Dan Butcher, staff reporter at Mobile Marketer, and Rich Levin
Announcer: This Podcast originated on the Mojiva blog at blog.Mojiva.com.
Mojiva: Hey, Dan. This is Rich Levin. How are you?
Dan: Good. How are you doing?
Mojiva: Good. Thanks for agreeing to take some time to talk to us today. I really
Mojiva: Why don’t we open up by telling folks a little bit about you, your role at the
publication, what you cover, what you’re interested in, and then we’ll move into a Q&A
about the mobile marketing industry.
Dan: Sure. I’m the staff reporter at Mobile Marketer and I cover a pretty wide spectrum
within the mobile industry - everything from banking and payments to the carriers to
mobile commerce, database, CRM, some of the OEMs, a lot of mobile music, and some
software and technology with the new applications. We keep a close eye on all that. But,
as always, the focus is on mobile marketing and advertising and so basically we cover all
of those different areas with an eye to the marketers, advertisers and content providers.
Mojiva: You were at CTIA last week. Now that the smoke has cleared, what were your
take-aways? What really stuck you as the things to look more closely at as a reporter
covering the space?
Dan: Well, I thought CTIA was great in a lot of ways. I was focusing on the
presentations, the educational sessions and the panels for the most part, while some of my
colleagues were more focused on the floor. But from what I saw, it’s definitely moving
in the right direction, but I felt like mobile marketing and advertising could have been
more integrated into the show as a whole. There was a pre-conference day on Tuesday,
March 31st, before the actual conference started that was focused on mobile marketing
and advertising. That whole track that was in one room at the conference center. They
had some pretty big-name companies there, a pretty good cross-section of the industry,
and it was well attended. It’s definitely moving in the right direction. There were a lot of
good presentations and lively panels, but at the same time during the actual show itself,
there was one track of the educational session that I think was dedicated to that, which
wasn’t as well attended. And so it seems to me still kind of on the fringes a little bit in
terms of the priorities, which, overall, are more focused on the carriers, the technology
and the infrastructure on the back end. Again, I feel like it’s moving in the right direction
but still would have liked to see a little bit more integration into the overall show.
Mojiva: Does that represent an industry view as well? Was CTIA reflecting the reality
of sentiment in the industry overall or do you think they’re a little bit behind the curve?
Let me position that question a little bit. The last numbers I saw from Nielsen said there
are something like 270 million mobile customers, more than television and personal
computers combined, in terms of reaching eyeballs. And yet, if you look at the
investment - what people are spending, mobile advertising vs. banner and online ads vs.
television - those numbers are on a different curve. Based on all that, and your comments
about CTIA, I have to ask: is mobile marketing still the step-child? Has it not really
come into its own, in terms of mind share awareness? What is holding it back in terms of
recognition and respect?
Dan: Well, I think part of it is that mobile marketing is still evolving and still growing.
It’s not like every year we still hear “mobile marketing is a year away” or “mobile
advertising is a year away.” It’s here and brands are investing in it, but there is still a lot
of segmentation in the industry. If you ask what needs to happen to take mobile
advertising to the next level, you’ll get different answers, depending on which segment of
the industry you’re speaking to. For example, there’s still a disconnect between the
carriers, the mobile content providers and the advertisers to a certain extent. It’s natural
that they have a different set of priorities.
You can understand the carriers’ perspective because it’s such a competitive space right
now, and they’re worried about subscriber churn. They’re also still worried about these
privacy issues and afraid to lose customers based on allowing third parties to come in and
use their network. As a result, they’re very, very careful about how their network is used,
as they should be. But at the same time, you have providers and advertisers that are
saying we need more of your subscriber data in order to target more effectively and make
ads more relevant so they are not perceived as annoying or as spam. In addition, we need
to be able to get these short codes up and running. Right now, we’ve got less campaigns
in a timely fashion because it can take six weeks to two months to get a short code
campaign approved by one of the major carriers. From the perspective of a brand, a
content provider or a publisher, that’s too long and the carriers are saying we need to
make sure that everything is on the up-and-up.
There is a lot of consensus out there. The Mobile Marketing Association has standards,
enforced by the carriers, and so at this point it’s a matter of bringing the different parts of
the ecosystem together to really agree on a model for revenue sharing, data sharing,
consumer data, etc. It’s also a kind of evolving model about what’s the most effective
way to reach mobile consumers. A lot of advertisers are looking at Internet models and
just trying to use them on mobile, yet mobile really is a unique medium. The best tactics
to reach these consumers are still being worked out. Banner ads have their place, but if
you want to launch a more effective campaign, you have to utilize other types of
advertising and other channels as well.
