Archive for May, 2008

cotm-button.jpgThis week’s Carnival of the Mobilists is coming at you live from Cairo, Egypt’s own Symbiano-Tek.

Check out the best and brightest in mobile posts from across the blogosphere, including a rumor round-up for the next gen iPhone, a hard look at transcoding and the mobile web, lbs advertising challenges, mobile portal content recommendations, and so much more!

Go check out the Carnival Here!

As always, bloggers can submit stories to: mobilists [at] gmail [dot] com.

question-mark-guy.jpgAny ideas? I have been asked to speak at a (for now) unnamed conference on the topic next month and I’d really appreciate any advice and/or insights from you, the highly-knowledgeable mobilestance.com reader base! Nothing long, mind you… even a quick sentence or two would be greatly appreciated.

The paragraph on the session is as follows:

Mobile: The Advertiser’s Prospective. Wireless operators, publishers, ad networks and handset manufacturers are quickly bringing mobile advertising opportunities to market, but what do these companies need to do to attract brands to their offerings? This session explores the foundations of mobile advertising from the advertiser prospective – everything from targeting, tracking and accountability, to differing ad units, mediums and pricing models – in order to hone in on what mobile needs to achieve if it is to satisfy the demands of today’s discerning advertisers.

Please leave any suggestions in the “comments” section at the bottom of the post. Your help on this is greatly appreciated!

qr-format-wats-copy.jpgNew York-based Scanbuy, the maker of the proprietary “ScanLife” Mobile 2-D Barcode Reader and “EZCode” code format, has been on a tear of late, scoring a series of high-profile campaigns that have buoyed the prospects of the nascent channel and rekindled the “open” versus “closed” mobile barcode debate.

Scanbuy’s recent announcements include an OOH integration campaign with American Airlines at four major airports, including LaGuardia and O’Hare. American Airlines also joined Car & Driver, Citysearch, Discovery Communications and Sears in participating in Scanbuy’s “cross-carrier pilot.” Additionally, Scanbuy has also found success in Europe, launching with MTV France’s “Crispy News” and landing a few handset pre-load deals in Spain. The company also recently announced their ScanLife reader has been ported to the iPhone and will be available for download upon launch of the iPhone App Store (expected June, 2008).

While all of these are obviously positive steps in driving mass adoption of 2D barcodes, it needs to be pointed out that the Scanbuy technology suite is a proprietary (closed) system, meaning that the “EZCodes” in question can only be read by ScanLife’s reader; Consumers attempting to read the EZCodes with other, so-called “open format” readers will not be able to interact with the code. The “open” format, which is used by the Android “ZXing” and many popular European and Asian reader brands, is based on a design by the Japanese Denso Wave company, and it is “open” in the sense that the company does not exercise their patent on the technology – meaning that the standard is essentially “free.”

Business Models. Companies like Scanbuy and ShotCode that utilize a proprietary code format primarily make their money by charging brands to create the codes, as well as redemption fees (which are levied every time a consumer scans one of their codes). This is in stark contrast to the “open” format model, where the printing of codes, “scans” and even some cases the readers themselves are all essentially free. These companies primarily make their money by either bundling in other, related mobile marketing services (such as SMS or mobile website creation and hosting), as well as charging for analytics services quantifying QR campaign performance.

Now, you may be asking yourself, “Why would a brand would pay to use a proprietary 2-D code format when they can essentially use an open format for free?” Well, for now the issue is scale: The install base on proprietary readers is greater than that of the “open” readers. That said, with the coming of Android handsets this Fall (all of which will include an “open” QR reader preloaded on the device), the real question is how long will the proprietary readers be able to maintain their advantage…

In the meantime, competing standards are the price one pays for innovation. Let us hope these issues resolve themselves soon, as the quickest way to kill this exciting new market is with fragmentation. I think we can agree that requiring users to have a half a dozen or so readers installed on their phones is a nightmare we’d just as soon avoid.

linux penguin bluetooth headset mobile stanceConsumer Dissatisfaction and the Macroeconomics of Mobility Provide Linux with the Opportunity to Achieve in Mobile What it Failed to Reach on the Desktop: Relevancy.

