Buzzd, which bills itself as “the premier mobile, local search service, providing real-time information for bars, clubs and restaurants on the mobile device,” has been generating quite a lot of buzz for itself in recent days. Coming off an on-deck deal with Helio (the MVNO best described as the “Futurama” of mobile – beleaguered and on borrowed time despite a cultish, geek-friendly following), the start-up recently swept all three MobileMonday Peer Awards in Barcelona last month at 3GSM, inclusive of the Jury, Audience and Global MoMo chapter awards.
Mobilestance sat down with Nihal Mehta, founder and CEO Buzzd, to gain more insight into the company and its plans for the future. Mehta, no stranger to mobile marketing in the US, had previously co-founded ipsh!, one of the first full-service mobile marketing agencies in the US, which he later sold to Omnicom (NYSE: OMC) in 2005.
[mobilestance] Please give us the Buzzd elevator pitch. [Nihal Mehta] Marketers and brands alike are being drawn to social networking in general, due to enhanced consumer engagement & potential virality of the brand msg, for example empowering ‘tastemakers’ to become the ambassador for any given brand to their friends and outside communities. Mobile takes the msg one step closer, with the ability to target not only the most personal medium to any consumer, but in more sophisticated end user targeting (demographic, carrier, handset, and.. location- the holy grail!).
Buzzd offers brands the ability to connect with consumers not only based on where they are right now, but what they have been doing recently as well (behavioral targeting!). For example, Buzzd displays an Adidas advertisement to someone that might frequent a hiphop club. In addition, Buzzd pioneers the latest innovation in mobile advertising– not just tiny little banner ads. We are also experimenting with interstitials and allowing consumers to tag their profile with specific brand identities. For these reasons, mobile social networking portrays the holy grail in targeting consumers for brands and marketers.
[ms] How did Buzzd concept come about? Was there an “ah-hah” moment when the mental light-bulb just “went on?” [NM] The inspiration for Buzzd was purely selfish…. [the] inside of that bar, what was the scene like right now? The guy/girl ratio? How crowded was it? We wanted to create a service that would fulfill these questions, that no other service currently addressed.
[ms] How has the Helio subscriber base taken to Buzzd? Are you looking to do similar deals with other carriers? [NM] Helio is the first of many Buzzd ‘on-deck’ deals by which the operator provides a link on their WAP deck to market Buzzd for their user community. The Helio target has been a slam dunk, due to their 3G handsets (mobile web flies!) and targeted demo who consume lifestyle and entertainment content.
[ms] Let’s talk numbers. What sort of traffic are you looking at right now, and where you think you’ll be at the end of the year? [NM] Through only three products currently marketed (Timeout, Flavorpill & Buzzd on Helio), traffic has been ramping significantly. With many more partnerships on the horizon and an official off-deck launch in Q2 [of ‘08], we anticipate hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of users by end of year.
[ms] What business categories are showing the most interest in your offering? Are you selling your inventory on a sponsorship or CPM basis? [NM] We are selling three main categories to advertisers: co-branded/custom sites (see AKQA / Smirnoff nightlife guide), sponsorships (see flavorpill.BuzzD.com/m by NOKIA) and [on a] CPM basis. We will be offering specific location targeting soon, based upon the consumer’s self-identified location or through handset/carrier GPS or cell tower triangulation.
[ms] Where is Buzzd going next? What lies ahead for Buzzd in terms of technology, promotion and integration? [NM] Integration across social networks (Facebook, MySpace, bebo, etc); integration with all available LBS technology (handset/carrier GPS, cellsite ID, triangulation, etc); optimized iPhone/android/blackberry launchers; j2me/brew/symbian; much, much more.. Stay tuned and keep checking back on www.BuzzD.com!
