon your rivals will do far better things with this new mass medium – and THEY will win the awards, not you.


Lets take a quick look at 8 recent mobile ad or mobile marketing campaigns with one example each highlighting the 8 unique aspects of mobile.

Personal – BMW Winter Tyres Germany using MMS. My perhaps all-time most amazing mobile ad case study. Germany is not – apologies to all of our German readers – a ‘leading’ country in mobile telecoms. Nothing like Japan or South Korea or Italy or Finland. The typical BMW owner in Germany is not the nerdy mobile tech geeks like Apple iPhone and Google Android fanatics on the West Coast of America. Yet they ‘loved’ this mobile ad campaign so much that 30% of those who saw the ad – not just clicked on it, not just ‘responded’ to it, but actually appeared at an BMW authorized store to make a purchase. The campaign achieved a 30% conversion rate. They sold winter tyres to existing BMW owners. How? Not by apps or banner ads or spam SMS, but by the ultimate engagement-marketing platfform – MMS. BMW sent a truly personalized (yet automated) image of what looked ‘exactly’ like each owner’s own BMW. It was the right model, the right color, with the right wheel rim – exactly as BMW would know, as they had just sold that car less than 12 months earlier. The total campaign, including creative effort and total airtime costs of the MMS messages cost under 120,000 dollars yet the new sales it produced in tyres and rims resulted in 45 million dollars of sales to BMW Germany. This cannot be done on TV or the internet or radio. Only on mobile can we show you ‘your’ car and bring it to your phone that you don’t even share with your wife or children.. (our home PC cannot deliver that, we may have two BMW’s in our family and try to sell the wrong car tyres to our wife etc). The service also allowed links to BMW’s WAP pages with tons more car related services such as helping you sell your used BMW..

Permanently carried – Virgin Festival Buddy from Australia. Another very elegant, simple WAP service that was compatible with the 250 most popular phones in Australia, reaching over 98% of the music festival’s audience. Part of the service was utility functions related to the rock festival – who is playing, where are the toilets, etc – but it also advetised and sold various concert-related materials including T-shirts, programs, music etc. We don’t carrry our netbook or our iPod or our Kindle or our DVD player everywhere – but we do carry our phone – we take the phone to the bathroom we even sleep with the phone with us. Its the last thing we see before we fall asleep and its the first thing we see when we wake up (as we use its alarm). Only mobile. The service was deployed using WAP Push (which is a special SMS message with a WAP link embedded to it)

Always on – Just-in-time Dentist from Finland. A perfect little ultra-simple but so highly loved mobile markting solution on SMS, yes basic simple SMS. If you have a tooth-ache and your next apppointment is for Thursday, but suddenly someone cancels at your dentist, you now get an alert – who answers first to the SMS alert, gets the cancelled appointment (at half price too). Obviously this service is only opt-in, we would not sign up to dentist cancelled appointments unless we had an acute tooth-ache. Who wouldn’t love this? Perfect, simple, elegant. Can’t do that on WiFi or digital TV or Playstation or broadband – we are not at our laptops or TV sets or gaming consoles or notebooks continuously, but the phone is always on – the alert will catch us – even if we are asleep. No other media reaches us in our sleep. SMS does. 40% of the youth sleep poorly at night because their sleep is interrupted by incoming SMS (said Catholic University of Leuwen study on mobile phone addiction in Belgium)

Built in Payment Method – There are tons of mobile coupons. But here is a very clever way to do it. Puma the running shoe brand, launched a free multiplayer mobile phone advergame around the Formula One race in Shanghai. It allowed four friends to race each other for free on their phones and then to also race other F1 fans across the network. The prizes awarded for both those who were best at racing, and for those who were most prolific at forwarding the game virally. But the cool part – prizes were to be redeemed at Puma registered stores. This drove ‘foot fall’ to the Puma stores. The coupons were delivered via MMS and correctly attributed to those who won the races or who forwarded the most. Can’t do that on TV or radio or cinema,

Available at Creative Impulse – The newer parts of the eight benefits have less innovation so far, and the user-generated part is a huge goldmine of opportunity that is barely even touched upon yet. But a good example comes from Japan in EZ My Stylingthe free virtual hair dressing service. It is a free utility that uses the cameraphone feature, the user takes a picture of their face, then uploades it to EZ My Styling. Then on the mobile web page the user can select hairy styles and see how they would work. These can be sent to friends for opinions using picture messaging  – which haircut should I take – and of course the service knows where you are, where are the nearest hairdressers that do that haircut, and allow instant booking of a time. Elegant. Can’t do that on a OC or netbook or digital camera or PSP or Kindle.