Last week Verizon Wireless was just the latest big player to jump aboard the Linux train. In joining the LiMo Foundation, “an industry consortium dedicated to creating the first truly open, hardware-independent, Linux-based operating system for mobile devices,” Verizon joins existing LiMo members Motorola, Samsung, Panasonic, NEC, NTT DoCoMo, Orange and Vodafone.

The Google / Verizon Open Access Wars Continue. Verizon’s move is consistent with it’s grudging embrace of “openness,” a relatively recent development and likely result of Google’s aggressive initiatives with their own Linux-based mobile initiative, the Open Handset Alliance (whose members read like a who’s who of the mobile ecosystem), as well as the search giant’s success in influencing the latest US spectrum auction to partially adopt “open access” rules. These rules prohibit the new “owner” of the highly sought-after “C-Block” of wireless spectrum to restrict network access – based on either device or software requirements. This was a landmark ruling by the FCC that upset established business practices by the US operators (especially Verizon Wireless).

Ironically (or by Google’s design, if you buy into the hype) Verizon Wireless, who vigorously pursued legal action against the Google-backed “open access” initiative, is by default its biggest backer, as the carrier ended up spending $9.4 billion to win the auction for the “open” C-Block wireless spectrum. Maybe “ironic” doesn’t quite cut it. “Asleep at the switch?”, “Poetic Justice? or just good old “Machiavellian Legal Mastery?” So much to think about I just can’t get my head even half way around this one… hopefully a “tell-all” book will hit the market and shed some light on what really happened here between Google, Verizon and the FCC.

Regardless, Verizon asserts that among its reasoning for joining the LiMo is that, unlike the Google-led OHA, LiMo software is truly open source (whereas Google maintains a relatively tight grip over its Linux-derived Android Mobile OS). That said, both operating systems are “open enough” in that developers are free to create and distribute highly robust mobile applications unencumbered by (the current) intellectual property and financial barriers maintained by the wireless carriers and (to some extent) the handset manufacturers.

All roads lead to Linux? In addition to all of this, macroeconomic forces also seem to be contributing to an environment favoring Linux as a mobile OS. With the majority of the world’s mobile users living under severely limited economic conditions (i.e. the so-called “developing” world), an open source product such as a Linux-based handset and / or application would enjoy tremendous price advantages versus competing proprietary models – and is therefore far better positioned to compete for the majority of the world’s mobile user base.

While the US mobile industry has yet to feel any real impact resulting from all of these developments, rest assured that big changes are coming – and soon. One only needs to peruse the recently announced finalists in the Android developers challenge to get a sense the coming spike in mobile innovation. The development of rich, life-enhancing applications like Android Scan, a promising app that integrates a traditional barcode reader with existing online databases to facilitate real time product comparisons and m-commerce, would simply not be possible under without an open mobile operating system and business environment unencumbered by powerful gatekeepers.

Now, it might be tempting to dismiss Linux-based mobile initiatives due to the failure of Linux to achieve success on the desktop. The various desktop Linux operating systems also enjoyed the considerable advantages of pricing and of an open development environment, and yet none of them realized anything more than marginal successes. Why should mobile Linux be any different?

The key lies in the differences between the development and limitations of the two channels. When Linux arrived on the market most desktop users were relatively satisfied with the PC computing experience. Sure, Microsoft (and Apple) products had their problems, but most users were content with the functionality and prices associated with the leading PC operating systems and applications. The same cannot be said for the mobile data space, where most users face an entirely opposite scenario: a high (perceived) priced product delivering a wholly unsatisfying experience.

Ultimately, perhaps the walled garden model that worked “well enough” in the desktop space just isn’t up to challenge in the more demanding environment of the mobile data space – a space far more restricted in terms of device size, bandwidth, processor power, memory and display resolution – and is inherently laden with costs far greater than that of traditional wireline data networks. Perhaps it is precisely this challenge that Linux is uniquely suited to overcome, and perhaps this is why Linux – and perhaps only Linux – will be the portal that will finally fulfill the promise of the mobile channel.

cotm-button.jpgThis week’s Carnival of the Mobilists is live over at GoMo News.

Many thanks Bena for the “Pole Position” in this week’s Carnival!  Check out great mobile posts from across the blogosphere, including a paradoxical look at WiMax, real world meta data “gone” mobile, more on AdMob’s new mobile web analytics package, and so much more!

Go check out the Carnival Here!

