Archive for January, 2008

mobilestance.com mobile pizza wars graphicWith most of the big Pizza chains in US ramping up their mobile activities (including recent announcements by Domino’s, Pizza Hut and Papa John’s), a “wrap up” of sorts is clearly due – if only to try to sort out the litany of mobile offers, options and promotional tactics currently employed by the “big 3.”

“Mobile Ordering” options have dominated the field, either by SMS or via the mobile web. Unfortunately, both require the user to first register online before placing orders on their mobile devices – ultimately limiting the appeal of these services to the early adopter and extreme pizza loving niches.

It is not entirely clear why all three have chosen to handicap their mobile ordering services so severely, but no doubt security and (to a lesser extent) UI challenges remain at the core of their reasoning.

The pizza chains’ other mobile services, including SMS discount offers, SMS and WAP store locaters, and message-based sweepstakes programs all seem effective uses of the mobile channel, in that they seem to be adding real value to existing (non-mobile) ordering options.

A wrap-up of the “Big Three’s” current mobile initiatives is as follows:

  • Papa John’s. While Papa John’s has allowed ordering via SMS since November of last year, they have also begun to utilize SMS for promotional purposes as well. Their SMS ordering process is fairly intuitive: After first setting-up and configuring an online account, consumers can order any one of their preset “Favorites” by texting a “FAV” (ex “FAV1”, “FAV2”, etc) to 4PAPA (47272) and confirming their purchase by replying “Y” to the auto response msg. A Papa John’s store locater and an opt-in for discount offers are also available via SMS.

    Recently the chain also launched a mobile-centric promotion timed to coincide with 2008 NFL playoffs. The promotion, “TEXTra Points 4 Pizza“, ties mobile pizza discounts to the total scores of NFL playoff games (as well as the Superbowl itself), and works as follows: Fans first either text the keyword “POINTS” to 47272 (4PAPA) or register online. Then, during the wild card and divisional rounds, if the score of any playoff game totals 25 points or more, registered fans will receive a text message from Papa John’s with a promo code worth 25% off a medium pie. For conference championship day (Sunday, January 20) if either game’s score reaches a cumulative 50 points all registered fans will receive 50% discount… and if the cumulative score is 75 points or more on Superbowl Sunday, registered fans will receive a 75% discount via text message. All discount offers are redeemed online via coupon code entry.

  • Domino’s Pizza. Domino’s rolled out their “Order by SMS” in the UK August of 2007, and added mobile web ordering options in the US in October of that same year. Domino’s decided to set up a separate, consumer-facing URL for their mobile site (mobile.dominos.com), rather than simply redirecting mobile users from the main site. That said, most mobile devices are redirected from the main website (dominos.com) to the Domino’s WAP site anyway, although the iPhone does not (which is a good thing, as the iPhone renders the mobile site into an illegibly small half inch square in the upper left hand corner of the screen.). Unfortunately when tested the mobile site was plagued with errors, continually crashing upon login or when attempting to place an order. The mobile site also incorporates a store locater.
  • Pizza Hut. Launched on Monday of last week, Pizza Hut’s “Total Mobile Access” offers both SMS and WAP ordering options (both in the US). SMS ordering is fairly straightforward: consumers “text ‘O’ followed by a space and the name of your Playlist choice (ex: O FAV).” A consumer’s “Pizza Playlist Choices” can only be set by setting up an account on the PC version of pizzahut.com.

    For their mobile website, Pizza Hut chose to go with a unified URL approach, where all users – regardless of platform – navigate to the same URL (pizzahut.com), with mobile users then being automatically redirected to the mobile version of the site. Overall, the mobile site rendered “well enough” in our testing on several handsets, although we would have liked to see an option to manually override the redirect and to go to the main (non-mobile) site – as the mobile version is not fully-functional (account settings, such as the delivery addresses and “Pizza Playlists” can only be edited on the “PC” version of the website). Even iPhone users, with their vaunted “desktop-grade” Safari browser, are redirected to the mobile version on the Pizza Hut site. Ultimately the decision to restrict mobile access to the main site was likely due to the latter’s reliance on flash elements and java scripting, the both of which cannot render and/or often crash most mobile browsers (including the Blackberry’s HTML browser… and yes, the iPhone).