Most accurate audience – This aspect has a lot of examples, but a world record response rate comes from South Korea, where Gillette ran a free sample coupon campaign for its Fusion razor. It was op-in of course (all good campaigns are fully opt-in, of course) and out of 240,000 registered men who were intersted in Gillette products, they sent out the coupons and 98% were redeemed. We can measure not only the audience, but the exact redemption rates by mobile, only by mobile. And this campaign, again not anything rocket science even in the world’s most advanced broadband 3G WiFi WiMax internet country, in South Korea the country’s largest mobile ad agency, Aircross, achieved this 98% response rate using… SMS.

Captured social context – This is truly bleeding edge ability for mobile and very few appliations of it exist in any space, far less so in mobile advertising and marketing. But we have one, the Obama 2008 presidential campaign and its iPhone App in the USA.The Obama iPhone app replaced the normal phonebook with the Obama campaign related phone book – and based on the US ‘area codes’ for phones – which tend to relate to the states – the Obama app would show the ‘context’ of the presidential election polls for each state. So if your friend Johnny was in Texas, it would show McCain leads by 62 – 38 but if your friend Jimmy was in Pennsylvania it would show Obama leading 57% to 43% etc. Note this was ‘social context’ not ‘consumption’. We had not voted yet, the person with the iPhone app did not need to give his/her own view or opinion – and we didn’t care if Johnny in Texas or Jimmy in Pennsylvania were Obama or McCain supporters – it measured social context only, not preference (ie ‘purchase’ or voting behavior by our friend). Brilliant app, we’ll see much more of the social context in the years to come as the advertising industry gets to grips with this new aspect of mobile, just like it took a while for radio ad ‘creatives’ to learn to use jingles in their radio ads.

Enables Augmented Reality – The last of the 8 unique abilities is Augmented Reality and the poster-child for AR is of course Layar out of the Netherlands with tons of advertising among their hundreds of layers. But lets look if there is AR done in other ways on mobile? We can also do AR for example with 2D barcodes, so lets take Ford’s Ka campaign that ran in several European cities including London. The passers-by would see a giant 2D barcode on the ground. They’d point their cameraphone at the 2D barcode, and see the car. They could walk around the car, see it from all sides, but it was only a virtual car, the real space was empty. Very clever way to market the car. And yes, we can do AR on mobile, but can’t do it even on a laptop, a notebook, not even a netbook, a Kindle or an iPad.

So there – eight unique, innovative mobile ad campaigns – very successful ones, in 8 countries on four continents, by several global giant brands like Puma, Ford, Obama, Giullette, BMW and Virgin, as well as a couple of smaller local brands and ideas. None of them were Banner ads, SMS spam or preroll video. These eight award-winning truly innovative and supremely successful mobile ad campaigns included three with MMS/picture messaging, three with SMS, three had some type of apps, two using the camera feature, three had the mobile web/WAP two featured mobile coupons, one was an advergame, two used augmented or virtual reality, two included viral elements, and one used the 2D Barcode feature.

Were you amazed? Did you think reading through some of those ideas that some of them were ‘innovative’? These are all ‘old’ ideas! I have been showing these at my various mobile ad workshops around the planet for ages. I had 7 of these 8 listed in my2009 eBook TomiAhonen Pearls Vol 1: Mobile Advertising (which has 50 such case examples but with far more detail, stats, user satisfaction levels, expert quotes etc). And the 8th of the 8? ie the Obama campaign was in my Pearls Vol 2: Mobile Social Networking ebook also last year (also with 50 case examples of successful mobile social networking concepts). If those were ‘award-winning’ ideas a year (or more) ago, what can we expect from 2010? Far far better – BETTER – ideas than these…


So, I have shown you powerful successful mobile ad concepts, just a few, that used those 8 powerful new abilities that only mobile can deliver. Why would you even think of copying bad worn lazy ideas from the web or TV or print? Let the legacy mass media struggle with their outdated formats. Learn what makes mobile unique and deliver new compelling mobile ad campaigns. And if you are an executive making decisions about ad budgets – if your ad agency shows you banner ad campaign ideas, or spam SMS (or other interruptive mobile ads like location-based spam or proximity based spam like Bluetooth ads etc) or if they suggest doing preroll video ads, just fire your ad agency as incompetent and hire someone who is truly competent in mobile. Someone who knows it is possible to deliver compelling, successful MMS and WAP campaigns that are built on ‘engagement marketing’ principles – which start as you should know by now – with opt-in. No mobile ad campaign worth its salt goes out without prior permission from the recepient. All of my examples in the above were on the basis of opt-in. All of them.

