September 14, 2009...6:50 am

Ten Reasons Why Mobile Advertising Has Not Reached Its Potential

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Reason #6   This Time it’s Personal

The big news in California this week was how State Assemblyman Mike Duvall boasted about his sexual exploits to a fellow Assemblyman while his microphone was still on.  The resulting video has become a YouTube hit and Mr. Duvall promptly resigned.  Clearly, Mr. Duvall was not expecting to broadcast his comments.  They were obviously personal, private and meant only for the ear to which they were spoken.

In fact, think about the last time you whispered in someone’s ear.  Were those comments ones that you wanted broadcast around the room?  Probably not.

Without a doubt, there is a time and a venue for comments that are meant to be broadcast to a wide audience and time and a venue for comments that are meant to be narrowcast to a smaller audience, perhaps consisting of only one person. 

Just as importantly, there are venues that are most appropriate for broadcasting, and venues that are most appropriate for narrowcasting.  Television is most appropriate for broadcasting. Someone’s ear is most appropriate for narrowcasting. 

The mobile phone is also most appropriate for narrowcasting – and not just because it spends most of its time next to someone’s ear.

More often than not, the mobile phone is perceived as a personal device and a private medium.  According to a 2007 Consumer Cell Phone Usage Poll conducted by Harris Interactive, 63% of mobile phone users agreed with the statement that “My phone is very personal to me”.  Certainly very few consumers would ever agree with that statement if it referenced their television or their radio.

Yet, marketers and advertisers continue to treat the mobile phone as a venue to broadcast advertising messages rather than a venue to narrowcast advertising messages.

But if we study the behavioral patterns and attitudes towards phone usage, impersonal broadcast messages are not what consumers want on their mobile phone.

According to a 2008 research study from International Academy of Business and Economics, a consumers’ attitude towards advertising is affected by the belief that “the mobile phone is a highly personal communication tool of the user”. That same study concluded that “mobile advertising was expected to be an important communication channel with consumers, but the study reveals that consumers hold unfavorable attitudes towards this new advertising medium.”

Why?  Perhaps, because the broadcast advertising model is not as effective in a highly personal space, like a mobile phone.

For mobile advertising to stair step to the next level of success, the mobile marketing community needs to embrace the concept of narrowcasting, and begin to utilize those emerging technologies that enable narrowcasting on the mobile phone.

In addition, the structure of the advertising or marketing message to the mobile phone user should be one that leans more on the persuasive elements prevalent in a narrowcasting appeal, rather than messaging content more appropriate for a larger audience.  

There is a significant difference between narrowcasting and broadcasting venues.  And, a significant difference in the messages that are appropriate for both.  Today, the cost to brands and mobile marketers in not recognizing that difference is merely an opportunity cost.  For Assemblyman Mike Duvall, the cost was far more tangible.

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