Analysis: To use a well-worn phrase, nearly all of these offerings are far more evolutionary than revolutionary. While commendable in their attempts to tap into the “hot” new channel that is mobile, all of these programs remain tethered to the traditional (wireline) web. That said, most if not all represent a sold understanding of the benefits and limitations of US mobile marketing at its current stage of maturity, and show a refreshing move away from the “risk averse” stance of most brands – even those professing to be edgy and cool.

Of course, the 600 lb gorilla in the room is that it remains to be seen if consumers will find any of the above offerings “better” than the current mobile ordering process: Voice Dialing.

twimm-sm-copy.jpgLast week was punctuated by a steady stream of mobile marketing-related announcements, studies, partnerships and launches – some interesting, some not so much… and none of which truly worthy of a dedicated post.

Nevertheless, taken in aggregate these moves represent an ever-advancing industry, charging forward on the backs of the innovators, the followers, and the “never say hype” over-enthusiastic forecasters.

We give you then, the first of mobilestance.com’s “This Week in Mobile Marketing”

TWIMM: We read the domestic Mobile Marketing trades, studies, announcements and insane market forecasts… so you don’t have to!

  • Mobile Search. Nielsen Mobile (formerly Telephia) announced that “46 Million [US] Mobile Data Users Used Mobile Search Functions in Q3 2007.” But before you get all excited, keep in mind that “The most popular form of mobile search among data users in Q3 2007 was 411 (18.1 million users), followed closely by SMS (text-message) -based searching, which was used by 14.1 million data users during the same period.” Yep… the “big news” is that folks are mostly using mobile search to look up local phone numbers – not exactly a headline generating statistic. Still, “while local listings were the leading search objective in terms of users, (27.1 million data users searched for local listings in Q3 2007), 14.8 million said they searched for information such as sports scores, news or weather, while nearly a quarter (11.3 million) said they searched for mobile content.” Good news for SMS Ad Networks such as 4INFO . Notably absent from the announcement was any mention of WAP-based search offerings such as those by Google, Yahoo, Jumptap and the like – other than a brief mention that “61% of 411 search users are female, while 60% of WAP (or mobile web) search users are male.”
  • Meanwhile in related news, Nokia’s head of search Jussi Pekka Partanen simultaneously hyped local search while taking shots at Google, as reported moconews.net. At the the Visiongain mobile search conference in London last week the handset giant contended that mobile search will be more context-focused than the existing page rank-driven engines currently dominating the desktop search market. Nokia’s current “Nokia Search” product seems more evolutionary than revolutionary, combining web search with local (meaning: on the device) content search.
  • The Mobile Web. 40% of web publishers have launched mobile sites, with another 25% planing to do so in the next year, this according to Jupiter Research in a report entitled “Mobile web sites: Designing for mobility.” The number is somewhat misleading, insomuch as “this number… likely reflects mobile versions that consist of frames and offer a kludgy user interface,” or so says Mediapost. The report states that only 3% of the above mobile sites are “mobile advertising enabled” – in that they have the ability to optimize ad delivery based on whether the user is viewing the page via a mobile device (versus a PC). Mediapost also notes that up to 1/3 of these pages enable mobile commerce of some sort, such as “instant transactions and the ability to drive shoppers into nearby stores” – a fairly vague definition of mobile commerce to be sure.
  • Notable Mobile Website launches included a dedicated mobile version of FIM’s Photobucket (m.photobucket.com), Discovery Mobile’s new mobile portal (discoverymobile.com, which houses the all of Discovery Communications’ mobile sites, such as Discovery Channel Mobile, Animal Planet Mobile, and TLC Mobile), and USA.gov Mobile (http://mobile.usa.gov – which seems to be a fairly straightforward RSS fed Gov’t info formatted for mobile).
  • Mobile Content. The NBA announced that they are partnering with Turner to handle all of its mobile-related content offerings, this according to Fierce Mobile Content. Fierce reported that “the cable network will assume operational control of the league’s digital efforts, including its mobile and broadband businesses. The partnership, effective for the 2008-09 NBA season and continuing through the 2015-16 campaign, also calls for TBS to take over programming, marketing and technical operations of NBA TV, the league’s 24-hour digital television network, and host and operate the NBA.com Network, which includes the NBA.com, WNBA.com and NBADLeague.com websites. In addition, TBS will operate NBA League Pass, the league’s out-of-market game package. TBS, Inc. and the NBA will jointly sell advertising for all of the league’s digital assets.”
  • QR Codes. In a rare break from our “US Bias,” mobilestance.com continues to cover The Sun’s “Babe-Infused” QR Code efforts (UK). This week the Sun announced the results of its experiment with the promising mobile marketing technology. According to the Sun, the “new mobile content service has achieved early success with around 11,000 users registered so far.” Buoyed by these numbers, the tabloid plans on publishing “another pull-out (supplement in The Sun) to further inform people on how to use QR codes.”
  • Research-Driven Market Hype. The results of two “hypefull” Mobile Marketing studies were announced last week. The first was on Monday from ABI Research, who announced that “mobile marketing is expected to grow to over $24 billion worldwide in 2013, jumping from just $1.8 billion in 2007,” this according to the research firm’s study/product entitled “Mobile Marketing and Advertising” (retail price: $4500). The second came from Advertiser Perceptions, who reported on Wednesday that “26% [of advertisers] said they were currently using mobile, 20% said they planned to use it in the next six months, and 54% said they are not currently using mobile,” as reported by Ad Age. These numbers were based on surveys of “2,000 brand marketers and agencies” as part of their “Wave Eight” study that seems to cover both “hot” hand held media channels, such mobile video and search -as well as “not so hot” channels such as podcasting.
  • Miscellaneous News. The FCC launched a probe to “determine whether mobile phone text messages and short codes are covered by non-discrimination provisions of the telecom act,” this according to RCR Wireless News. The FCC move comes in wake of Verizon’s recent high-profile decision to block text messages from NARAL Pro-Choice America – a decision it quickly reversed under pressure from from a successful grass-roots campaign the organization launched against the carrier. Finally, Steve Jobs announced an underwhelming firmware update to the iPhone at last week’s Macworld 2008. Among the updates included features that now allowing users to send group SMS messages (something I can do on my two year old RAZR) and the non-GPS-based “Blue Location BEacon” feature in Google Maps (something I’ve been able to do on my Blackberry since Google launched the service late last year). Baby steps, to be sure. Forget a 3G version… I’m still waiting for such standard “features” as Cut and Paste!