[ms] Finally, give us your insights on the mobile marketing space in the US… where it is now and where it’s headed. [NM] I founded ipsh! in 2001 as a technology company, with a vision to become an agency. today, ipsh! along with a few other successful mobile marketing agencies, are finally full-service agencies, not only doing the execution, but [also] providing valuable creative, strategy and analytics. This is key to providing real value to the customer– 360 integration across MOBILE – i.e. Bluetooth, SMS, WAP, java, QR, etc– and tying it back through traditional channels (print, TV, radio, OOH, POP, etc). It’s finally happening, and we’re seeing more budgets dedicated to mobile marketing/advertising by the day. It’s exciting to finally have the initial vision realized and we hope to innovate with similar results in the mobile local/social networking arena with Buzzd!
The YouTube video demoing Buzzd on Helio can be seen here:
Last 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!
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!
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.
The slow news week after Christmas is notorious for the oft-derided “year in X” reports, but rather than take time exploring the value of such “Remembrance(s) of Things (less than a year) Past,” mobilestance.com would like to take the time to indulge in our own year end recap of the most notable US Mobile Marketing developments in 2007 (and yes, the illustration on the left depicts “Old Man 2007″ knowingly handing an iPhone to “Baby New Year 2008″).
And what a year 2007 has been. Between the flurry of VC and M&A activity, the reality of a declining global ringtone market and the re-orgs that followed, the explosion of ad supported business models, growth in consumer use of key mobile data services, notable marketplace exits, divestitures and bankruptcies, new entrants in the wireless space (yes, I’m talking about Apple here), and the aggressive moves on the part of the internet portals (most notably Google, but also Yahoo and even AOL and IAC), 2007 may yet be remembered as the year mobile finally “happened” -much to the delight of the Business 2.0 crowd.
After reviewing the list please take a second and weigh in on what you feel was the most important Mobile Marketing event of ’07 by participating in the poll at the end of the piece. Also, since 2007 was such a busy year no doubt there’s plenty more that could be added to this list… that said feel free to leave a comment if you’d like to add some additional insight or if you feel something crucial has been overlooked.
Thanks much… and now without further delay, mobilestance.com proudly presents “The 2007 US Mobile Marketing Game Changers.”
Google Steps it up.Not content to merely sit on the sidelines and play by the rules set forth by the US carriers, the search giant spent much of 2007 re-writing the rules of the US wireless industry.With their conspicuous “open access” lobbying effort, leadership in the Open Handset Alliance, the launch of their open Android platform, and their plans to enter the upcoming 700 MHz US wireless spectrum auction has a legitimate player, Google has stirred the 2007 US wireless pot like no other single corporate entity. While it remains to be seen as what will ultimately come of its aggressive moves in the space (although it seems Google has single-handily forced the biggest hole to date in Verizon’s vaunted walled garden) , it is clear that Google is determined to usher in a far more flexible (read: marketer-friendly) US wireless marketplace… a market that will likely be a boon to innovative third party mobile application developers, hybridized business models, and – most importantly – accelerate consumer adoption of “beyond voice” mobile services.
The Rise of MMS. 2007 was the year that US consumers finally got behind MMS in large numbers, exiting news for marketers not satisfied with the simple Joys of Text. In November of 2007 the MMA reported 33% of all US mobile phone users reporting monthly use of “Picture and/or Video Messaging” – that’s up dramatically from a paltry 16% in 2006. In the younger demographic segments the numbers are even more attractive, with monthly usage peaking in the 18-24 year old group at an astounding 55%. So what does this mean? Bottom line, now that MMS has reached critical mass in the US marketers are free to (finally) capitalize on the expanded interactive and multimedia prowess of the enhanced messaging channel. The possibilities are endless… everything from moblogging, MMS-based couponing, photo contests, video alerts, pattern recognition, html email-type CRM communications and so much more. Sure, there’s nothing actually new with all of these tactics… but now we’re talking about the difference between MMS-based marketing campaigns with real ROI back to the brands, versus the eternally frustrating”test campaigns” of earlier years.