Mobile is most effective when used with other channels, and banner ads are more
effective when used in conjunction with a mobile website, a WAP portal, some sort of
tie-in to an application or when driving them to a website or to the point of sale with a
mobile coupon. There’s a lot of different strategies that people are using and models still
being worked out, but at the same time, as you mentioned, mobile does have the largest
statistics in terms of the number of people who have a cell phone in their pocket at all
times. For that reason alone, despite whatever the economy is doing, the mobile industry
is poised for a continued growth.
Mojiva: That leads to my next question. Last month you wrote about Ogilvy’s advice
for marketers to ‘go mobile’ in a down economy. From your perspective, do marketers
really know what that means? You just talked about the fragmentation and lack of
integration on a lot of these campaigns, and the fact that there doesn’t seem to be an
ability for a mobile marketer to get that one-stop shop where they deal with the mobile
website, banner ads, the SMS component, and maybe even integrate a general Web
component into this campaign. Plus, when you’re dealing with SMS, you’re dealing with
specific carriers and smart phones, and possibly one or more mobile ad networks. So,
really, are we still dealing with a learning curve in terms of really what “going mobile”
even means? Are we that early in the evolution and the adoption cycle?
Dan: Well, I feel like there are a lot of good partners out there that the brands who
haven’t done as much with mobile can really lean on to get them started. A brand should
look at their goals and objectives, and then look at mobile and say, “okay, how can
mobile provide a solution for what I need? How can I integrate mobile into my existing
They shouldn’t think of mobile as reinventing the wheel and as a complex technology
that they don’t understand. There are plenty of people out there with the expertise. It’s
good to start slow and try different areas, but at the same time not think of mobile as
something that’s for an experimental budget, and just throw money at a one-off campaign
and expect to see results. It’s most effective when integrated into the overall marketing
strategy. As far as fragmentation, there are a lot of players out there and each does
something else well. There are mobile ad networks like you [Mojiva] that can offer a lot
of expertise. There are aggregators that can help to brand existing short codes so you
don’t have that long wait period. A lot of these intermediaries that can deal with the
carriers know the regulations and the standards, and so, especially when you start off, I
think it’s good to lean on a partner with some expertise. Do some research, look at some
of the company’s other partners and get case studies from publications like our own in
order to zero in on the partner that you feel has expertise in the area that’s most important
to your overall marketing strategy.
Mojiva: What about the apps revolution? What role can that/will that/should that be
playing in mobile advertising campaigns? We’ve seen the Levi’s effort on the iPhone
app store - which is just a little fun demo app in which you shake the phone and a person
wearing Levi’s jeans dances - and a couple other early efforts. I haven’t see anybody
really integrate that into a broader mobile advertising campaign where, for example, if
you’re on a smart phone, you see an advertisement that’s actually an enticement to get the
app, it takes you to the store and you download it. That’s just one, maybe bargain
basement concept that I’m throwing out there, but where do you see the role of the smart
phone app in mobile marketing and its potential for integration into broader campaigns?
Dan: Well, I feel like there’s a lot of different ways that mobile applications can be used.
Right now we are really seeing an explosion of mobile applications. Obviously with the
iPhone, the Apple app store, iTunes and all of that, Android, BlackBerry App World and
Microsoft on the verge of launching its own app store, we are really seeing an explosion
of growth and interest in this. It’s where a lot of the most talented software developers in
the world are focusing. So it’s a really interesting space and, again, there are a few
different competing models for how to monetize this. In the app store, the most common
is the 99¢ download. But then on top of that, even with some of those pay-per-download
apps, there’s some advertising support as well. There are some apps that are free,
completely ad supported. There are some applications that are integrating micro
payments, or small payments for virtual goods. Some applications use a subscription
model and, until recently, Apple did not support that model. Now, I believe, it is going to
be offering that as well. Apple does offer a subscription model. So there’s a lot of
different ways to monetize these applications, and brands are finding that they can do a
lot of different things within the app, such as an expandable banner ad where the
consumer clicks on it, it expands without actually taking you away from the app and you
have a brand new experience within it. And then another area of growth that’s really
exploding as we speak is mobile commerce apps.
