The following post is by Jules Ehrhardt, partner of design studio ustwo. It was originally written as a comment on a excellent post by Matt Edgar about agencies building products, republished here raw without edits and with his permission. I thought it was a great follow up to Josie’s post about ‘saving the agency’ and another perspective on the hot topic. You can follow Jules on Twitter here: @ezyjules.
There is close to zero chance to any of the big guns pulling ‘product’ off without completely gutting and refitting themselves, which would take till 2020 if it was even possible, by which time their model will begin its extinction cycle. Ad agencies are dinosaurs in terms of size, agility and long term prospects. They had a blast in the Triassic (50′s to 80′s), a boom in the Jurassic (90′s to 00′s) and now we are at the start of the Cretaceous (2010 to 20??). We are witnessing them lumbering towards extinction as the environment around them changes and slowly starves them of food.
Your choice of the words ‘lip service’ are apt as I believe in 2013 we are going to be seeing a whole lot of posturing from Ad and marketing agencies pretending they are anything other than ad and marketing agencies. We will be seeing, incubators, product, experience, UX whatever pose they feel they need to strike to stay relevant in the next age, whilst nothing will in essence change. Regarding the inevitable in-agency incubator trend, personally, I wouldn’t trust an ad agency to design the product or service of my startup, maybe maybe to sell it later, but not to design it.
Nike Plus is heralded as the future of the brand / agency model. It is truly a wonderful fusion of product, brand and lifestyle. However, name another example of something of its calibre, just one. Ad agencies simply cannot do it. Having just about gotten their heads around building websites (in the context of useful product, let us ignore Facebook fan pages, micro sites and pointless branded apps – (see http://crapbrapps.tumblr.com/) they can’t even ‘do’ mobile without screwing it up.
The following post is by Josie Brown and quite possibly the first of a series by guest writers. Josie is a good friend of mine and having previously worked at Iris, McCann, RKCR Y&R I thought it would great to see her point of view on the blog as we often find ourselves debating the whole ‘future of the agency’ topic. You can follow Josie on Twitter here @josiedbrown. Discussion welcome.
I remember when I persuaded my first boss to hire me. Back then, at a small agency, the brainstorming was done over a few nights with a bottle of wine, the timings had some breathing space and the clients didn’t expect an answer until the end of the day. Life was ‘fast’, we were nimble and our clients were still on broadband. That was eleven years ago and agencies have changed you’ve probably heard the same rumors I have “the agency model is done for”; agencies are sluggish and redundant and their ideas don’t seem to be that big or new by the time they go live. Tech companies, start-ups and web-entrepreneurs are the real leaders of the pack and attracting the top talent whilst creative agencies are finding it hard to be the cultural innovators they once were.
Back in November 2010 whilst I was in full-time employment, Apple had just launched iOS 4.2 and I was spending a bit of time reading about all the new features of the latest OS update on Mobilexweb.
I stumbled upon one in particular that really got me thinking – the ability for Safari to use the iPhone’s accelerometer (the tech in the phone that detects movement).
This seemed like the perfect opportunity to quickly release a proof of concept using the new feature, right in time for Christmas and get it out there before anyone else.
I reached out to the senior management of the agency where I was working at the time for the funds to hire a HTML5 developer for a couple of days. I suggested an accelerometer-based Christmas card that we could send to clients, thanking them for their custom over the past year (and showing them what cool stuff we do, maybe even get some press). Standard agency stuff.
It was decided that the money would be better spent on Google Adwords campaigns to generate new business leads for the agency. Anything innovative would have to wait until a client came along and wanted it.
Two things happened at that moment… 1) I decided that I needed to go back to freelancing (I handed in my notice after the new year) and 2) I would make something using the new iOS feature in my own time.
Sadly I’m not a developer so I did what I always do in these situations – ask my good pal Brendan (@oh_moore) if he fancied coding a ‘mobile snowglobe’ that animated everytime you started shaking the phone. Without any hesitation Brendan said yes and that evening he already had a hacked-up prototype of the snow.
I put together the design for the page and asked another friend Leigh (@leighpearce) to do the illustration for the snowglobe. We all worked on the idea a couple of hours here and there in the busy run up to the holidays.
