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High-tech future of marketing

Mobile is an incredible disruptor. So says Matt Brocklehurst of Google’s product marketing and mobile advertising. “It’s a super computer in your pocket, with more processing power than the computers we used to land Apollo 11 on the moon. It opens up incredible opportunities,” he says.

What’s more, Mr Brocklehurst says, the combination of that power and the sheer number of people with access to it has massive implications for businesses and the way they approach marketing.

Some 72 per cent of all adults in the UK have a smartphone, according to Google. Among people aged 25 to 34, the figure is 91 per cent “and they’re going online every day”, he says. Worldwide, there are an estimated three billion people with internet access, but the proliferation of mobile devices in Asia, Africa and Latin America means that number could more than double by 2020.

However, according to many in the industry, the potential of mobile is only just starting to be realised. Chris Babayode, managing director of the Mobile Marketing Association in Europe, the Middle East and Africa, says: “We believe that the sooner and more effectively people embrace mobile marketing, the better it’s going to be for their business. Because it covers everything from customer service to customer engagement, customer dialogue, advertising and communication, as well as issues around privacy.”


One of the key and ongoing developments in the industry is the evolution of programmatic buying, the process by which the purchase of advertising inventory is automated, thanks to increasingly sophisticated software.

“We’re heading towards a revolution in advertising and it’s programmatic,” says Harvey Sarjant, director of data, product and mobile development at RadiumOne, who likens the change to the automation of financial trading in the mid-1980s. “People are sharing their likes, preferences and opinions more than ever before. Reams of data are being produced across the entire web every single second, which is why information and advertising has to be automated.

Smartphone ad stats

“An ad server can simultaneously receive a vast number of data points and draw insight from user behaviours on digital platforms at a massive scale – something human analysts could never do. The software can automatically make decisions based on defined rules and execute [a purchase] in milliseconds.”

This gives marketers more control over the buying of advertising, according to Mr Sarjant. But he does sound one note of caution: “Buying decisions are still reliant upon the quality of data and insights that are available. Therefore, poor data and insights can result in poor buying decisions that are executed with speed and precision. The results are quick, but bad.”


Indeed, across mobile marketing, the old-fashioned virtues of strategy, creativity and good decision-making remain critical, whatever technological innovations are available. “It’s not about taking a desktop or print ad and just shrinking it to fit the screen,” says Simon Birkenhead, chief executive of real-time mobile ad exchange Axonix.

He stresses the importance of taking into account the mindset of the person viewing an advert and says people will broadly be in one of two modes – either looking for information or wanting to be entertained. In the latter case, perhaps while using an app, a consumer is more likely to be receptive to an advert, particularly if it is interactive.

The sooner and more effectively people embrace mobile marketing, the better it’s going to be for their business

Dibbz, an advertising platform that allows brands to offer vouchers and other rewards to app users who reach certain milestones, within a game, for example, claims to have achieved an engagement rate of 30 per cent, some 75 times higher than the 0.4 per cent rate of engagement that is expected of a standard banner ad.

Video, too, allows marketers to take advantage of the capabilities of modern smartphones and their networks. But Google’s Mr Brocklehurst warns that mobile video should be treated very differently from TV advertising. YouTube’s TrueView platform allows users to skip an advert after five seconds. If they decide to do so, no dent is made in the marketer’s budget, but their message isn’t seen or heard.

“It’s good for the user,” says Mr Brocklehurst, “but it’s also good for the advertiser because they don’t have to pay for a disengaged user. And it’s a good incentive for advertisers to come up with ads that are entertaining and engaging.” He mentions the example of a Turkish Airlines campaign that included top footballer Lionel Messi and basketball star Kobe Bryant, and says that it was crucial to make sure the audience knew they were in the ad straightaway. “Whatever compelling element there is, get it up in the first five seconds,” he says.

Developing and launching apps can be an effective way to keep an audience engaged and loyal, but only if it’s done well. Mr Brocklehurst warns that the costs incurred can be prohibitive and money might be better spent on ensuring a website is fully optimised for use on a mobile device, especially since a site’s speed, when used on such a device, has a bearing on its ranking within Google search results.

Since using apps doesn’t generate cookies, as conventional browsing on a desktop does, targeting specific segments of users can be more difficult. But innovations such as iBeacon, which harnesses information about a user’s location that can be used to tempt them with special offers or provide information about likely buying intentions, are increasingly being used in retail.

“From a consumer point of view, this can seem intrusive. But if people want special offers, then retailers need to know what they want to buy. There’s a value exchange there and for it to work, both parties need to get something worthwhile,” Google’s Mr Brocklehurst concludes.

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