As always, bloggers can submit stories to: mobilists [at] gmail [dot] com.

google-mobile-logo-copy.jpg Google’s Newfound Strategic Advantage in US 4G Market Goes Largely Overlooked.

While coverage of last week’s WiMax Mega-Deal largely focused on how the new venture would affect Sprint, Clearwire, and its largest investors (Comcast and Intel), there was strangely little attention payed to the tremendous up-side Google stands to reap from its relatively minor investment of “only” $500 million (as compared to Comcast’s $1.05 billion, Intel’s $1 billion and Time Warner’s $550 million investments).

With little fanfare, the WSJ reported that “Google will become the preferred software developer on the WiMax network, meaning its search service would be the default on new mobile devices.” Additionally, Sprint “agreed to put Google’s mobile operating system, Android, in some Sprint phones.” While the second point is not that surprising (Sprint, as well as Intel, are both members of the Android-focused Open Handset Alliance), the first point may have tremendous impact on the long term landscape of the US mobile search market.

Historically, the major US carriers have been reluctant to grant Google access to their customers, resulting in the search giant’s well-documented difficulties in penetrating the domestic on deck Mobile Search market. Now, as WiMax is likely years ahead of competing domestic 4G technologies such as LTE, Google sits atop a de facto mobile search monopoly in the US wireless broadband space (3G services, while a significant improvement from their predecessors, can hardly be deemed a true “broadband” product experience).

This is a tremendous strategic advantage that may extend beyond mobile search into other highly lucrative areas such as mapping, email, and perhaps event streaming video (YouTube), depending on what Google’s position as the venture’s “preferred software developer” ultimately means. True, consumers will likley be free to navigate to and/or download competitive services from the likes of Yahoo!, MSN and even IAC, but we all know that the majority of users will be content using the default services preloaded on the device.

Google’s advantageous position is further enhanced by the venture’s aggressive cable system partners (Comcast, Time Warner and Bright House), who view the platform as the ultimate response to the “quad-play” service bundles currently offered by Verizon FIOS and AT&T U-verse. The cable companies are locked in a no-holds-barred, block-by-block, all out war with the telcos, and no one should doubt the MSO’s willingness to fiercely market their advantage in wireless broadband. Google, of course, will profoundly benefit from these marketing efforts.

All told, the real value of Google’s first mover advantage in the domestic 4G space will be their opportunity to define their mobile brand in the best of environments, while Yahoo! and company must more or less wait for AT&T and Verizon Wireless to roll out their LTE networks – content with their standard 3G-based services that will no doubt seem primitive in comparison to Google’s souped-up WiMax products.

ftc-beyond-voice-2.jpgFive Year Old Case Studies, Babbling Activists, Sales Pitches and a Sneak Peek at What’s Coming Down the Regulatory Pipe.

Washington at its Worst?

By now many of you may have caught the occasional blurb / sound bite from this week’s Federal Trade Commission “Town Hall” on Mobile Marketing entitled “Beyond Voice: Mapping the Mobile Marketplace.” What you probably haven’t been exposed to is the unique combination of lunacy, tedium and righteous indignation that filled much of the event.

Luckily our hyperbureaucratic friends sought fit to publish complete online transcripts of the proceedings for those either unable or (more likely) unwilling to attend the two day event.

What’s this? You say you don’t have the time or the patients to read through the reams upon reams of “thoughts” relating to our industry’s regulatory future? Well fear not! Mobilestance.com has got you covered!

So sit back, relax, and learn of “The Shocking Truth” of what occurred at the FTC “Town Hall” on Mobile Marketing (part one in a special two part series).

May 6th
9:00 – 11:00 (AM EST)

Welcome and Introductory Remarks
Commissioner Jon Leibowitz, Federal Trade Commission

Content and Commentary

Jon Leibowitz, Commissioner of the Federal Trade Commission kicks things off with some levity in the form of a video clip featuring the world’s first mobile phone (“unveiled right here in Washington D.C. a few blocks away”, the clip is of Maxwell Smart’s famous “Shoe Phone”). From there he starts with familiar stats on mobile voice and data usage in the US, but then quickly transitions into the actual purpose of the “Town Hall” (we’ve put Town Hall in quotes because lets face it, if you’re going to have a “town hall” in the “township” of Washington, D.C., and its being run by a US Gov’t regulatory body… call it what it really is: A hearing).