espn mobile nfl homeIn a stunning announcement that is sure to raise more than a few eyebrows, ESPN reported that for three days during the 2007/8 NFL season traffic to its mobile portal exceeded that of its (PC-based) web counterpart, this according to AdAge.

ESPN is reporting that for one 24-hour period, traffic to its wireless NFL section exceeded visits to the PC NFL section, 4.9 million to 4.5 million visits. The network states that multitasking, fantasy-driven viewers frequently visit both sites on game days, and no doubt mobile’s rise to prominence is a boon for out-of-home fantasy-leaguers nationwide.

M:Metrics claims ESPN’s reach for its mobile properties is roughly 9MM, about 28% of the total US mobile web universe. Additionally, M:Metrics reports that 43.8% of those browsing sports content on their mobile devices visit ESPN, while Fox Sports draws 19.2%, followed by the NFL’s mobile website with 18.6% and CBS Sportsline at 11.4%.

Analysis: This type of headline really raises the profile of the mobile channel (with specific emphasis on mobile advertising on the mobile web) to all those media planners and buyers out there… A great day for us all!

31849319-2-300-overview-11.gif Today at CES Yahoo! is planning on announcing that they are opening up their “Yahoo! Go” mobile application to third party developers, this according to the New York Times. The Times is reporting that MTV, eBay and MySpace have already created Yahoo! Go widgets that consumers can download either online or directly via the mobile application. Yahoo! Go has been ported to roughly 250 mobile devices, and comes preloaded on some phones made by Motorola, LG, Samsung and Nokia outside the US (domestic carriers force users to manually download and install the application prior to use, although this might change once device manufacturers start selling handsets directly to consumers).

Analysis: Yahoo!’s work on developing Go to a more mature platform is commendable. While the move does serve to further fragment the development environment for mobile (What, another new platform to write for? Better hire another developer!), the platform’s large (for mobile) install base of 250MM users worldwide will be attractive to major publishers and content brands (although some estimates confirm less than half of this base are actively using the application).