But yes, there is more to mobile than interruption. In fact interruption should be forbidden. We can do value in mobile ads, from benefits (like Virgin guide telling us which rock band will be playing next) to coupons of ‘equivalent’ value to cash, to actual cash (or minutes, SMS text message balances) being delivered to our ad recepients. Then we can do interactive. Several of the above examples were interactive like EZ My Styling and Puma advergame. From interactive we get to viral. And the perfect mobile ad campaigns are built on ‘engagement marketing’ principles. What does that mean, it means that the user is enticed to join in the advertising or marketing experience and co-create it. Not ‘user-generated advertising’ – we are not asking users to go and make ads with their cameraphones (although that can be done, it would be an ‘extreme’ form of engagement marketing and its been done many times already). No, I mean co-create the experience.


Three examples, three countries, three technologies.In Japan Northwest Airlines ran a free mobile advergame to ‘guess the city’. Anyone could play, to enter you sent a free mobile message to the game. Any one phone could only guess once per puzzle. Big daily prizes of trips on NWA obviously. But here is the cool part –  everyone who guessed correctly received …frequent flier miles on NWA ! This is awesome, who would NOT play this game daily? The idea is bullet-proof. It would work in any market on any airline. Winners get a small addition to their frequent flier mileage bank. If you never had signed up to Northwest Airlines – well, there is of course the mobile web site where you can sign up to start your FF account and start to collect your miles and winnings. So far this is just an ‘interactive’ advergame. Where does engagement come in? Users… users… we need users to co-create the experience. How do we get users involved? Easy. Users were invited to submit their own puzzles (the game was using a Japanese ‘senryu’ poem format). Now if you like the game, why not create your own puzzle, and perhaps next week one of the daily games will be your puzzle. This is engagement marketing – user co-created experience which works on so simple tech as SMS text messaging.

Second example, from the UK. Blyk and its MMS engagement campaigns with L’Oreal. Only those girls who are interested in make-up will get L’Oreal ads. But the company builds a dialogue with the girls and ‘learns’ based on what the girls like. Who is your fave supermodel – sends MMS showing 6 faces of supermodels who are on contract with L’Oreal. The girl picks the fave supermodel – after that all L’Oreal ads to that girl will be customized to feature only the fave supermodel. FAR more powerful than can be done on any other medium. And this is Britain, this is MMS, this is very today. And its totally engagement marketing. Tomorrow L’Oreal will ask which is your fave color, etc…

Third example from Slovenia in outdoor ‘billboard’ ads, making those suddenly not just interactive, but engagement. Lenovo was doing soccer/football related marketing with a company called Qootia. They had the game set up on an interactive video board. Passers-by were invited to join, pick a side in the soccer game, then take their phone and move the player and kick the ball. You might think this needs an ‘app’ for a smartphone. Or how else can they do it in ‘real time’ with SMS for example too slow to do live game movements? They did it on an IVR response machine. Take your phone, dial this number, then press 2 o go forward, press 4 to go left, press 6 to go right, press 8 to go back and press 5 to kick. Brilliant, elegant, simple – works on absolutely 100% of all phones. Get people to walk by, stop, play the game against some friends, while others view. This idea will be deployed at rock concerts, sporting events etc near you very soon, mark my words. Only with mobile. Can’t do this with your awesome digital camera or Kindle or netbook. But every phone can do it and any child or grandparent can operate the game on a standard phone keypad. And obviously, we have our gamers inviting their friends to join their ‘side’ in the game – on-the-spot recruitmeny to join the multiplayer game while others watch. Lenovo gets their phone numbers.. Brilliant.


So, one last argument. We all hate ads. Correction, we hate ‘interruptive’ ads. We ‘tolerate’ useful ads, but we actually enjoy entertaining ads. South Korea’s biggest mobile advertising company is Aircross. Their CEO, BJ Yang says we should make mobile advertising fun, always, because as he says ‘Mobile is a fun, personal playground.’ Fun. Personal. Playground. This is very powerful. So, lets compare. On TV we hate ads so much – we actually purchase devices like a TiVo box to avoid the ads. On the internet, with classic banner ads, they consider it a ‘successful’ campaign, if they achieve click-through rates of half a percent. Half a percent. On mobile even the copycat banner ads get ten times that level, with click through rates on basic (interruptive) mobile ads like banners at about 5 percent.