Leibowitz runs down a short list of “a host of [mobile marketing] consumer protection challenges” (read: things he aims to regulate), setting the tone of the two day proceedings:

  • Disclosure issues. Do consumers understand what advertisers are selling and how much it costs? Mobile devices make disclosures even tougher. How can a marketer explain key terms and conditions on a screen the size of a small Post-It?
  • Mobile advertising itself. Recent surveys have found that most consumers are annoyed by it (What? Advertising is annoying? Alert the media!)
  • Spam. Unwanted and sometimes offensive content… Text Spam invades your time, your privacy and your wallet. (Agreed)
  • Location Based Services. The sense of big brother or ex-boyfriend knows where you are at any given moment really raises troubling issues about government access, physical safety and personal privacy.
  • Location Based Mobile Marketing. Does America really need cell phones with ads flashing like lights in time square, do we want our PDAs turning into turning into digital pocket bill board? Personally I worry about clutter. (Leibowitz is really pushing the envelope here… sure, these are presented as his personal opinions, but when presented in this context it gives the impression that the FTC is angling to regulate what is and isn’t “tasteful.” I appreciate the sentiment, but he should really keep his aesthetic concerns to himself. Does he somehow think FTC stands for “Federal Tastemaker Commission?)
  • The Kids. A mobile phone that gives them access makes them easy pray for aggressive marketers… and we need to consider whether additional protection for kids and children are warranted.

Then, to make sure everyone in the room doesn’t forget who’s in charge or what’s at stake in this so-called “town hall”, Leibowitz drops the widely-reported word bomb on the room: “We strongly believe, as many of you know, in self-regulation – but we are also going to police the wireless space.” Make no mistake… Leibowitz is on the beat, nightstick a-swingin! “Our agency has a long history of studying new technologies and the consumer protection and competition issues that are embedded within these new technologies,” He continued, “And we have a long history of working with our sister agency the FCC when consumer protection concerns arise in the Telecom context.” At this point you can almost smell the tension in the room. Finally, he takes it up a notch by pointing out what’s at stake: “You can take our example of our work with them on do-not-call on Spam.”

And there it is… he might as well have just said “We are your overlords, you private-sector pawns. Kneel before us and grovel at our regulatory feet. ” And grovel they did… for the next two days, in fact.

Session 1: The Mobile Marketplace — What, How, and Who
“This session will provide an introduction to the role of mobile commerce, beyond traditional voice service, in today’s society. This overview will include a discussion of demographics, consumer habits, and popular and anticipated uses of mobile services within the United States. It will also refer to developments in mobile commerce outside the United States.”

Participants

  • Evan Neufeld, VP & Senior Analyst, M:Metrics
  • Steve Smith, Media Critic, Mediapost and Access Intelligence

Moderator

  • Ruth Yodaiken, Staff Attorney, FTC Division of Marketing Practices

Content and Commentary

A whirlwind of stats, graphs, charts, definitions, et cetera on US habit and usage of mobile data services. Not a bad data set here (note: get your free research data in this section’s transcript, it’s a fairly comprehensive presentation). At the end of this session everyone is supposed to be comfortable with the alphabet soup of mobile terminology that will pervade the remainder of the talks. I suspect anyone not in the industry is trying their best to keep up… but finding these two a little manic in their rapid shifts from topic to topic.

Here’s a taste of the kind of language and topic jumping that was bound to throw the room: “Someone has a 3G phone for example is 1.4X likely to do social networking, 1.5X to browse, et cetera. Smart phones, similar. Though only 6.2% of the total US device market at this point, this is also another where you see tremendous increase in usage, with 4X and 3X for social networking browsing and music and video. Where this all ties in is the iPhone. Everybody talks about the iPhone. [I'm] not necessarily a huckster for apple per se. [In] my mind the iphone is an example of a phone with a good interface for browsing. Some say the secret is the interface, the URL doesn’t suck, there’s kind of what the standard is. So it’s less about the iPhone is the device and interfaces are catching up with consumers. When you do that the usage is tremendous.” No disrespect to Evan (whom I actually agree with on all of these points), but does anybody think that the room is getting all of this? I’d bet dollars to donuts that the good folks at the FTC aren’t among those nodding their heads.

