Curated by: Luigi Canali De Rossi

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Mobile Phones As Mass Media: Advertising Models And The Creative Challenge - Part 3

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Mobile phones are likely to become soon the most important mass medium ever existed. They integrate all the media that humanity has known up to now and they are characterized by one important element: they allow users to be producers and not just viewers.

Photo credit: solarseven

Mobile phones, just like any other media, also appeal advertisers, and their use in order to promote products and services is far from being unnoticed. In Japan, for example, there is already a flourishing mobile advertising market which generates significative revenue streams every year.

But how can this new mobile-based advertising model conquer the world? Is there anything that will facilitate the spreading of a phenomenon which is likely to provoke a radical change in the digital lifestyle of millions of mobile users?

In the third part of the report originally published by Alan Moore, CEO of SMLXL, you will be able to read about the evolution of mobile phones as mass media, the advertising models that are currently being generated around them and their future.

Today, Gutenberg would be a mo-blogger: Mobile, 7th of the Mass Media - Part 3

by Alan Moore

Mobile as advertising platform


Will mobile be an advertising platform? Of course it will, it already is. In Japan 54% of all mobile phone owners have opted to receive ads on their phones, and the Japanese mobile advertising industry has been so creative that today 44% of Japanese mobile phone owners actively click on ads they have received on their phones. In various countries from India to Spain to South Africa to Finland mobile marketing and mobile advertising innovations are becoming elements of the advertising mix.

Will mobile be part of redefining what advertising is? The answer to that is absolutely. The rules have changed.

Before you say "but I would not want intrusive ads on my phone" consider this finding from a survey of 1500 under 20 year olds in the UK by Q Research in 2007. If asked simply would they be willing to receive ads on the phone, 68% said no. But if the question is changed to offer "targeted ads" it jumps to 71% willing to accept! If the proposition involves coupons and discounts, 76% say yes. And if given the chance to top-up their phone accounts through mobile ads or mobile marketing, 82% of British youth are willing to accept mobile ads.

Even if some older, well-paid, professional white-collar adults feel they would "never" want ads on the phone, a very significant portion of the population is already willing to do so. And here the economics of mobile come into play. If only one in three mobile phone users were in this group, that is more than all personal computers connected to the internet in the world.

But it cannot be spam or interruptive advertising. Because mobile is so personal, always carried, and always on, our point is that any mobile marketing communication has to be permission-based, timely, relevant and contextual.

Mobile as an advertising platform

Over the last 14 months Admob has sold over 3 billion ads for mobile phones. TomiAhonen Consulting has estimated that in Britain alone, Admob UK has already cannibalised 9.5% of all British interactive advertising. In fact Admobile is making so much money, revenue generation is not the problem, it's what to do with the cash that gives the Admob guys a headache. Advertising will always go where the audience is. If the audience is leaving television in droves, advertising dollars will eventually follow.

Whilst in the UK ITV the commercial terrestrial broadcaster, who once claimed they had a license to print money lost over £50m in advertising revenue in 2006. And so its no wonder that Nokia who has something approaching 1 billion phones in the world, has launched an Adservices offering. This clearly is a sign that Nokia realizes that

1 billion phones is a very serious piece of Media Real Estate, and one that they can capitalise on. And the final part of this story is the launch of the revolutionary mobile phone service Blyk, which offers free telecoms services to its customers funded by advertising. Blyk, expected to launch in 2007 in the UK, is the start of a journey which will redefine what advertising is and, what marketing is, in the early 21st Century, because on the mobile platform advertising can be turned into valuable services, information and products.

Word of Mouth & Advocacy

As the media platform which is most carried and always on, mobile is by far the most potent viral marketing platform. Why is this important? Jupiter Media in 2006 reported that 64% of the population will try something that is recommended by a friend. And the same survey found that 69% of the population will forward something they like. Not only to one person, if they forward, it is typically to between 2 - 6 friends.

Thus any media content for mobile should include forwarding options, whether passing on the actual content or a web link, coupon, etc. In fact the CEO of Fjord, Mike Beeston has advocated a "minimum requirement" for any mobile content including mobile advertising, that it should be "sufficiently contagious."

Sufficiently contagious does not mean "totally contagious." We don't suggest a service has to be that fantastic that the recipient will spam all 200 names on the phone book with it. Sufficiently contagious means that for the intended target audience (niche mass marketing), the recipient feels compelled to forward it to at least one other person.

That means it is sufficiently contagious. That means also, that both the service did have a forwarding option (cannot be contagious if you cannot forward it) and it must have been "good enough" to the initial recipient, so that he/she would want to forward it. That means that any mobile marketing that we receive, should be that good, that we want to receive it. We liked it so much, that we felt compelled to forward it to friend. That is the standard we at SMLXL also advocate. Any content for the 7th Mass Media needs to be sufficiently contagious, else it is not worth launching.

The iPhone Era: Bi and Ai

A TV executive once said that Mobile TV was a bit like sex in the open air. It always seems like a good idea, but its not always practical. This was said in a world before the iPhone otherwise known as "Bi," but we now are entering a new Era called "Ai," after iPhone. The iPhone is not technically a breakthrough device, faster cellular networking technologies already exist, as do larger mobile phone screens, better resolution cameras etc. What the iPhone seems to be, at least judging by the interest around its launch, is a plausible pocket media device.