That is not what we want! We hate interruptive ads. What we want is ‘engagement marketing’ like many of the examples here like Blyk and L’Oreal, like Puma F1 Racing, like EZ My STyling virtual haircuts and BMW winter tyres and Northwest Airlines quizzes. When consumers are given truly ‘engagement marketing’ based mobile ads, well designed (and usually delivered on MMS) – they deliver between 25% and 40% response rates. Yes, almost 100 times better performance than internet web interruptive models. I mean global stats, we find these from engagement marketing campaigns run in Japan to the UK to Slovenia to USA. Not ‘novelty’ factor. In the UK, over 2,000 such campaigns were run on Blyk – bombarding the youth with 6 ads per day, across 200 global giant brands like Coca Cola and Mastercard. Thousands of such MMS-based (and SMS based) engagement-marketing campaigns measured in half a dozen countries on three continents. Response rates ‘astronomical’ at 25% to 40%, consistently – over YEARS of such campaigns.

By this success criterion alone, who is such a fool to authorize ‘hated’ banner and spam SMS (and location spam and proximity bluetooth spam and interstitial interruption and preroll intereruption) ads if ‘engagement marketing’ can deliver from 10x to 100x better results?

But wait – they LOVE the mobile ads? Really? Tomi you gotta be kidding, ‘love’ – nobody loves ads. Even ad industry execs don’t love advertisements. But Yes. I really mean it. Really. Love. Not my words. Jonathan MacDonald who used to be with Blyk said that their biggest complaint coming from their customers – this from teenagers who were under a deluge of a forced diet of 6 mobile ads they had to consume every day – the biggest complaint would by every ounce of logic and reason be ‘please don’t send more ads to my phone’. That is what conventional wisdom would suggest. And on TV and radio and the internet and print, we’d beg and plead to receive less of the the interruptive ads.

But using engagement marketing? THe opposite is true. The consumers, their biggest complaint on Blyk – was that they wanted more of the mobile ads. And think about it, if your ads deliver such value as coupons of goods you use, of prizes such as frequent flier miles, of a cool game you want to play like the Formula One racing game by Puma (cool for those who like racing car games obviously, my mother would hate it) and all sorts of benefits etc, if these are all opt-in, and personalized, and relevant. Then if they’re made to be fun (advergames for example) – why would you not want more?

Back to reality. You the ad exec have the option to approve a banner ad campaign that is ignored, with lousy click-through rates and is often hated. Or more intrusive interruptive ads like spam SMS that is really hated. Or you could learn what is engagement marketing – get a third of the ads clicked through to response rate – and you get so satisfied consumers that they beg for more? What is wrong with this picture? Who is the sadist who approves interruptive ads on mobile, when we have engagement marketing that is loved?


Finally an important point. The mobile world is abuzz with apps, in particular the ad industry of course raves about the coolest iPhone apps (and perhaps Google Android apps). Yes, we know every ad exec has an iPhone. But there are 4.6 Billion mobile phone subscribers on the planet. How many have an iPhone? If we count all iPhone 2Gs and iPhone 3Gs and iPhone 3GSs ever made – its about 35 million. The installed base is far less than that, as some iPhone 3GS and 3G models have been sold to owners of older models. But yes, even at 35 million it means that of the world’s mobile phones, only 0.8% (zero point 8 percent, less than one percent) are iPhones. In its best market – the USA – AT&T reported last year that their total activated iPhone user base was 11 million devices. So in its best market, the iPhone has under 3% penetration.

What idiot ad campaign manager allows any development of an ‘iPhone app’ when it does not reach 97% of the mobile phone owners in its best market, and does not reach 99.3% of the mobile phone owners in the rest of the world? Huh? What moron ad executive authorizes that budget? Huh? SMS reaches 100% of the audience. WAP – yes what was the joke a decade ago ‘WAP is crap’ that WAP yes, WAP, reaches 95% of the phones on the planet. MMS reaches 80% of all phones. Who in their right mind approves an iPhone app before they have 3 mass-market mobile ad campaigns deployed – one using SMS, another using WAP and a third using MMS. AFTER those ‘not sexy’ mobile ad campaigns have been deployed, THEN you can think about apps.