We released the snowglobe into the world just before Christmas and I followed up with a blog post on boxing day.
It got around 25 retweets in total, a couple of nice comments here and there but nothing crazy. We had a fun experience and moved onto the next spare-time thing.
I think both Brendan and myself would agree that it wasn’t the most polished of sites, however as a proof-of-concept it was brilliant. It would have been great to spend a bit more time to iron out the kinks and design but hey, we had presents and turkey to attend to.
Fast forward to almost a year later and the highly regarded mobile design and UX expert Luke Wroblewski (@lukew) announced he was releasing a book called Mobile First.
There was a lot of buzz on Twitter and lots of positive reviews when the book launched- after a while I figured I should probably read it and got around to ordering a copy from the States.
When it arrived a few weeks later, I opened it up and skimmed through the pages…. there it was! Sitting on page 41 ….
I had no idea it was going to be in the book and I’ve never even spoke to Luke. The blog post and the snowglobe barely got any traffic (note to self – never launch anything on Christmas Eve or write blog posts on boxing day), so it just goes to show the importance of getting your ideas out there because you never know who could be looking.
Life at a agency can be tough if you want to explore this big new technological world we live in and create stuff. It’s often expected that ideas only form around clients or projects – the reality is that the best ideas often don’t and never will involve either of these things.
You simply can’t rely on clients to help you innovate – by the time they know what they want it’s already years old. Nobody needs or cares about another QR Code or Blippar campaign but clients seem to think it’s the dogs bollocks.
We are in the most exciting time ever in our industry. The speed of change is huge, every OS update, device or social network brings more and more opportunities to make amazing, fun and interesting stuff.
Things like apps have lowered the barrier to entrepreneurialism - Eeeeevveryone has a idea for a app, some of my mates don’t even know how to use a computer and they have app ideas. Everyone wants a slice of the pie, they know the time is now – everyone apart from agencies that is.
And this is the problem – the current culture of agencies is creating a workforce of idea hoarders. Creatives, planners, copywriters and developers keeping the best ideas for themselves because they would rather do that then give them over to their employers – even if that means those ideas may never see the light of day.
You only need to read the comments and the tweets around my post ‘Can agencies create the next Angry Birds? to see that even with all the resource and skill that an agency has, people see no personal or professional incentive to give away their best ideas.
This great comment from Alec hits the nail on the head (goes back the entrepreneurial mindset in place right now)
There’s no incentive/ownership structure within any of the agencies for which I have worked that addresses ownership of IP on an individual level. On the outside chance that my idea does turn into a million or billion dollar enterprise, I will not be happy with just a pat on the head or an advertising award.
I use to be of the opinion that getting my ideas made at work was the best strategy, I have so many that it was unrealistic to think that I would be able to make most of them even if I had all the spare time in the world. I’d rather have seen my stuff out there than sat on a notepad somewhere in my flat.
But now when the most simplest ideas get rejected internally, with no incentive to generate concepts unless there’s a P.O – it’s apparent the only way to do this stuff is collaborating with like-minded people in your own time.
If you’re working in a agency and you feel like your ideas aren’t being engaged, in my experience there’s a strong chance that others feel the same – team up with them. Get your ideas out there, whether it’s a sketch, prototype or just a simple blog post.
Marketers – which one of these billboards do you think would get more responses?
If the point of putting a mobile call-to-action on a advert is to get the consumer to do something with their phone, why is the industry continuing to use a fucking cryptic graphic that less people understand than a URL?
(Updated) The common argument is that mobile users save a handful of seconds by scanning a QR code. Back in 2005 when I first started playing around with the codes, URL’s looked a bit like this:
Now they look a bit like this:
Oh and don’t forget the large percentage of phones that have a physical or virtual keyboard.
I read a great post by Rachel Beer which pretty much sums up what’s happening right now:
“Yet, as with any new technology, QR codes are merely a means to an end for marketers. They are enablers to big ideas. They aren’t the big ideas themselves. Some brands are merely riding the novelty of QR codes, rather than doing anything interesting with them.”
