From technology giants to advertising companies, mobile has become cornerstone to the growth strategies of most companies. Some analysts even attribute the poor showing of Microsoft in its recent earnings report to a lack of a robust mobile strategy. “Presence in mobile has resonance in Wall Street, because otherwise you are seen as old hat, but the truth is that mobile is a very small component of what agencies and holding companies are busy with right now,” observed Daniel Morel, Chairman and CEO, Wunderman.
Morel, one of the early believers in mobile, has been quoted on numerous occasions on why the future was about mobile. But in a recent conversation with DMA, he stated that the uptake of the medium is much too slow for him. “I have rarely seen a platform that is so slow in gaining momentum – in terms of companies being interested, clients’ spending money or creation of original content – there is a lot of talk and a lot of confusion. I am still seeing mobile as an addendum. There is no significant action in the medium right now. It may come but it has been a very slow process,” he stated.
For Morel, there are a host of reasons why mobile has still not become a medium of reckoning for advertising dollars yet.
The ‘phoney’ device
One of the points that Morel makes as to why mobile is not seeing investment in the manner that it should is because it is not a “truly connected device”. He pointed out that perhaps a more “astute device” may drive marketing in the mobile world. “For mobile to be truly part of the ecosystem, it needs to be connected with other devices and other elements of the ecosystem. The true concept of mobility will come in, regardless of the device you are using, when it connects you across screens. Phone is an interim stage, if you wish. We are still missing something in the system right now that would eventually lead to mobile marketing,” he said.
Limited engagement with the device
Most mobile users, according to Morel, the current use of the device is largely for tactical purposes. For instance, looking for a location, maps, restaurants, searches, emails and so on. People still wait to be on a laptop before they want to work on something “more complicated”. He said, “In the fast growing markets, the device is used largely for work related purposes and in developed markets it is an addition to many other devices that consumers are spending time on. Most consumers are dipping in and out of the device. There hasn’t been enough to keep a consumer engaged on the device, and this has resulted in very little marketing activity.”
Lack of germane content
Television is a case in point to understand the importance of entertainment in developing a medium. From a no-colour, single camera set up that was largely a photo on the screen and radio in the background, the television medium evolved to become a strong source of entertainment. Advertising rode on this evolution. “And this is severely lacking in mobile right now,” said Morel, adding, “There is nothing on mobile that is not a copy of something already existing on another device, and when you have the choice between a larger screen and a mobile, chances are you would prefer the bigger screen.”
Apps are talking to loyal consumers, not acquiring new ones
Another point that Morel raised was that apps, which are a medium in their own right, on handheld devices, were still more about utility value to existing customers. The loyal consumers downloaded apps for a host of services ranging from search, bank, car, city information, airlines and other such utilities. “The connection of the brand here is because the user is already a part of the ecosystem but they have not acquired a new customer. It is not a discovery process but consumption of utility that is part of a user’s everyday life,” said Morel underscoring the fact that apps were still not used as a medium that was either bringing in new users for a brand or allowing any proven form of advertising already.
Required deepening of relationship
There is no debate that consumers are spending a significant portion of their time engaging with a mobile device. But trends suggest that mobile has become more of a ‘keep me in the loop’ device or a consulting device. For the movement of dollars, a more deepening of the relationship was required. It was still a wait and watch on how this could be achieved – whether from intelligently combining search, social and other advantages of mobile or by finding out newer ways. “We need to see content that is supported by advertising on the screen and not just content supported by subscription,” said Morel.
He summed up, “It has been over seven years that as an industry we have been speaking of mobile. When you see the number of companies that are dedicated to mobile marketing and the other players focussed on the medium, I am very surprised with the slow rate of adoption. You can debate why and how, that the platform is not standardised or measurement has to still come in place; fact is that there has been high interest in mobile but very low following in terms of commitment.”