Go back to my examples. SMS? The Northwest Airlines poems could be done via SMS (in Japan the mobile messaging is a bit different but the idea works on SMS easily in the rest of the world). The dentist alerts was done on SMS. The Virgin rock concert WAP link was delivered via SMS. The Gillette razor coupons were delivered via SMS. SMS text messaging has 3.6 Billion active users on the planet and every mobile ad campaign should start its plans around ‘what clever thing can we do with SMS’ – and SMS is a powerful engagement marketing platform. Only voice and SMS reach every mobile phone. Start your media planning with SMS. Then your brand is interactive and mobile in at least every pocket, before you even consider anything else. Yes, four of the 11 examples I listed were partially or totally delivered via SMS. We can do breathtakingly good mobile marketing and advertising on SMS. Its not ‘sexy’ and won’t look cool on your iPhone – but Mr/Ms Ad executive – 97% of Americans, 99.3% of the rest of the world’s phone owners do not have an iPhone. But they all can be reached with SMS. Start here.

Then WAP? The BMW winter tyres and the Virgin rock concert service both had WAP pages. The EZ My Styling and Northwest Airlines mobile web pages were partially delivered on WAP in Japan and partially on the real web on mobile. There is nothing wrong with doing ‘real web’ on mobile, but remember, that deliveres only half of your phones. WAP will get you 95%. And for most of the most successful web services – Google search, email, Facebook, Twitter etc – these are all ‘current’ valid internet services. All of those are easy to do – and indeed existing – on WAP. WAP is your second step, gets you 95% of all phones.

And the most powerful mobile ad platform – is not iPhone apps or real web, it is MMS. Don’t think of MMS as ‘picture messaging’ but remember, it is Multimedia Messaging System. Multimedia. What is multimedia? Sound and video. MMS is a powerful, mobile-optimized way to deliver VIDEO, plus music and pictures, and text. And just like SMS, MMS is inherently interactive. It is BETTER than a stand-alone app on a smartphone, because MMS is inherently interactive. It is your optimized engagement marketing platform! MMS will be delivering winning mobile ad campaigns this year again, as it did last year and the year before. Multimedia Messaging System. Video, music, pictures and text, all mobile-optimized, all interactive, and for consumers when deliveing media content, is as familiar as SMS.

MMS is used by 1.7 Billion people already and has a reach of 80% of all phones. In the USA 40% of the total population already uses MMS (said Jagtag research 2009) and in UK 62% (said Aenas 2009). Of my examples here, BMW winter tyres used MMS, the Puma coupons were delivered via MMS and L’Oreal’s engagement dialog with the girls was via MMS. The EZ My Styling picture messages of proposed haircuts sent to friends for evaluation – could have been delivered via MMS (again, Japan has its own picture messaging standards).

Don’t do apps before you cover your mass market. Apple iPhone gets you 3% of USA, 0.7% of the rest of the world. SMS gets you the globe, WAP gets you 95% and MMS gets you to 80% of the pockets of owners of mobile phones. Start with SMS, WAP and MMS. My examples prove that you can do breathtakingly brilliant mobile ad campaigns – including engagement marketing – using these ‘simple’ but robust platforms. Its not ‘easy’ to get these done to every phone and on every network. Nothing worthwhile is. But please, don’t do the interruptive stuff, and please, don’t start with apps (now in 2010). Apps can come later.

Last year mobile advertising grew by 85% when the overall ad industry suffered. This year many analysts and experts and CEOs of major players in the advertising industry have already said mobile is growing strongly. You could do the easy bit, copy the older media. But don’t. Don’t do banners. Don’t do spam SMS. Don’t do preroll video. Don’t do proximity bluetooth or location-based spam ads. And remember your reach, don’t ‘start’ your mobile ideas on an iPhone app.

This year, 2010, the big global successes in mobile ads will be built on clever new adaptations of SMS, MMS and WAP, and with elements from the phones such as using the cameraphone, 2D barcodes, advergames, coupons etc. Then of course there will be tons of ‘innovative’ but ridiculously little-used adver-apps for smartphones. If you really intend to do any apps, do the SMS, WAP and MMS versions of your consumer mobile marketing and advertising first. Get the big market in your pocket. Use ideas like those in this blog. THEN go and do your clever app, but don’t start a mobile ad campaign where you exclude 97% or 99.3% of the total audience.


We don’t have ads on this blog. Did you notice that, no banners. So the only reason I come here from time to time to write these long essays is to share my thinking with the industry and then from time to time, to do a small plug at the end. If you are not familiar with what makes mobile unique (as a mass media channel or beyond) then you need to read the definitive volume on this topic, my sixth hardcover book Mobile as 7th of the Mass Media. The 322 page book is on Amazon and has 16 case studies of excellence in what is uniquely possible on mobile (and Blyk L’Oreal and Just-in-time Dentist are among them, 2 page case studies on both). If you felt you ‘learned’ something about mobile in this blog today, you really need to pick up my book on the 7th Mass Media.