People will not adopt a technical solution that serves to replace a manual task, if that solution is less efficient than the manual task it replaces. How could we think that QR codes for marketing would work any better than CueCat? Did we not learn the first time?
This is post I’ve been meaning to write for a quite some time now, it’s spawned from a number of conversations I’ve had with people in several digital and mobile agencies around London.
Aside from an odd 14-months at Nokia, I’ve spent all of my professional working life within agencies and it’s always felt like the right fit. The combination of creative and technical minds plus big brands has always had that lure and promise of creating amazing work. The process of getting a bit of paper containing a brief and turning it into a real life experience is pretty great.
So with all the right ingredients, creative juice and technical ability on tap I posed the question - Can The Next Instagram/Hipstamatic/Klout/Angry Birds Be Born Within An Agency?
Actually my question was more like why hasn’t this already happened? Why aren’t more agencies making bets and try to build products and services that would make venture capitalists in Silicon Valley jealous?
I’m not just talking about internal projects that agencies do in spare time (or better still, dedicated time) but for client work too.
In my opinion it comes down to a mixture of two things – clients themselves and agency culture.
The sad truth is that if you’re expecting a client to drop a brief and a lump of cash in your hand that sparks off The Next Big Thing™ then you’ll be waiting a long time. It’s rare to see a ‘big idea’ digital or mobile brief from a client that isn’t suffocated by its own bullshit.
Instead of spending the time to create a 50 page deck containing arrows and buzzwords, why doesn’t the client ever take the time to step back and think ‘Who the fuck is going to do this and why?’
Brands need to realise that the available hours and minutes of the people they are trying to reach are being eaten up by Facebook, IM, Twitter, Foursquare, Angry Birds and browsing the web. What makes them think that people are going to spend time interacting with yet another augmented reality app for any longer than a couple of minutes before getting back to flinging birds and reading tweets?
Startups and agencies alike always ask themselves, “What is the problem we’re solving?” If agencies want to think more like tech startups, they might focus less on clever storytelling and more on utility. In today’s media rich, attention-poor world, offering people something of use is the best way to cut through the noise.
Nike’s “Write the Future” and the Old Spice guy were the year’s best ad campaigns. I loved them as much as anyone. But I didn’t spend more than a few minutes with either–I was too busy devoting my spare moments to a relationship with Angry Birds and Foursquare.
But we can do better surely. How about 1 million people using your app every day? How bout every hour? Year after year?
Do clients and agencies want to keep creating branded fluff or do they want to build temples?
There’s no reason Hipstamatic couldn’t have come from Kodak’s agency. Or a global agency build something like Klout or CoTweet and have brands and rival agencies eating out of their hands paying to use it.
Agencies are just as guilty as clients, we pander too much for their insistence of ‘new’. Too happy to take their cash in return for some bollocks app that might get your client a couple of pats on the back in the boardroom but ultimately will be forgotten by the 5000 people who used it for a week or less.
I keep thinking back to another quote from the article on Fast Company:
Tech startups begin with the big idea, then seek to monetize.
Agencies start with a budget, then seek the big idea.
Two guys on a limited budget can get together and build Instagram, getting 7 million users in less than a year, a couple of guys at Odeo can start a side project called Twitter and become one of the biggest things ever. But at agencies we are consistently unable to turn a app costing 5 or 6 figures into something that can engage people for longer than a campaign (if that).
There are realities of course, I’m no account manager but I know that calling out your client for lack of sense and ambition isn’t the best way to keep people paid and the lights kept on.
So why aren’t more agencies (mobile epecially) creating stuff off their own backs? I know first hand how many amazing ideas get binned in pitches and projects, why not take a punt and prototype one that could benefit the agency (or brand)?
In my personal experience there is a extreme fear of failure and lack of desire to do anything innovative outside of paid client work which stems from the very top of the organisation. There must be 15-20 mobile agencies in London at the moment, how many of them have created apps that were part of side-projects or R&D initiatives?
It’s not like there’s a lack of will. Here’s a little secret – creatives and developers are ITCHING to do cool, innovative stuff and have great ideas every day. Some of these ideas might just be your agencies ticket to new clients, press, talent or revenue.