Enter the iPhone. So much has has already been written on the sleek Apple device that it’s become extremely difficult to assess its actual impact. Never mind the recent eye-popping stats released on the iPhone’s disproportionate share of the overall browsing universe, or recent efforts (while fascinating and seemingly quite worthwhile) by marketers to leverage the device to deliver hypertargeted messaging to the forward-leaning, early-adopting, free-with-the-dollars demographic. No, the real impact of the device lies in it serving as a “showroom model” for the full potential of the mobile marketing channel. An independently sold (from the carriers, mind you) Wi-Fi/GSM hybrid with a beautiful touch screen, snappy web browser (snail-like AT&T EDGE network speeds notwithstanding), usable video, music and photo management options… and coming in February, a public SDK for the development of third party applications and a (rumored) flash plug-in for the device’s browser – a first for the “mobile” web (and hey just because it’s the holidays let’s not get into a debate on what is or is not actually the “mobile” web – for now let’s just go with it). It’s amazing how quickly the standard for what is “possible” in mobile has been raised since the release of the iPhone less than six months ago – and how what once passed for cutting edge has so rapidly become not simply dated, but altogether irrelevant. More than any other event in the mobile marketing industry’s short history, the entrance of the iPhone has fueled a frenzy of interest in the space – both from brands and agencies alike. The motivational equivalent of the ‘69 moon landing… with all the junior rocket scientists that followed.
Mobile Advertising Comes of Age. After a few years of luring in the shadows of the mobile marketing industry, the mobile advertising market became incredibly hot in 2007, punctuated by major acquisitions by leading interactive and mobile firms, as well as a dizzying array of venture-fueled deals in the space. The two leaders in the nascent mobile advertising industry, Third Screen Media and Enpocket were promptly acquired by AOL and Nokia, respectively – while Microsoft, once again outmaneuvered in the interactive ad firm acquisitions game, was forced to settle on European Mobile Ad Firm Screen Tonic. The remaining independent mobile ad firms were also firing on all cylinders, with Amobee, Millennial Media, AdMob, Greystripe, and Quattro Wireless all expanding on the heels of fresh investment capital raised in ‘07. Newspaper giant Gannett made a major investment in SMS-based ad firm 4INFO, while Google and Yahoo played a bit of small ball (we can gut Google a little slack here… they’ve been busy rewriting the rulebook for much of the rest of the mobile industry after all). The former taking the much anticipated step of expanding AdSense into the “mobile web,” while Yahoo! announced mobile publisher services and plans to integrate mobile inventory into their Panama ad platform. As for the internet display advertising giants, DoubleClick (soon to be Google) launched their publisher platform, while aQuantitative’s Accipiter Unit (now owned by Microsoft) tied up with NYC-based MoPhap to bring mobile capabilities to their publisher-side interactive ad serving platform. Add daily press releases by major web publishers bringing mobile inventory online, and I think you get this picture: 2007 was the year that nearly everybody in the space simply had to have a mobile adverting play. Sure, there was a bit of herd mentality going on, and no doubt we’re in for… shall we say, a bit of a “correction” in the coming years (this kind of activity surely cannot be sustained indefinitely) – but regardless, the business and technological systems are now in place for brands to reach out and communicate directly with consumers via the mobile handset. Keep in mind this is very different than previous (primarily SMS-based) mobile marketing activity that simply leveraged mobile as a direct response channel activating other forms of media such as television, print and radio (as so eloquently described by Jeff Minsky of OMD in a then accurate but increasingly outdated assessment of the channel – sorry Jeff, but I couldn’t take that one lying down!). Using mobile as a broadcast-type media may be a bit controversial to some, but as long as there remains checks and balances with regard to consumer privacy (yes, the carriers seem to be pulling their weight here, although some needed to be prodded a bit on the subject) an effective system of reaching consumers via their mobile devices should flourish in the months, years and decades to come.
Props to the The Sun (UK) for making QR codes sexy. Today’s publication features a full page “spread” (sorry, couldn’t resist) introducing readers to QR codes, which they tout as “a new kind of barcode, [that] will revolutionalise the way you use your mobile – and the way you read your Sun.” By snapping a photo of the above QR code with a QR reader (a mobile application that can read and decode QR codes) the SUN’s mobile site will automatically launch in the reader’s mobile web browser. In addition to linking to a web page, QR codes can initiate an SMS, MMS or IVR event, or can be used to initiate the transfer of web based content, such as mobile wallpapers, games or video clips.