Secondly if you are in advertising, then you should have in your pocket (installed on your smartphone yes I know its an iPhone) my eBook Pearls Vol 1: Mobile Advertising. It has 50 case studies just in your industry including 7 of the 8 in the top section, plus 2 of hte 3 I mentioned in engagement marketing (Northwest Airlines and Blyk L’Oreal). So 9 of the 11 examples in this blog are in the eBook among 41 other such global milestones of excellence in mobile advertising and marketing. The eBook only costs 9.99 Euros and is formated for the small screeen so the 171 pages pdf file fits on your smartphone and you can always carry Tomi’s best 50 examples of mobile marketing excellence with you, to any meeting with any ad execs or clients etc.

Thirdly if you or your team needs more of a briefing than just reading this blog – if you feel you’d like to get truly up to speed with mobile media, mobile advertising and mobile marketing – I chaired the world’s first mobile ad conference a decade ago, my first book was the first in the world to discuss mobile ads, and each of my 9 volumes has expanded the thinking in mobile marketing and advertising. I lecture on these topics at Oxford University and am available to support any interested ad agencies, digital agencies, brands, national ad industry associations etc. Lets discuss over email so write to me at tomi (at) tomiahonen (dot) com.


Leave a comment

Filed under advertising, mobile

Is The Mobile Web More Popular Than Reading?

The European Interactive Advertising Association (EIAA) recently released a study on European usage of the mobile web. According the EIAA a whopping 71 million European’s use the mobile web on a weekly basis. They also found that on average European surf the web for an average of 6.4 hours a week.

Where the study falls apart in our eyes is how they compare these stats to the average number of hours a typical European spends reading traditional news/magazines a week (4.1 hours). The study concludes that people are reading news and magazines more on the mobile web than traditionally. This seems like a flawed assumption considering that most of these reported users are in a younger demographic and are probably surfing Facebook and other geographically relevant social networks, not reading a news website.

I have no doubt that in the near future we will see more people reading the news through mobile applications and websites than traditional forms of media. However, it is important that we stay grounded in the statistics and not act to hastily.

An interesting next study for the EIAA would be to segment their data in order to find out how much of the 6.4 hours a week Europeans are spending on actual news and magazine mobile sites.

The mobile web is clearly on the rise and here at Spreed we are constantly asked whether the right mobile strategy for a publishing company is to launch a mobile website or whether it’s best to just launch an application. This is worthy of a blog post in itself, however  simply put we do not think that the two are mutually exclusive. In this increasingly mobile world that we live in, it is necessary to work on both strategies as they each address specific goals and challenges.

The mobile web is great for sharing and receiving links on the go. Mobile applications on the other hand serve the purpose of content discovery. More information to come in a future blog post 🙂

Leave a comment

Filed under applications, digital publishing, mobile, newspapers, publishing, Spreed, technology

The iPad is Coming: Are You Ready?

Well it’s only a few days away and the anticipation is certainly building up. The iPad will be available in stores April 3rd, but consumers are not the only ones who are investing money into this revolutionary new device. As we already know The New York Times is launching an iPad application that will be available when the new device hits the shelves.

The New York based national newspaper is already seeing return on their investment as advertisers from all sorts of industries begin buying up inventory. It has been reported by multiple sources that big-name advertisers have already bought ad space on the NYTime iPad app. Unilever, Toyota Motor, Korean Air and Fidelity have booked space on the New York Times’s iPad application, and Chase Sapphire already purchased all of their advertising units for two months.

iPad advertisements on print publishers’ applications cost $75,000 to $300,000 for a few months with some exclusivity, Phuc Truong, managing director of Havas Digital’s Mobext US, told the NY Times. Early excitement is due, in a large part, to tapping into the Apple buzz, which includes having advertisements show up in all Apple in-store demos of the product. Time is charging $200,000 for a single spot in its first eight issues designed for the iPad. The Wall Street Journal has four-month deals with several companies that cost $400,000.

These are by no means numbers to ignore. Spreed has been contacted by a number of our publishing and media partners to develop iPad apps for them and we are working very closely with a number of them to design what we think will be a best of breed solution. The iPad has unique capabilities and design opportunities that we are very excited to be working with. Please let us know if you need any help building or monetizing your iPad applications.

Leave a comment

Filed under advertising, ipad, launch

Apple and Newspapers Can Co-Exist

This is a guest post from Kirk LaPointe, the Managing Editor of the Vancouver Sun, blogger at and adjunct professor at the UBC School of Journalism.