Session 2: Mobile Messaging — Unsolicited, Premium, and Interactive Messaging
“This session will provide an overview of text/SMS (Short Message Service) and MMS (Multimedia Messaging Service) messaging, introduce innovations, and highlight billing concerns.” [Transcript]

Participants

  • Alykhan Govani, Head of BD, MX Telecom
  • William Haselden, Assistant Attorney General, State of Florida
  • Dorian Porter, CEO / Founder, Mozes, Inc.
  • Leigh Schachter, Senior Litigation Counsel, Verizon Wireless

Moderator

  • Lisa Hone, Assistant Director, FTC Division of Marketing Practices

Content and Commentary
A lot more talk educating the room on the consumer benefits of mobile marketing balanced with the need for responsible practices (opt-in only, full disclosure, yadda yadda). A lot of the recursive, meandering language that is familiar to anyone who has attended a panel session at CTIA in the last five years… a tactical example here (say, MMS blogging), a brand reference there (say, Papa John’s), a consumer confusion point tossed in (fear of spam, cost, or just not knowing what a short code is), a statistical reference followed by a rapid-fire strategy statement (e.g. “it’s all about the mobile context”) – and then just repeat with different phrases. Sorry if that comes across as a little cynical, but there’s only so much of this one person can be exposed to before the sarcasm kicks in. Mozes then goes into a txt2screen demo, and walks us through what could well be their sales presentation (wait, this is CTIA!).

Next up is William Haselden, the Florida Assistant Attorney General, who walks the room through some of the very worst examples of bait-and-switch, “free ringtone” (I mean, $9.99 per month) marketing. Make no mistake, the Florida Attorney General’s office has a well earned reputation for their willingness to prosecute consumer trade practice offenders – and he’s got the room’s attention. His examples of Florida’s idea of regulating the space are highly detailed, and many are quite reasonable… so (for example) that when people click on a box that says “nine ninety nine” that they know that they are paying “$9.99 per month,” etc. Some are extremely granular regulatory suggestions, right down to color contrast restrictions so that prices can’t be hidden in (nearly) the same color as the page background (but who is going to enforce all of this? Ah… a bigger budget for the Florida Attorney General’s office, perhaps?).

Leigh Schachter, Senior Litigation Counsel for Verizon Wireless, finishes off the session with a talk on unsolicited SMS messages. She opens with what was basically a fairly comprehensive 101 on “how to execute a spam SMS campaign,” including instructions on how one would send unsolicited sequential text messages to handsets via email gateways on a carrier by carrier basis. Kind of reminds me of the Tyrone Biggums Drug Awareness bit on Chappell. Everything a young spammer might need to get started… Kids, get out your pencils! Her comments on the lengths Verizon goes through to thwart these efforts are impressive (from filters to prosecution), but ultimately the audience is left with the sobering reality that this is an issue (like email spam) that just isn’t going away anytime soon. It’s a real credit to the carriers that most mobile users aren’t even aware that SMS spam is even an issue at all. Go get ‘em, VZW!

May 6th
11:15 – 12:30 (PM EST)

Session 3: Mobile Applications — Games, Widgets, and More
“This session will offer a series of demonstrations about the many possibilities offered by modern mobile devices, which are barely recognizable from the cell phones of yesterday. Industry panelists will discuss how different mobile ecosystems open up the world of applications, from games to social networking.” [Transcript]

Participants

  • Steve Boom, SVP of Connected Life, Yahoo! Inc
  • Andrew Elliott, Director of Services and Software, North America Go-to-Market, Nokia
  • Thomas C. Ford, Global Market Strategist, Consumer Products, Opera Software
  • Rich Miner, General Manager of Mobile Platforms, Google Inc.

Moderator

  • Ruth Todaiken, Staff Attorney, FTC Division of Marketing Practices.

Content and Commentary

Review of the development and distribution challenges facing downloadable and web-based mobile applications. Differing device, OS standards, and of the carrier walled gardens. Standard Yahoo GO demos and the like, and Google’s preference for openness as the solution for many of these market barriers (including, appropriately, security – using the old “false sense of security that comes with high walls” argument that Microsoft has basically proved to the world with their closed – and thus highly insecure – Windows and Internet Explorer products). Well played, Google.