A no-brainer for Yahoo!, the move costs them little in oversight, while serving as a short-term defensive move against Google’s open Android platform. Ultimately the long term success of the play will hinge on the ease of developing third party widgets for Yahoo! Go, as well as any advantages that the development environment might afford (access to the address book? GPS data feed?). More on this as it develops.

millennial media upsnap logoUpSNAP, a provider of SMS / VoIP-based mobile search and streaming mobile audio products, has announced a deal with mobile advertising firm Millennial Media. Under the terms of the deal Millennial Media (along with nine other partners) will have access to UpSNAP’s mobile search and streaming audio inventory for resale to advertisers and/or their media buying agencies.

The back half of 2007 was a busy one for UpSNAP, merging with animated greeting card provider Mobile Greetings in September and announcing a partnership with mobile search pioneer Go2 in November. With all this activity it’s difficult to get a sense of where UpSNAP is headed, but it appears the firm is rapidly moving towards an ad-supported content aggregation play (with the advertising sales function outsourced to third parties). By providing Go2 with time-sensitive mobile audio content (think audio news clips, like what you’d get from a syndicated news radio program), UpSNAP is essentially acting as a content provider to Go2’s local-focused, mobile search engine. Similarly, providing tying up with Ad Networks such as Millennial reinforces this position, as UpSNAP attempts to outsource the ad sales function of their search and streaming audio products so that they can focus more clearly on content aggregation (in this case, the content is mobile search queries and audio streams). The Mobile Greetings merger only further reinforces this position, as the deal wraps up UpSnap with a high-quality, ad/sponsorship-based mobile content provider.

Analysis: It remains to be seen what (if anything) will ultimately become of such agreements. As stated in reactions to similar announcements, the real challenge in the mobile advertising value chain isn’t in the aggregation of mobile inventory, it’s the actual sales of said inventory… and it would appear if UpSNAP’s inventory were truly valuable they would be able to achieve sell out with their existing nine mobile advertising partners (and therefore wouldn’t be looking to additional mobile ad firms – such as Millennial – to partner up with). That said, in all fairness to UpSNAP… their need for (yet another) mobile ad sales partner likely speaks more to the nascent state of the mobile advertising market than does to the quality of UpSNAP’s inventory.

del52.jpgDeloitte is sharing some “interesting” numbers from their new “The State of Media Democracy” survey. Billed as a “‘reality check’ on how American consumers between 13 and 75 years of age are using media and technology today – and what they want in the future,” the study reserves a special section for mobile entitled “Cell Phones as Entertainment” as it breaks down consumption of user-generated, traditional and mobile media across four key generations: Millennials (13 – 24), Gen X (25-41), Baby Boomers (25-41) and Matures (61-75).

Some highlights from the piece:

  • “Cell Phones are Surging as Entertainment Devices.” (Yes I said “Hype” for a reason). 36% of US mobile users surveyed stated that they use their mobile phone for “entertainment” (up from 24% in just six months). The Millennials reported the highest activity in this area, with 62% reporting mobile entertainment usage (up from 46% in six months), with Gen X second at 47% usage (up from 29% in six months). It’s not entirely clear how Deloitte is defining “entertainment” (they don’t define this in their release), but surely cannot be referring to video services, or even downloadable music – as these numbers are seriously at odds with nearly most (if not all) major research data covering this market. Perhaps “Entertainment” is referring to gaming, video, music, and “entertainment-related” mobile web usage. Question: If I’m talking on my mobile and my friend tells me a joke, does that count as “Cell Phone Entertainment?”
  • Both Millennials and Gen X’ers display nearly identically activity in mobile internet usage, at 45% and 46%, respectively. Again, these numbers seem very high when viewed against similar studies and other industry data from “mobile specialist” research firms like M:Metrics and Nielsen Mobile (Telephia)
  • Mobile “picture taking” on the rise. 63% of mobile users reported using a mobile phones for photo capture; 80% of Millenials and 75% of Gen X. These numbers seem somewhat elevated but in general seem realistic and corroborated by similar studies and marketplace observations.

Overall, I must say that I am extremely skeptical of Deloitte’s latest findings, an opinion shared by others in the US mobile marketing space. Both Carlo Longino of mocoNews and Steve Smith of MediaPost cast similar doubt on the validity of some of the numbers reported in the survey, primarily concerning the dubious claims concerning US mobile video penetration (20%? – is that a typo?!). Ultimately, the fact that the Deloitte survey promotes data consistently and significantly above earlier findings would suggest a overenthusiastic (to use a nice word) research bias, and whether intentional or not – unfortunately puts all of its findings into doubt.