Not only is mobile disruptive in terms of its effects on the media landscape, it may turn out that we need to change the way we think about other things, too.
The dividing lines used to be relatively clear – to be online, you needed to have a computer and a browser which were used to access web pages on the Internet. Then along came mobile and messed everything up. Smartphones have surpassed the limited voice and messaging capabilities of the phones that came before, and tablets and phablets have moved the locus of computing from the desktop or laptop to the point where users and consumers can be online anywhere and at any time.
In response to this changing environment, perhaps it is time for us to change the way we think about communication. Social media has already added a layer of complexity to brand/consumer communication, muddying the waters of the traditional advertising/marketing/public relations triad.
Even looking at consumer behaviour, it has become more difficult to distinguish the different segments of consumer engagement. Mobile is disruptive on more than one front, and this is one of the reasons that measurement is so difficult. While there is no doubt that mobile is now an accepted, intrinsic part of closing the loop of consumer engagement, how can we best measure the contribution, say, of a mobile campaign, or of brand engagement over social networks, to the final value of the purchase decision.
More and more, mobile is used tactically to gain better traction for other media – and that the traditional media portions of advertising or marketing campaigns can gain from providing easy ways to access mobile assets. A well-designed augmented reality app, for example, can seamlessly drive consumers viewing print media to more engaging video content, while also providing access to online information repositories and even direct access to customer service via mobile chat or SMS. Is this the best use of mobile, which has demonstrated the potential to be a stand-alone medium of its own?
It is time to reevaluate the established norms of the advertising industry, because even the measures of performance based on PC advertising and digital marketing may not apply to mobile. These old measuring currencies, long used to calculate the impact of advertising, may not accurately reflect the contribution to ROI provided by mobile, let alone the influence of something as intangible as engagement.
It seems that the time is ripe for trailblazers to appear, with different and more accurate ways of accounting for intangibles, who are willing to say “yes, we use mobile, and we have a better way of measuring its impact”. Whose job it will be is another question that needs to be answered, and soon – already brands are exploring the possibilities of mobile on their own, perhaps to the extent where they will be able to commission and execute their mobile communications without the intervention of agencies, or with limited agency input.
Mobile’s disruptive effect is being seen at all levels of the industry, and it will be interesting to see how this plays out – and to find out where everyone stands when the dust finally settles.