Dan [ cont. ]: Everybody from Amazon and eBay to Ticketmaster have launched apps
for specific platforms, obviously, iPhone and BlackBerry being the most common, but
it’ll be interesting to see how these brands integrate into their overall strategy and if
they’re going to be promoting them. Are they going to be promoting them at the point of
sale or in venue? How are they going to cross promote between their online platform and
their mobile applications? It’s an area that’s really growing quickly and, from the
research that I’ve done, it seems like mobile has the potential to be even more secure than
online as far as mobile payments are concerned. And then when you add the coming
component of near-field communication, or contact-less payments using your mobile
phone, which is very common in Asia and other markets, I think that could kind of close
the loop between marketing on a mobile channel and then actually driving consumers to
the point of sale to make purchases with their phone. There’s a lot of interesting stuff in
the pipeline. As far as the contact-less payments, from what I hear, a commercial release
is not too far off. That could be the next big wave, as far as moving people from
applications and mobile websites to actually driving them to the point of sale to make
Mojiva: So just today Amazon, I read on your site and I think you actually wrote this
article, launched their shopping app for BlackBerry.
Mojiva: Their mobile offering, the ‘Amazon app for BlackBerry.’ And it seems to me
that it may well be a watershed event for mCommerce. Where does that put us on the
Dan: Well, Amazon is an interesting case because in some ways the growth of mobile is
really running parallel to the initial expensive growth of the Internet. And it’s kind of
interesting to look at that perspective and look at Amazon. They kind of rode that wave to
become one of the giants in the online space, obviously, and now they’re kind of
leveraging their brand and their market share and asset base, and putting it into a mobile
channel. So when you start to see your big players like that invest so heavily in mobile, it
can only raise the profile for it and make people more familiar with it, making people so
much more comfortable with it. And really, because it’s a convenience factor and I really
feel like it as a space, it’s really exploding right now and that it’s only going to get
Mojiva: How is Amazon marketing that app? Clearly through some public relations
work; you’ve covered it, its news. But how else are they getting people on the
BlackBerry platform to know that that application is out there? And I’m not talking
about industry insiders, but the average consumer. How do they find out that the app is
Dan: As far as its deal with Research in Motion, the makers of BlackBerry, a lot of times
when these companies launch apps for a specific platform, they have deals that there are
promotions “on deck.” So there could be an Amazon icon that is noted on deck so that
consumers see that whenever they use their handset. That’s usually the case with these
types of branded apps. And Amazon is also using its online platform to kind of raise the
profile and get the word out about it. Their audience is so large that they’re really using
their existing audience and really marketing to that. And then, like you said, there’s a lot
of interest in these new apps, and when a player as big as that comes out with an app, all
of the blogs and such online are going to write about it, and it just kind of spreads
virtually throughout the community of people that are interested in it.
Dan [ cont. ]: And I feel like they are going to be reaching out largely, given their online
presence, to spread the word. But then, on the other hand, the word is pretty much
spreading virally among consumers.
Mojiva: So, going back to your earlier statement about companies needing to take a look
at integrating their campaigns - right? Deal with this fragmentation and turn a potential
negative into a positive by understanding that these are all different channels and you
want to have a multi-channel mobile marketing strategy. So if I’m Amazon, from your
perspective, does it make sense or are they missing the boat by not also doing, let’s say,
and SMS campaign to promote this app and a banner ad campaign to promote this app.
Again, tell me if I’m blowing smoke here and if I’m not conceptualizing it properly, but it
seems to me if I’m Amazon and this is an interactive application for smart phones, I hit
people through their email - right? - their mobile email. I hit them through SMS if I can,
and I hit them through interactive banner ads. You know, we do the banner ad and then
we worry about sending people to the mobile website. Maybe this mCommerce model or
maybe this app model says that you do your banner ads and you bring them to the
application itself, right to the opportunity to download it. I can even see - and maybe
we’re not there yet, or tell me if we are and I’m just missing it - where in the future the
banner ads themselves are interactive and are, in effect, applications.
Dan: Yeah, I agree that it seems like that would be a really effective strategy to target
people. For example, in the case of BlackBerry apps, target consumers that you know
have BlackBerrys and retarget them with the SMS or mobile advertising. There are a lot
of different types of interactive banner ads from click-to-call, click-to-WAP site, and I
can’t think of any examples of click-to-download this application, but it seems like an
area that could be effective, given that the targeting capabilities to pinpoint BlackBerry
users is out there. It doesn’t seem like that would be such a big leap especially for a
company with the resources of an Amazon.