May 6th
1:45 – 3:00 (PM EST)

Session 4: Location-Based Services
“This session will offer a roundtable discussion of the emerging world of location-based services, through carrier-controlled environments or other mechanisms. This discussion will include reference to broadcasting commercial appeals and coupons to phones. There will be a discussion of disclosures about tracking and consumer control of information.” [Transcript]

Participants

  • Michael F. Altschul, SVP and General Counsel, CTIA
  • Tony Bernard, VP of Operations, Useful Networks
  • Alissa Cooper, Chief Computer Scientist, Center for Democracy and Technology
  • Tim Lordan, Executive Director, Internet Education Foundation
  • Fran Maier, Executive Director and President, TRUSTe

Moderators

  • Rick Quaresima, Assistant Director, FTC Division of Advertising Practices
  • Peder Magee, Senior Attorney, FTC Division of Privacy and Identity Protection

Content and Commentary

Overview of the state of the LBS market, GPS and WiFi triangulation techniques, and various approaches to E-911 compliance. The CTIA has provided a very comprehensive breakdown of each of the US carrier’s LBS service offerings followed by their recommendations for industry Best Practices (all in all quite a good read). You can download here (warning: .pdf link). Many of their best practices hinge on the fact that current statutes governing this area deem the account holder, rather than the actual user, the party with right to set LBS data sharing privileges (child safety comes up often). Other areas of concern touch on disclosure (they recommend a lot), the need for securing the consumer’s explicit permission (opt-in) prior to engaging in location based marketing (nothing shocking here) and length (if any) of data retention (what he cleverly refers to as the “first cousin of security”).

Next up is the Center for Democracy and Technology, “a 501C 3 non-profit public policy organization dedicated to promoting democratic values and protecting constitutional liberties on the open Internet, that includes the mobile Internet and other mobile media.” As a watchdog group for consumer privacy in the digital age (these guys are the behavioral targeting industry’s worst nightmare), the CDT has plenty to say about LBS, including proposing their own set of standards they’ve published under the rather alarmist moniker, “Who’s Watching You Now?” (warning: .pdf link). It seems that many of their arguments stretch the concept of the individual’s expectation of privacy to the limits of rational thought… that because people “walking down the street and by the coffee shop don’t necessarily expect an ad for a latte to pop up on their phone” somehow means location based ads are 100% inappropriate (sidebar: when will folks tire of the “walking by Starbucks and get an ad on your phone” example? Don’t these people understand that having your business on every other street corner pretty much negates the need for location based marketing in the first place!) . CDT then veers way off topic in a lengthy diatribe exploring the dangers of government access issues to location data. I say “off topic” because this is a “mobile marketplace” discussion, after all – not an open discussion of all things related to privacy. Does the CDT think that somehow the Government is going to purchase this data? Seriously, this kind of agenda mongering wastes everyone’s time, and does little to advance their cause.

Overall, issues of consent, recurring notification, “approved LBS services” (complete with a “seal of approval”), child safety, and “where to draw the line?” (zip code? 300 meters? 2 meters) dominate the discussion. If it wasn’t obvious before today, it’s clear by the length and number of questions from the audience that LBS lies at the heart of consumer privacy concerns as it relates to mobile. Nothing else comes remotely close.

 

May 6th
3:15 – 5:00 (PM EST)

Session 5: Mobile Advertising and Marketing – The Transition and Adaptation to Mobile Devices and the Small Screen
“This session will examine the general transition of advertising and marketing to mobile devices, discuss mobile-specific advertising campaigns, and address issues such as the targeting of advertising in the mobile space and strategies that advertisers use to adjust to small mobile screens.” [Transcript]

Participants

  • Jean Berberich, Digital Marketing Innovation Manager – Mobile, P&G
  • Jeff Chester, Executive Director, Center for Digital Democracy
  • Susan Duarte, Counsel for Marketing Practices, Sprint Nextel Corp
  • Jim Durrell, Director of Product Management, Greystripe
  • Gene Keenan, VP of Mobile Services, Isobar Global
  • Hairong Li, Associate Professor of Advertising, Michigan State University
  • Marci Troutman, Founder, Siteminis, Inc.