The routinely strong Seeking Alpha site features a somewhat conciliatory post from media corporate financial advisor on the impending coexistence of the Apple iPad and the newspaper industry.

Dan Ramsden has some tough words for Google. He sees its recent encouragement of the newspaper industry to experiment as self-serving — the more papers try to do things online, the more Google’s search engine technology benefits.

But he makes an interesting choice in where to place the technological bet. While recent media coverage has suggested Google’s open-source design of its Android smartphone offers the greatest opportunity for old media to succeed, Ramsden begs to differ.

He is firmly in the Apple camp. It’s the technology of choice by consumers, it’s the technology company that has figured out (through iTunes and the iPhone) how to exact a premium for content, so it’s the technology the newspaper business should focus on serving.

“Newspaper and magazine owners, who are struggling to redefine their business models for a new online and mobile environment, would probably be well served to align themselves with the platform that can offer a revenue model, and a mobile marketplace, and leave the experimentation and iteration stuff to young entrepreneurs and startups that do not yet have a franchise to protect,” he writes.

He suggests: “Style, design, quality control, are all characteristics that will do much more to facilitate the popularity of paid content than one more colorful website that may or may not show up at the top of Google’s search results.”

Leave a comment

Filed under apple, applications, digital publishing, e-readers, ipad, mobile, newspapers, Spreed

Flurry Smartphone Industry Pulse, February 2009: Traditional Media Dominating the News Category

Flurry, a mobile analytics company known for their strong industry statistics released their February report today. The report is interesting as it relates to the consistent surge of iPhone developers and their unique demographics. What is interesting to our readers is the specific attention it gave to the news category. As expected traditional media sources are dominating the news category. This is mostly due to the fact that it is not easy to simply start publishing the news and creating content. What it does point out though is that the iPhone and other smartphones are very useful channels to distribute content very inexpensively and target a very attractive demographic.

Possibly, more interesting is the rise of online news sources on the iPhone. Flurry believes that with the release of the iPad we are going to see an even strong supply and demand for blogs and other online media sources. It is therefore essential that if your newspaper does not have an app now, to act fast. If you wait too long, the online media sources will own the real estate on users phones and other mobile devices.  More below and in the report.

Like gaming, the creation of compelling content in News is a specialized and costly operation. To source and report quality news, companies often have to span various media such as TV broadcast, radio and print, which further increases cost. It’s therefore no surprise that Traditional Media dominates the News category, controlling nearly two thirds. For traditional media (e.g., New York Times, ABC News, NPR, etc.), the iPhone represents a large channel through which to distribute their existing content. The small incremental cost of expanding the distribution of Traditional Media’s core content, and the attractiveness of reaching an educated, affluent and tech-savvy audience, makes iPhone the perfect platform through which to serve news. Looking forward, the iPad creates an even greater opportunity to increase reach because its larger screen size works better works for newspaper and magazine layouts, as well as TV broadcast.

Leave a comment

Filed under applications, digital publishing, marketing, mobile, newspapers, publishing, Spreed, technology

Mobile Newspaper Apps Deliver Young Readers

“A new survey by the Pew Research Center released Monday found more than a quarter of all American adults read news on their mobile.” –Pew research

This headline from the March 3rd edition of MobileMarketing Daily caught our attention.  The headline is taken from the recently release Understanding The Participatory Newspaper Consumer which is a deep analysis of the publishing ecosystem.  From our perspective as a mobile publishing company the most encouraging news for publishers is the degree to which younger readers – the readers newspaper publisher need to bring into their franchise – are using their mobile devices to access news and information where and when they want.   This table taken from the study confirms  that younger adults are much more likely to access news and information on their mobile than older adults – 43% adults under 50 expect to find  at least some of news and information that they need on their mobiles.

We are not surprised by the importance of mobile as a trusted source of news and information for younger adults.  The iPhone apps we have built for our publishing clients continue to drive double digit growth in new subscribers and page views.  As important, app publishers are experiencing month over month growth in average number of articles read.  This tells us that  iPhone app subscribers  have quickly adapted newspapers to fit their reading habits – they no longer need to be in front of the paper or online editions to access the news they want when they want it  We expect to continued growth in on demand newspaper as more and more adults move to app enabled phones.

We remind our publishing clients that Apple app editions deliver a young readership – almost half of whom are under the age of 34 according to AdMob research.– and  that these apps are the pipeline to their future franchise.