Mojiva: Yeah, that’s what I’m thinking, too, and taking that one step further, you made a
great point because you can know what smart phone platform they’re on, and you also
have some contact sensitivity to what they’re looking at on the page.
Mojiva: Right? So if they’re looking at, I don’t know, something about netbooks, I can
be encouraging them to shop and buy it right now.
Dan: Right. And one of the hugest factors in Amazon’s growth is their ability to pinpoint
each consumer’s tastes so exactly, so you’d think that they’d be able to leverage that as
well to create hyper-targeted mobile advertising. We’ll see if that is something that
materializes from their side. But I think in general that there are a lot of possibilities for
combining mobile advertising and mobile commerce in really effective ways, and a lot of
brands are experimenting with that, but no one has really come up with the kind of the
be-all-end-all solution as far as how to combine them. But there are a lot of interesting
ways that brands can go in that area.
Mojiva: Yeah, the iPhone could be said was a game changer, Touch was a game changer
and, of course, with the market it sort of split between those who say Touch is amazing,
the next best thing, and then there are those who are saying I can’t type emails on Touch
and give me a keyboard. So we have sort of that I’m a PC, I’m a Mac, I’m a Touch, I’m
a keyboard, kind of a schism in the industry. Any other game changers that you see on
the horizon for mobile and mobile marketing specifically?
Dan: Well, I feel like from the marketing and advertising standpoint, you don’t want to
put all of your eggs in one basket because there are going to be a lot of different form
factors, a lot of different user interfaces, and the technology is going to continue to
Basically what advertisers look for, all they care about, is where are the eyeballs? Where
are the consumers going? What are they using? What’s popular? And so as far as the
technology is concerned, it’s going to continue to evolve. People have different tastes.
Some people like touch screens, some people like the QWERTY keyboard, and so there’s
never going to be one answer in the industry. Basically that is a challenge in the mobile
industry because there’s all these different platforms that you have to keep in mind. On
the other hand, it is, as we were discussing before, easy to target specific consumers and
to know a little bit of information based on what platform they’re using as far as socio-
economic things and so I feel like, as far as a game changer, yeah, touch screens are
really hot right now, but talk to me in six months and there’s going to be another form
factor, another user interface that’s going to be really hot. I think the one thing that could
be on the horizon is a lot of speech recognition voice commands. I’ve heard of a lot of
different technology providers that are coming out with platforms along those lines, and
then integrating that type of technology into everything from cars to different things like
that. So I feel like voice is one of these areas that could be really big for as far as mobile
phone technology, and then that would also offer a whole new set of opportunities for
marketers and advertisers. It’ll be interesting to see that the take-away lesson is that
don’t put all your eggs in one basket. You kind of have to find a way to cover all of your
bases as far as the different operating systems, the different handsets, and that’s going to
continue to evolve.
Mojiva: I appreciate the time you spent with us today, Dan. Some great insights on the
industry. Any hot stories that we should be on the lookout for on your website over the
next week? Anything you can share with us without giving away the farm?
Dan: Well, the exciting thing about covering this industry is that every day there’s a
million things going on and it’s amazing the pace at which this whole industry is
growing. Every day we hear about a new company that’s launching an application or a
new brand that’s launching a mobile advertising campaign for the first time. A new
mobile commerce site. A new technology that’s about to roll out like contact-less
payments. So being a daily publication, it’s just a nonstop stream of interesting stories
coming out, and it’s a really exciting time to be covering this space because of that. And
so all I can say is stay tuned in because there’s a lot going on right now and the brand
investment in the space is continuing to grow, the technology continues to evolve, and
right now it’s just changing rapidly, but it’s also a good change. It’s growing, it’s
becoming more and more familiar to consumers, more and more accepted by consumers
as far as viewing ads in exchange for receiving free content. Mobile commerce is
drawing, and so there’s a lot happening on a lot of different fronts in the industry, so all I
can say is stay tuned because it’s pretty exciting right now.
Mojiva: We were speaking with Dan Butcher, he’s a reporter for Mobile Marketer, and
you can read his columns and his reporting at MobileMarketer.com - M-O-B-I-L-E-M-A-
R-K-E-T-E-R.com - MobileMarketer.com. Thanks so much for joining us today, Dan.
Dan: Great. Thanks a lot, Rich.