Try this test – if you’re reading this whilst working in an agency, when was the last time the creative and tech team all got together to launch something fun and interesting outside of client work?
The majority of the time the answer is either ‘a long time ago’ or worst ‘never’.
How are agencies meant to stay relevant and keep staff engaged without exploring technology and ideas in this way?
There are some agencies leading the charge – ustwo (@ustwo) based in Shoreditch have a portfolio filled with a mixture of client work and in-house projects.
They have heavily invested in their own IP and openly talk about the risks they’ve taken, one app called MouthOff has made them £123,456 through sales and licensing to brands, whereas another cost £80,000 of studio time and “utterly bombed”. Did this failure deter them from trying again? Nope! They currently have another big project in the works. Remember that Twitter spawned from the failure of Odeo…
I think I’m slowly finding where I sit within this industry. In the past I use to think that winning a award was the ultimate recognition of great work and aspired to produce campaigns that might get a sniff of a D&AD or Cannes Lion.
But fuck that. I’d rather have users who love and regularly use my app/service than any advertising award out there.
I want to build great products that people love and want to use. I want to solve problems by combining awesome experiences with technology and data.
Can that happen at a agency? Or is the only place for this sort of desire at a start-up or going it alone?
I think Don Draper sums up how I feel in this epic quote:
Out of all the different types of things you can design in mobile I’ve always found shopping sites to be one of the most interesting.
Getting a user from the homepage of a site right through to checkout to spend their money is just damn right cool. Everything from the psychology of implying security by using a ‘padlock’ icon to rearranging a few form fields on the payment screen to increase conversion.
I’ve worked on a couple of M-Commerce sites now and I wanted to create something without the shackles of brand guildlines or a CMS. I had a bit of fun designing it and hopefully the source files (Photoshop PSDs) will come in useful for other designers out there.
I also tried to show a bit of the thought process for some of the bits you see in the designs below.
Here’s a few personal thoughts about M-Commerce (mobile web) design:
Users don’t like clutter. If there’s lots of important information either decide a hierarchy or find clever ways to handle this in the UI like ‘tap to reveal boxes’.
Don’t recreate the same barriers you have online. If (for example) a part of your checkout process is causing drop-off then it will only been magnified on mobile. Rearrange and smarten up.
Of course all this is easier said then done with the ancient backend e-commerce platforms that many high street retailers have. Where open APIs are a luxury (and a huge investment) it’s no wonder the m-commerce war is being won by screenscraping (something that I’ll be covering in the future along the consequences for UX).
It seems that everyone is starting to think about how to use BBM in their marketing campaigns, so I wanted to shed some more light on the types of things users are doing and interesting ways they use features of the service.
Once you start using BBM you quickly realise that RIM weren’t expecting it to be a huge success. It’s lacking in so many features and enhancements, yet users find ways around this to make it behave in the way they want.
So what I wanted to do is tell you about one of its more popular features – status updates. As you would expect, the purpose of status updates is just like every other service that has them – to tell people what you’re doing.
BBM status updates don’t have any functionality, it’s just a plain bit of text which is displayed on your profile and friends activity feeds (also very basic). No commenting, no quoting, no liking, no nothing. People outside of BBM can’t see them either.
Despite this people try and use it in the same way as if they were on Tumblr, Twitter or Facebook. I’ve put together a few examples of common status behaviour I’ve seen when looking at not just my friends (18-30, non-techy), but others groups too, just to make sure the stuff I’m seeing isn’t isolated.
The Twitter (frequent micro-updates, conversations, sharing URLs etc)
One of the biggest surprises of BBM is how often users update their status. If I was to compare my friends status updates on BBM to their Facebook accounts, they are roughly 7-8 times more active on Blackberry Messenger.
The updates are veeerry similar to the ‘micro-blogging’ style of Twitter and you would think their hunger to update all the time would make them the perfect candidates for the service. However I estimated that around 90% of my friends on BBM don’t have a Twitter account. When I asked a few of them why they didn’t have one, the response was “What’s the point of telling strangers what I’m doing?”.