Moderators

  • Mary K. Engle, Associate Director, FTC Division of Advertising Practices
  • Jamie Trilling, Staff Attorney, FTC Division of Advertising Practices

Content and Commentary

The grand finale for day one sported an all-star panel that didn’t fail to disappoint. The session started with an examination of Asian markets as (presumably) a precursor for what we can expect here in the US in the next few years (yes, yes – we all know the flaws that model presents, but at least it presents a refreshingly optimistic future of the US mobile marketing space!). This followed by more research (winner of the “most bullish” award was an M:Metrics stat claiming that 98% of US 18 to 24-year-olds own a mobile phone, with 92% using SMS. While we all agree that 18-24 is the “sweet spot” in mobile here in the US, 98% and 92% are pretty big numbers. I believe that’s even higher than Cable TV’s reach in the same demo). Ogilvy is talking about their interactive Time’s Square billboard for Dove. That one never gets old. P&G is talking about their Cover Girl WAP site. Ditto.

Luckily the FTC thought ahead and brought in Jeff Chester from the Center for Digital Democracy to stir the pot a bit. He was certainly in his element up there, mixing it up with all those agency, network and advertiser-types (How dare they try to measure the millions and millions of dollars they spend on advertising every year?! For shame!). He starts off on relatively safe ground in raising non controversial issues of childhood obesity and advertising, but then quickly lapses into his war against all forms of data-driven marketing (hey Jeff, how would you like to pay $18 for a tube of toothpaste? Keep it up and you just might find out!). On a personal note, Bob Walczak has to be pleased that his “MoPhap” was listed among his usual suspects of “rogue marketers” (read: behavioral targeted ad networks). Too bad Jeff didn’t get the memo that as of several months ago MoPhap underwent a much needed rebranding effort and is now known as Ringleader Digital.

Like many of the day’s earlier activists, Jeff did himself a disservice by bringing unrelated matters into the conversation. Take this example: “We are at a point of — I think almost unprecedented anxiety in the American confidence we have problems related to the current mortgage crisis, certainly, and gas and oil prices have gone up, we don’t want to have a system, particularly tied to youth, that is running amuck because it’s tracking everything we’re doing encouraging this kind of impulse buying.” Somehow data-driven marketing tactics are related to the current crisis in the credit markets? I mean, I realize that everything is connected, you know, in the Daoist, George Harrison-type sense… but can we all agree that we don’t want our industry regs influenced by such obvious windmill-tilters?

Stay tune’d for the second half of this disturbing, yet deeply entertaining odyssey!

cotm-button.jpgThis week’s Carnival of the Mobilists is live over at Xellular Identity.

Great mobile posts from across the blogosphere! Check out the swank features such as “Mobile as Mass Media”, the fast track to mobile publishing, a “where-to” for those seeking free expert advice on mobile web development, insights into the differences in the US, UK and Japanese messaging markets, broodish thoughts from the MMA’s (usually) effervescent Laura Marriott… and so much more!

Go check out the Carnival Here!

As always, bloggers can submit stories to: mobilists [at] gmail [dot] com.

google-image-ads1.jpgNew Format Lowers Barriers to Entry for Risk Averse Mobile Advertisers.

Last week Google quietly introduced mobile image ads last week by way of a nondescript post on the official Google Mobile blog.

The announcement is significant as this is the first time that a major publisher has committed to selling mobile display ads on a Cost-per-Click basis. The ads are purchased from the familiar AdWords dashboard, utilizing the search giant’s tried and true keyword bid for placement engine. Curiously, pixel dimensions on the new units do not follow current MMA-recommended standards for mobile ad banner sizes and aspect ratios, but instead follow a previous iteration of the guidelines.

Our regular readers will recognize that Mobilestance has been a vocal supporter of performance-based mobile display ads, as their availability opens up an entirely new base of mobile advertisers – from the more conservative major brands (“I’ll buy it when you show me it works”), to the smaller, more budget conscious advertisers (“I’ve got 10k a month to spend, and you want me to spend it on your untested format?”). Additionally, the display ads should help smaller publishers start to make a business out of their nascent mobile websites.

Still, several challenges and unanswered questions remain. Like Google’s existing (text-based) mobile ad offerings, conversion tracking continues to be problematic for mobile handsets unable to accept cookies (anywhere from 50 – 80% of total us handsets, or 20 – 40% of mobile traffic – depending on who you choose to believe).