We've had pocket TV since the 1980s and clumsy heavy pocket internet devices since the 1990's, but suddenly the sleek, elegant, sexy iPhone suggests that the "pocket internet" is totally viable today. Not only the internet, but music, movies and videos as well. We expect because of the heavy hype around the iPhone in North America, the home of most media giants, major media moguls will wake up to the possibilities of mobile in June 2007.

The Creative Challenge


Bill Bailey is a comedian, and he was once asked how he comes up with his jokes. Bill replies:

"I start with a laugh and work backwards. What do I need to do to create that amount of merriment and laughter?"

So creativity is what we need, putting the user experience before the technology, something that technologists struggle with and that is why the iPhone is creating so much interest. We can of course try to copy TV programs or web pages or other traditional media formats onto mobile and yes, some of them will probably succeed simply because there are three times as many mobile phones as PC's and twice as many phones as TV sets.

But this is severely under-utilising the true power of the 7th Mass Media channel. SMLXL hopes to ignite the creative industry minds to think beyond the obvious. This White Paper has examined the introduction of the earlier six mass media explicitly for that purpose, to illustrate that new, innovative and inventive media format concepts were invented when new mass media channels appeared.

Reach past the existing, into what now becomes possible with this, the newest mass media. And in so doing, create media services, content and formats for mobile that are truly magical. Like the first time at the start of the last century, when our great-great-grandparents went to their first movie and saw the story of Lawrence of Arabia in moving pictures in front of their eyes.

Or how magical it was when live baseball games were broadcast for the first time from another city on radio. Or when Neil Armstrong stepped onto the moon, shown on live TV. Or the first time in a fax and letters age, when you sent one of your first e-mails, and the other person sent an immediate response? That seemed like magic. Or the first use of a search engine, which gave your hundreds of pages of content you never knew they even existed.

Today they seem ordinary, commonplace. But the first time those were truly magical experiences. That is what mobile as the 7th mass media can bring to us. That is what we should strive to invent. And to show what is already out there, we will showcase a few concepts of magic, on the 7th mass media.

Its right on the tip of my tongue: Shazam

You're sitting in the bar with some friends arguing about who is that band playing that great track, no-one knows, its on the tip of everybody's tongue, its driving everybody round the bend and up the wall. Someone pulls out their mobile phone and dials Shazam, holding the phone up to the music, in 20 seconds the service identifies the song and artist, and sends info as SMS to phone. Relief. It's such a simple service, but it answers a human need, at the point of inspiration. Launched in the UK Shazam already is used in 20 countries and has had more than a million songs "tagged" in Britain alone.

Can you read English?

Can't speak a word of English? No problem, because now there is the Camera Dictionary. In Japan the service has launched offering any Japanese the chance to read any printed English text, simply by pointing the cameraphone over the text, and having the Camera Dictionary service perform the translation. Moments later, the same page is displayed in Japanese. The cameraphone scans English text, then transmits it via the network to a dictionary database which then sends the Japanese text back to the phone display, in real-time.

2D Barcodes

Why type? Typing is so last year. Yes, most print ads display the type of web addresses for more information. But that is an interactive metaphor for the last decade. Rather than printing the long web address, we can print a small fuzzy square called a 2D Barcode or QR Code (Quick Response Code) What looks like a square thumb print.

Suddenly we don't need to do any typing whatsoever. We don't even need to wait to be at our PC. We point our cameraphones to the 2D barcode and suddenly, magically, the intended website is displayed on our screen. The immense satisfaction of seeing words appear on screen automatically, without any typing has proven to be highly successful in Japan. In 18 months, NTT DoCoMo reported that 56% of their subscribers already used the feature.

The applications are wide and far-reaching. Anywhere you might find a web address today, you can use a 2D barcode, for example; magazine advertising, billboards, business cards, etc. Semapedia connects Wikipedia knowledge with relevant places in physical space, Kerrang the guitar rock music magazine has used 2D Barcodes and even wine lovers can get valuable information by shooting the 2D barcode on the side of a bottle.

Knowing me, knowing you

There is no doubt that there is a symbiotic relationship between mobile, and the fixed internet. Like radio drove music sales, so the mobile and internet and then the mobile internet will drive sales in a far more effective and targeted fashion. We can see a world where consumption can be driven via the internet but payment is made to get the content onto your phone as pioneered by online social networking service Habbo Hotel used by 8 million teenagers worldwide on the PC based internet, which makes most of its revenues from mobile payments.

As we outlined in the earlier part of this paper, human beings are a "We" species, programmed to collaborate, network and socialise. So the simple challenge for those that what to succeed in a world of Mobile as the 7th Mass Media, is create something that inspires me, that engages me, that enables me and that I want to share with my friends.

And undoubtedly this is driven by the passion, of mass niche communities of interest. Passions around a whole cornucopia of interests, from bird watching to well, you name it frankly.