Yet constantly updating your Facebook status is a no-no, despite all your friends being there. People generally take more effort in what they say on Facebook and only update once or twice a day max, otherwise you’re bordering on pissing people off. I’m sure you’ve all got friends who update constantly, filling up your feed and inching you ever closer to the ‘hide’ button.
These rules don’t apply to BBM updates, probably because of its unintrusive nature – the feed is not trust into your face when you open the app like Facebook on the web.
Here’s a example of a particularly active feed:
Another Twitter-like bit of behavior is users talking to each other in statuses. Even though BBM is about private instant messaging, it’s common to see a very public conversation take place within status updates. (more…)
If you’ve been reading the blog over the past few months you may have noticed more and more posts about Instagram and the various marketing opportunities it presents. I honestly think it’s going to become a hybrid of Flickr and Twitter.
I know that sounds daft but after seeing trending topics it made me realise that you have a army of users ready to take a photo about anything at any second then upload and tag it.
One of the key parts of Instagram is adding ‘filters’ to photos. These give the picture effects such as black and white or Lomo, usually putting it in a Polaroid style frame of some sort.
” “It’s true that every man has his price….” - Peter (Vince Vaugn), Dodgeball
If I was to ask you if I could place a permanent advertising banner on the home screen of your mobile phone which showed various adverts and offers throughout the day in return for paying £2 off your tariff each month what would you say? Not enough? What if I chucked in a extra £10 and also asked the change the colours of your phone menu to match that of my brand? Still no? What if I was to give you a free iPhone 4 and reduce your line rental to £5 a month for all of the above plus changing your alarm clock sound to my brand jingle?
There is no doubt that some people will see advertising embedded into their mobile as a huge violation, but the key point here is that it will always be ‘some’ people, not everyone. For every person who cries out in disgust there is someone who would lap up a discount on their tariff or mobile handset in exchange for ads. Everyone has their price.
As mobile technology gets better and cheaper at a rapid pace, the profits will come from software and services, not hardware. The device becomes a shell.
Android phones have now reached the price point where margins are so low that it’s not hard to see operators giving them away for free and mashing ads into them [Update: T-Mobile now selling a £20 Android phone on Pay As You Go]
Whilst the idea might sound horrendous it would be naive to think that it can’t be done well. A combination of the right data, interface, functionality and reward could find that sweet spot which provides a good user experience and adds value for advertisers. It’s in everyone’s best interest that the ads aren’t lame (like the examples I used above) because then both advertisers and consumers lose out.
Still it’s worth noting that research I’ve conducted in the past even the most intrusive ads will be accepted if the reward is big enough. A 20% off voucher for Pizza Express appearing on a homescreen banner might not be enough to entice a user in taking up a ad-funded handset but £5 off their line rental each month just might.
It’s going to take a while to get to the perfect blend of advertising on a ad-funded mobile, it was once my job to find the right balance, testing various concepts with consumers. It was a fascinating look at the psychology of mobile and advertising. What I can tell you is traditional ad-units won’t work, it will take a whole new approach.
I always think you need to slightly over-deliver in what you give back to the user in a ad-funded model. A perfect example of this is Spotify. They give you way too much shit in return for listening to a few ads, making it really hard to feel hard done by, that’s how ad-funded mobiles should be. And if you don’t like it you can pay for the ad-free version.
Today Amazon announced that they would sell a new ad-supported Kindle for $25 less than the original. The ads only appear on the home screen and screensaver, it’s a great deal in my opinion. This is a sign of things to come.
Expect various people in the mobile industry to start screaming generic comments like ‘It’s the most personal device there is!’ and ‘putting a advert on your phone homescreen is like putting one on your childs face!’ etc etc.
Over the past couple of months I’ve been following the situation with Android and the increasing problem of malware appearing on phones with Google’s operating system installed.
Malware is “software designed to secretly access a computer system without the owner’s informed consent”, this includes viruses, worms, Trojans and spyware – something we see often on desktop PCs but rarely on mobile phones.
Unlike Apple, the Android app store doesn’t have a approval/vetting process, meaning that any old hacker can submit a app with malicious intent and not only that, they can also copy and resubmit popular apps like Angry Birds with their code in.
It’s a situation which has been simmering since last year when more and more incidents and reports showed that Android was vulnerable to apps spreading viruses and accessing personal data.