Additional questions that come to mind include: Approximate # of monthly avail impressions (US, GLOBAL)? Approximate monthly reach / # of uniques (US, GLOBAL)? Approximate # of publishers in the Google “Mobile Image Ads” (display) network? (US, GLOBAL) Any publishers that I might have heard of? (any premiere pubs, or all “long tail”)? Any premiere advertisers signed up yet? Examples of “going CPC’s” for various keywords.

I plan on testing the ads soon, so eventually I’ll share whatever I can here w/o disturbing the peace…. Until then, enjoy Google’s self-produced home movie on their new offering – a serious “tell” that the Googliers are pretty excited about their new product.

business-systems-copy.jpgSeparate Moves By Nielsen, DoubleClick and AdMob Significantly Enhance the Mobile Web’s Viability as an Advertising Medium.

It’s as if three of the biggest leaders in digital marketing huddled up last week and decided to tackle some of the thorniest issues facing the ad-supported mobile web. “Nielsen you go left and take unduplicated audience tracking… DoubleClick, you go long and take third party ad network integration… and AdMob, take the right post and hit mobile site analytics.”

Nielsen, wasting precious little time integrating Telephia’s mobile web tracking suite into their existing wireline web tracking tools, released their “TotalWeb” analytics product last week. The new Nielsen product boasts the ability to track unduplicated audience across over 200 major PC and mobile web sites, a first-of-its-kind achievement and a highly significant milestone in the evolution of the mobile web as a marketing channel. Could this put Nielsen out in front of comScore in digital?

To show off their new product, Nielsen announced some fairly interesting “% [reach] lift” stats produced by mobile web sites complementing PC sites – in various content categories. While on the average, PC sites increased their reach by an impressive 13% via the mobile web, results differed widely by content category. Weather and Entertainment (both seeing 22% lift) led the field, followed by Games and Music (15% lift each), Email (11%), Sports (10%), Business Finance (4%), Social Networking (3%), Search (2%), and Shopping / Auctions (1%).

A few things about these findings immediately jump out to me:

  1. Some of the categories assumed to be the most significant either to the mobile context (shopping) or the early-adopting demo graphic (sports, business), appear to be less about reach (when used in tandem with online) – and more about frequency and/or sales channel development.
  2. Surprisingly, the Weather category (a mainstay of the mobile web and tops among individual site traffic stats) is tied with Entertainment (historically a relatively weak performer in mobile web stats) in terms of “% lift” (when combined with online). I’ve no decent explanation for this apparent outlier, but unsubstantiated several theories come to mind.

Next up is DoubleClick, who announced their mobile publisher-side solution “is integrating with mobile ad networks including AdMob, Google’s AdSenseTM for mobile content, and Millennial Media’s premium MBrand network as well as its DecktradeTM performance network.” Similar to how DoubleClick enables online publishers to segment and doll out their available advertising inventory to a variety of ad networks and third party resellers, the move aims to improve inventory fill rates, a key concern among mobile publishers, by way of a rules-based dashboard. The idea is that mobile publishers will be able to garner the highest CPMs and fill rates possible by optimizing their inventory across a variety of independent sales channels.

No doubt the move is a welcome one and is absolutely needed for the long term viability of the mobile publishing industry, it will be interesting to see if the move actually helps mobile publishers in the short term in light of the existing glut of mobile ad inventory. That said, apparently DoubleClick is not (seemingly) short on publishers interested in their new solution, as (while none have yet signed on to use the platform), they have informed us that no less than five major mobile publishers had inquired about the system before the announcement was 24 hours old.

Finally, we have AdMob, who announced their new mobile website analytics tool set, aptly named “AdMob Analytics.” The move is highly reflective of their (admirable) determination to be “The Google of Mobile,” in that AdMob appears to be using Google Analytics as its model. By design, the tool is aiming to be easy to use, accurate and dependable, and above all else… FREE! Any of you mobile publishers out there who got a notice from Hitbox in the last few weeks can attest to the value of that last one (what is it about Omniture that just rubs people the wrong way? Oh yeah… something about contracts renegotiation by decree).

While only in beta, AdMob Analyitcs is set to provide the mobile web community with something it desperately needs: decent and affordable site stats. Clearly AdMob will benefit from a system where mobile publishers can easily understand how their campaigns are performing (where their traffic is coming from and what its doing once it gets to their site), but so will the rest of the ecosystem.

All in all, a pretty good week for the mobile web.