Lessons we learned


In this White Paper we have examined lessons from the introduction of each of the earlier six mass media. Some of those lessons have great bearing to mobile as the seventh of the mass media. We briefly return to those lessons here and highlight selected lessons.

From Print we learn that a new media will introduce new industry, new professions, and new business models. Just like the radio DJ's or TV talk show hosts or web bloggers are the talent in their respective media, mobile will spawn its own content formats and a demand for totally new types of media professionals.

Perhaps some of the user-generated content such as cameraphone paparazzi and citizen journalism is starting to show the way. We also learned from Print and advertising that some content forms evolved to be supported, even fully sustained by advertising, like free newspapers, while other print formats have limited advertising, such as books. The same is likely to happen with mobile, that both advertising-supported and not advertising supported formats will co-exist.

From Recordings we learned about cannibalisation. It is possible that a new media like mobile can cannibalise totally a previous media format, but not all of a media channel. What is a more important lesson from recordings is that totally new content formats can be invented with any new mass media.

From Cinema we learn that moving images are more compelling than written words or sounds. Think of that when you consider the older current phones as voice devices (voice calls) and using SMS text messaging. Do not for one moment be seduced by the thought that video and multimedia won't play on mobile.

Of course they will. Cinema (and TV) proved how compelling moving images can be, and even on mobile, soon will be. A very important lesson from Cinema is that if we can launch a media concept which does not require an audience to go buy a separate media player, it can be adopted very rapidly.

As all mobile phones can accept very basic media content via SMS text messaging, and over 2.5 billion people today can receive basic web content in the form of WAP pages, we have a very large installed base of prospective customers who can consume media content on a phone.

We don't need to wait for a "chicken-and-egg" situation for basic content services for mobile. From Radio we learn that even a very compelling free service will not kill previous paid mass media like radio did not kill of music recordings. Rather older mass media will adjust to the newer one. And it is possible to form symbiotic relationships between two media channels like radio did with recordings, and mobile is now starting to do with the internet as we saw with Habbo Hotel and with TV as we saw with Pop Idol.

From TV we have a very powerful lesson that a media can gain a dominant position without a unique technical benefit. Bear this lesson in mind, when you notice that mobile has six unique benefits. From the internet we learn that if a mass media is an inherent threat media, threatening to cannibalise all legacy media, it also will rapidly alter each of the legacy media.

Bearing in mind that mobile is also an inherent threat media, able to cannibalise all six before it, once suitable media formats are launched, expect mobile to cannibalise previous media at least as fast as the internet has been doing. Form the internet we also learn that interactivity creates digital community and moves media from push to pull and a hot media ecology is inherently preferred over the permafrost of a cold media world.

Mobile is the second hot media and community services and social networking will thrive on mobile.

Mobile as the newest mass media channel is least understood. Even the internet is often misunderstood. What we hope this White Paper helps in doing is to assist readers to see beyond limitations of a tiny screen and a clumsy keypad. The above lessons can guide into opportunities.

But the big picture should not be forgotten. Mobile today has twice the reach of TV, three times the reach of the internet, and is the only media carried upon our person every hour of the day both when we are awake, and even in arm's reach when we are asleep. The only mass media channel with a payment channel, it also is the only mass media where audiences are accurately identified.

This is easily the richest mass media opportunity.


If Gutenberg were alive today, he would be taking pictures and shooting videos with his mobile, he would be blogging via his mobile and vlogging via his mobile, paying for his car parking spaces via his mobile, getting his library books renewed via SMS and dating on Flirtomatic.

We wonder if our universe might be saddle shaped? We no longer live in a linear world. And traditional media is struggling to deal with that. And what we are witnessing is a profound change in the communication and media consumption habits of younger people. We see a divide between Digital Immigrants and Digital Natives. Our kids are the digital natives.

We the adults, we are merely digital immigrants. We may learn to play the game well, but we will never be masters of it. That's only for your kids. In this paper we hope we have taken you on a journey to understand how profoundly different our world is from a media perspective. The mobile as you can see is part of a narrative that dates back to Gutenberg.

It is the 7th Mass Media.

This white paper has been originally published with the title "Mobile as the 7th Mass Media: An Evolving Story" by Alan Moore of SMLXL on June 2007. It is available for download on the same site.

Read part 1: Mobile Phones As Mass Media: The Upcoming Technological Revolution - Part 1

Read part 2: Mobile Phones As Mass Media: Models For Content Distribution - Part 2

About the author


Alan Moore is the originator of the term, philosophy and principles of Engagement Marketing. He started working on the concept in the late 1990's, which, culminated in his founding the first specialist Community Engagement Marketing company in 2001, SMLXL (Small Medium Large XtraLarge), and, the writing of the seminal book Communities Dominate Brands. SMLXL is a new type of marketing company that helps businesses and customers (to) better engage with one another. He lectures at Oxford University's short course on Mobile Social Networking.

Photo credits

Mobile with video ad Andres Rodriguez
Cameraphone: Tomasz Trojanowski
BlackboardAndres Rodriguez

Alan Moore -
Reference: SMLXL [ Read more ]
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posted by on Thursday, July 19 2007, updated on Tuesday, May 5 2015

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