Hey, Marketers … What’s So Bad About Mobile?

The “year of mobile” has been long-predicted and hotly debated by industry insiders, but in 2009 mobile marketing in entertainment is still pale blue rather than red hot. Forrester’s latest interactive forecast describes mobile as “one of the most anticipated, least adopted interactive channels in the mix.” And although entertainment marketers are active in mobile […]

The “year of mobile” has been long-predicted and hotly debated by industry insiders, but in 2009 mobile marketing in entertainment is still pale blue rather than red hot.

Forrester’s latest interactive forecast describes mobile as “one of the most anticipated, least adopted interactive channels in the mix.” And although entertainment marketers are active in mobile marketing, they are not the biggest spenders.

eMarketer estimates that movie studios will shell out more than $16 billion on advertising in 2009, climbing to $18.6 billion in 2013. An increasing share of this spend is heading to the digital sector — $1.2 billion in 2009, and an estimated $2.7 billion in 2013.

But mobile advertising budgets represent a tiny segment of that amount — roughly 10 percent — and an even smaller piece of the overall marketing budget — about 1 percent.

So why isn’t entertainment a more prominent player in the mobile arena?

TV is still king. Mobile is an afterthought. Some studio honchos dolling out dollars to interactive departments are not themselves early adopters to technology. So the mentality is: “If I’m not using this, then how viable is it?” Many have spent their entire careers budgeting buying for broadcast TV, believing it to be the most effective way to get butts in seats, sell DVDs and drive tune-ins. Think about how difficult it must be for them to change their tactics this late in the game — especially when what they love to buy is on sale.

Much like online, mobile buys are still primarily used in promotions. But if mobile marketing continues to be an afterthought, budgets will remain small. And let’s face it, the entertainment industry is still playing catch-up in the digital space, never mind mobile.

Fearing the leap from traditional to digital. From a traditional marketing perspective, some studio executives believe mobile is an unproven medium. Marketers are hesitant to put time, money and resources into something that may not pay off. But mobile reporting is improving and, nearly everything that can be tracked in an online banner can now be tracked in a mobile ad unit. More case studies, research and benchmarks are available to tout results and prove effectiveness.

An example of great mobile integration by a studio is the Paramount Pictures/Millennial Media execution of the “Eagle Eye Mobile Challenge” supporting the release of “Eagle Eye.” The campaign integrated mobile web, voice response, text messaging and viral activation, to give users an authentic experience reflective of the film’s plot. Results exceeded expectations with an exceptionally high conversion rate.   

No uniform operating systems and device specifications. Numerous operating systems and device specifications in the U.S. have made it difficult for third-party ad servers to integrate across a large number of publishers. Just as online ads need to be tested across various browsers, specifications vary across mobile devices. Phones have different display sizes and proprietary browsers that render differently. (The same website viewed through the BlackBerry browser can appear very different on an iPhone using Safari.) There are also differences between cellular network speeds and traditional network speeds; i.e., the 3G network is not as fast as a standard broadband connection.

To reduce that pain point, mobile ad networks and ad servers such as Millennial Media, Quattro, and AdMob allow advertisers to place bigger buys with larger reach and provide integrated reporting and creative services. The emergence of the iPhone has also enabled more than a simple text-based browsing experience.

iPhones allow for greater creative executions with expandable rich media units featuring pristine video such as the ones Focus Features ran for “Burn After Reading”.  

Perception of high CPM’s. Mobile ad CPMs (cost-per-thousand) have the reputation of being pricey, in the $15-$25 range, which makes the cost-per-pixel skyrocket in a mobile marketing plan. Combine high CPMs with skepticism and you’ve got a big red flag on a plan. But the cost of mobile advertising is correcting itself along with the market, and CPM prices are coming down to a more reasonable $5-$15. This lower rate will help motivate marketers and spur future campaigns.

No one to do the work. Studio and network interactive marketing departments, and ad agencies that support their business, are short-staffed. The folks at the top didn’t rise with interactive, and suffer from a lack of understanding of both the workflow process and what is required to make online and mobile campaigns fly.

Changing copy involves redoing numerous versions of ad units which then need to be re-trafficked. All of these efforts increase the chance for error. When audio and video are placed into the mix, the effort/error ratio increases exponentially, causing additional delays.

No phone in the movie? No plan for you! Sometimes if there is no direct product tie-in to technology, marketers don’t see a connection. Matt Shaw, director of west coast sales for AdMob, views the studios as being forward thinking and doing exciting things with mobile such as Universal Pictures’ “Fast & Furious” iPhone site — but he scratches his head when folks tell him, “Oh that’s not a mobile movie.”

 

With some 60 million unique users in the U.S., mobile is here to stay and the marketing platform those users offer will continue to grow. The question is, When will that day hit Hollywood?

Perhaps mobile marketing during the summer of 2012 will finally make it a red hot one in Tinseltown.