When most of us think of Apple app editions, we usually think of the iPhone as the most likely delivery device.    But as Flurry research shows, the iTouch now delivers 41% of all Apple app user  sessions

AdMob data above  clearly demonstrates that the iTouch user profile is very different from the iPhone user profile – three quarters of iTouch users are below the age of 18 vv 15% of iPhone users.  We believe that the iTouch cohort is of vital importance to publishers for two reasons.

1)      Because they can and do access the App Store just as easily as iPhone users, they are a captive audience for news and information relevant to them

2)      They are now locked in to satisfying their information and entertainment needs with proprietary Apple hardware and software.  As they mature, the migration to the iPhone and iPad will be a natural and seamless progression for them.

1 Comment

Filed under applications, digital publishing, mobile, newspapers, publishing

Mobile Newspaper Applications: Beyond the Headlines

It is often a habit of mobile developers to crunch every piece of functionality they can into their apps. This is a fatal flaw in many of the applications that we see built for newspapers and media companies today. There is a very fine line that needs to be drawn between user experience (UX) and functionality and we find many people try and cram everything, including the kitchen sink into their apps. When developing an app you must first think about what your goals are and how best to leverage the mobile platform. After you have defined your goals, you can then define the functionality.

If you are a regular reader of the Spreed blog or know much about Spreed:Inc, you will know that we believe that newspapers in this day and age need a mobile application. However, too often we see people try and cram everything they can into their mobile news reader. This is a problem in the newspaper industry as news websites have such a large amount of varying types of content.

Here at Spreed we advise our customer to follow a long tail niche approach to application development. The first application that any company develops should be focused specifically around their news content. However, by no means should you ignore all the other content that is available on your website. Now that many newspapers have applications it is time to start thinking about the different niche apps that can be built to include your other content while leveraging the unique capabilities of these phones (i.e. multimedia, GPS, built in camera). By no means should you cram all of this other content and functionality into your existing app. Each source of content applies to a different app and can provide yet another revenue source to your paper.

A few scenarios that we often suggest our clients to consider are sports apps, traffic/weather apps, tourism apps, classified apps, finance apps and home listing apps. These applications can be sold at a premium and leverage the vast content pool that newspapers already have access to. If you try and cram all these features into your main headline app, you will sacrifice both your UX and your potential future revenue.

There are three examples of strong niche apps developed by newspapers that I would like to show here:

The first is the GoVolsXtra application developed by Spreed for the Knoxville News Sentinel. Knoxville had already created a separate portal for their university sports team, so this was an obvious extension of their brand. We simply pulled their live stats, news, pictures and videos and packaged them together in an app. If Knoxnews tried to cram all this info into their main headline app they would not have been able to provide as rich of an experience.

The second app that I would like to highlight is a tourism app developed by USA Today (Gannett). The Gannett team has been very strong in the mobile space and many will call the USA Today application one of the best news apps in the iTunes app store. Although there is a lot of functionality in the USA Today headline app, they have done a very good job at balancing it and not allowing for any more than three clicks to get to any particular piece of information. USA Today has a wealth of content and they have decided to release numerous apps, however the best one in my opinion is the USA Autopilot app which is a great tool for any frequent traveler.

The final application that I would like to highlight and the newest entry in the market is the NYTime home finder app. This app lets you find home listings in the NYTimes database and find homes for sales/open houses that are around your current location. This app it light, easy to use and takes advantage of location based features of the iPhone. It is a huge win for the NYTimes who have not really updated their mobile application since it first hit the app store.

The point that I am trying to make here is that the application ecosystem holds a lot of potential for newspapers, but be careful not to replicate what you did on the web. Do not try and cram everything into your existing application as it will not service any of your primary goals; building retention, generating revenue. There is so much content available within a newspaper website and each set of content can lend itself to a specific application. Each app presents a huge opportunity to become a major revenue generator for the newspaper. I am not saying here that you should not include some of your niche content in your headline app. For example you can still have a sports news  in your headline app and then different niche sports apps that present scores, statistics as well as news.

A good strategy moving forward is to watch your headline app statistics very carefully. The key here is to not include loads of functionality around your content in your headline app to the extent that it becomes bulky and impossible to navigate. If you see that people are reading your sports section, travel section, weather section or books sections  heavily, there is a good case to be made for building a niche app around that content in order to leverage the functionality of these device to build a richer user experience in a separate app. The devil is in the details and it is very important to keep your eyes on the stats to see where your mobile opportunities lay.

If you have any questions on how you can leverage your existing content to build an app please let us know.

1 Comment

Filed under mobile, newspapers, Spreed