Personally I’m bullish on QR in 2008 here in the US, as they provide an excellent work around to the UI / URL issue inherent in non QWERTY mobiles (as well as the fact that you can’t WAP push on the Verizon network), and are in fact much easier to use that even the (somewhat) popular Shortcode / keyword mechanic. The barrier to QR code usage has always been getting the readers on the devices (historically only a few Nokia handsets have shipped with preloaded readers, and to my knowledge never in the US).
It seems that this barrier may be (slowly) coming down. I’m told many of the major US carriers are getting behind the technology, giving the downloadable readers some fairly prominent deck placement over the next few quarters (sources confidential). Also, Google has stated that Andriod will feature a basic, but functional “format agnostic” QR reader, to be preloaded on all devices shipping with the Android Open OS. More preload deals are apparently forthcoming in the next 12 months.
All of this bodes well for activating “physical world” QR-driven mobile marketing applications, including QR integration on product packaging (for product information, or eventually purchase), print, outdoor, and even television advertising (yes, you can scan a QR code from a standard def LCD, plasma or even CRT monitor).
$5 to the first person who spots a QR being used in the US and posts it here… and $10 if it’s being used in a “scavenger hunt”-type activity.
Amobee Media Systems has selected Winstar, known primarily as a niche online advertising and production firm, to rep their mobile advertising inventory (release). You may recall that that Vodaphone and Telefonica both made strategic minority investments in Amobee a few weeks ago, announcing that Amobee would be rolling out ad services for the carriers’ inventory in Greece, Czech Republic and Spain markets.
Amobee’s play has always been to go after carrier deals, as that’s where the bulk of the mobile ad inventory is at present, and it also allows the company to offer integrated ad packages across most mobile touch points (MMS, SMS, WEB) – a level of integration that’s rare in today’s marketplace. The challenge Winstar (and therefore Amobee) will face is that (so far) the most difficult part in the mobile advertising value chain has not been procuring the inventory… it’s been selling it. Both EnPocket (now Nokia) and Third Screen Media (now AOL) enjoyed early successes in securing large swaths of carrier inventory, only to run into problems on the sell-side. Tales of <20% sell thru on any given month were not uncommon.
Of course neither of these two scenarios involved the type of “integrated mobile ad packages” that Amobee brings to the table with their “carrier-grade technology.” That being said, my hunch is that Winstar has bitten off far more than it can chew, and that Amobee took an unnecessary risk in going with a small player… a larger online ad network could obviously do a better job repping the mobile inventory, but would give Amobee a smaller cut of the revenue.
Amobee seems to be following the same business model as their carrier partners: tie up smaller players and take a bigger piece of the pie… forgoing (short and mid term) gross revenues for larger (long term) revenue shares.
Of course if Winstar really under performs I’m sure Amobee will be free to find additional partners to help sell the inventory.
According to Moconews.net, Nokia and Universal Music are adding their names to the long list of firms looking to unseat (or even gain market share on) the Juggernaut that is the Apple iPod / iTunes. The two are “teaming together to offer free 12-month access to music from Universal’s artists to buyer’s of Nokia’s musicphones… people will be able to keep the songs once the free-offer period expires. Nokia wants to get other labels to sign up to the ‘Comes With Music’ product, which it hopes to launch early next year.”
While offering free music isn’t (remotely) a new tactic in the digital music market space, what makes the move somewhat notable is the combination of the world’s largest handset manufacturer with one of the largest music labels. Likely this initiative is in reaction to the iPhone’s European launch, as Nokia tries to defend its turf from an invading, buzzworthy handset. Nokia has reason to be alarmed, as their musicphones have not sold particularly well (even in Europe, a market otherwise dominated by Nokia).
Should the iPhone successfully convert current iPod owners to the new device, suddenly Nokia has a lot bigger problem than an underperforming musicphone unit: Apple will have secured foothold in their core handset market – right in Nokia’s backyard. I would not be suprised to see more, even more aggressive announcements like this moving forward should the Apple iPhone gain traction overseas.