Then it happened – last week Google announced that they found 58 Android apps loaded with malware, built with the intention of gathering device-specific information. The amount of devices affected? 260,000.
Google sorted the problem by removing the apps Android Market and pushing the ‘Kill Switch’ which allows them to remotely remove mobile apps without the users consent (a talking point within itself).
I tweeted a few times on Monday about what this could mean for consumer confidence. We all saw what happened to Apple with ‘Antennagate‘ , it blew up big time and even though it was a non-issue, it still affected purchase decisions and the way people perceived the device.
I spoke to one friend nearly 6 months after it happened when she was due a upgrade, when I suggested trying a iPhone 4 she said “I’ll wait until the next one when they sort the aerial out”.
She’s not going to go online and read a review on Techcrunch or search forums to find out that actually the phone works fine. The damage has been done.
Aaaand then yesterday the Metro, a popular free daily newspaper with over 3.5 million readers, published the Android story on the front page turning a tech/geek story into a mainstream fear fest. You can read the full article here.
You can just see where this is all heading, a couple more stories like this, one high profile celeb gets their Android phone hacked, then suddenly every operator will be selling you a £5 per month ‘McAffee Android Security Centre” when you buy a Google phone. Suckering fearful consumers.
Ahhh Blackberry Messenger, never has a service been so popular but also so massively misunderstood.
Over the past couple of years the service has seems to have developed this slight air of mystery about why ‘youths’ are so crazy about it. People outside looking in always have the same questions, ”What’s the big deal…isn’t it just instant messenger like MSN?” or “Why do I need BBM when I get unlimited text messages for free?”.
It’s tricky to explain, I really think some of the biggest incentives to use BBM just don’t work across every demographic. It’s one of those things where you have to be in a environment which would make BBM appeal to you, I mean you have to like instant messaging for a start but I mean things like constant banter between mates in group convos, speaking to friends and family abroad for free, going out and exchanging details with other people, broadcasting daft jokes and pictures etc.
Essentially BBM is extremely well implemented, simple mobile instant messaging application that only works between Blackberry devices. However it has subtle differences that makes it better than any third party IM applications out there. In fact it’s more like a private social network than a instant messaging app…one with over 50 million users.
Blackberry users had traditionally been a older demographic but BBM has changed the perception of the device rapidly. Now it’s in the hand of every teenager because of Blackberry Messenger and you can see RIM have wised up to this, promoting BBM in all their latest ad campaigns without a suit in sight.
Here are some of the reasons why it’s so popular:
The messages are free globally because everyone is on a compulsory Blackberry data tariff in their own country. Images, files and voice notes that you send to contacts is also free (not while roaming of course)
It is installed on every Blackberry device as standard
You can add someone as a contact without revealing your actual mobile number (useful in clubs)
You can see when someone is typing and when a message is delivered and read
You can change your status (this is used very often), avatar and availability
You get on-screen notifications and sounds when a message comes through. Different types of message get their own icon on the status bar.
You can invite multiple contacts into a chat, even if they aren’t friends with each other
It’s always on, running in the background eating up very very little battery. All messages go through RIM’s servers and are pushed to the phone in the same way emails are. This means battery consumption compared to something like mobile MSN (which has a constant data connection) is very low.
Even if you don’t have reception you can still use BBM, the messages get queued until you get back in signal
You can have a flowing conversation with someone, feels more easy and natural than SMS
You can set up Groups where members can share pictures, calendar entries, all without being on each others contact lists.
It’s integrated into the rest of the phone really well, for example you can select a image from your gallery, press options and ‘send to Blackberry Messenger’ without being in the app
Girls and their mates have BBM which of course means…yep, boys want to have it too. Don’t underestimate this one.
I got my first Blackberry two years ago after a few of my mates owned them and raved about how great BBM was and that everyone now had one. In the beginning I resisted after taking one look at the Blackberry interface and dismissing it as a huge pile of shit. Two years after purchasing it hasn’t disappointed me, the Blackberry is one of the worse phones I’ve ever used, the audacity for it to be priced in the same bracket as some top-end Android handsets astounds me.
Despite all that I still carry the bloody thing around. Why? Simple – BBM.
It says a lot about a service that I’m willing to put up with all the other crap, the slow, grainy camera that always misses the moment, the browser that repulses me from browsing the web and the GPS that takes so long I always miss the correct road turning.
I now have enough friends that use BBM that it makes it difficult to leave, I have 40 close friends that use it compared to 8 on Twitter. It’s a bit like being locked into Facebook because all your mates are there. I wholeheartedly believe that Apple/HTC/Samsung will start looking at creating their own version and snatch users away from RIM.
BBM is truely the jewel in Blackberry’s lame-ass crown. So how can it be used for mobile marketing?
Well you can pretty much share whatever you want, offers, coupons, movie trailers, news, customer support, polls, questionnaires, music clips, drive traffic to links, create a community around a product or event, even create UGC campaigns asking users to send stuff to you like images and video.
BBM users have the potential to be a very active and engaged audience if done right. The key is shaping your campaign around this functionality.
Let’s quickly go over a couple of basics:
1) There is no platform or CMS for BBM, everything has to be done on the device.
2) Don’t just assume your Twitter/Facebook strategy will work for BBM Marketing, try and differientiate by adding value and incentive (for example treating it like a VIP club). There is absolutely no way I would let a brand onto my BBM contact list just for news updates, give me more.
3) Someone literally has to sit there and type in promotions, links, responses etc directly into the phone so you set out your objectives and strategy beforehand to the person/team handling the phone.
4) If you don’t tell people about what you’re doing they won’t find you. BBM doesn’t have a search engine or appear in Google, make sure you spread the word about your campaign.
There is only two ways you can do any sort of marketing on BBM, either by inviting people to add you as single profile or setting up a group for them to join. Both are slightly different but because groups can only hold 30 people max it makes them a bit pointless for marketing so I won’t cover them.
Picked up this post by Harry Brignull on the great blog, 90 percent of everything.
The discussion stems from a article on locksmiths and how they can open doors within seconds but actually go through a slow, theatrical act of ‘solving’ the lock, which increases customer satisfaction and gets them bigger tips.
The logic is sound, Dan Ariely sums it up perfectly by saying:
What this tells is that consumers don’t value goods and services solely by their utility, benefit from the service, but also a sense of fairness relating to how much effort was exerted.
If your interested in consumer behavior and trends, I always think that one of the most valuable tools you can use is your friends. They are pretty much your own personal consumer research group, you can ask as many questions as you want, do as much observation as you want – all for free.
So what are the most popular handsets in your social graph? I’ve found there’s a simply way to find out using Facebook.
All you have to do is go to the official Facebook application page for your handset and click on the ‘Info’ tab, you’ll be presented with a total number of friends, plus who has it installed.
I checked my mates and out of 168 friends:
106 have the iPhone app installed
54 have the Blackberry app installed
12 have the Android app installed
0 have the WebOS for Palm installed
There is no app for Nokia listed although one exists, in any case they would surely be fighting for scraps.
If you’re wondering why the amount of friends with the Facebook app installed is greater than my total friends, it’s because many people change phones and even borrow their phone to friends to use the Facebook, meaning that they are listed under multiple handsets. So remember these figures aren’t 100% accurate but a good guide no less.
As you can see iPhone and Blackberry dominate, Android has such a small impact between my friends (18-35 year olds, majority mid-twenties, nearly all non-tech) which is strange considering it has now overtaken Apple and RIM in marketshare.
One thing I’m noticing with friends who own Blackberry’s is they are voicing their discontent and slowly jumping ship. Simply put, BBM just isn’t enough for them any more, especially as those iPhone users who are the majority will be influencing their decision to get a different handset.
The Blackberry OS has barely changed in the last 3 years and it shows. Everything from the browser to the way it handles media is absolutely shit, rivals are raising the bar and RIM hasn’t responded. I think RIM will end up down the same road as Nokia in terms of sentiment if they don’t change things soon, all it takes is for Apple to do a OS update enabling a BBM-like application on the iPhone to haymaker Blackberry.
Try it yourself and post your findings in the comments
Here’s something that I’ve been thinking about all day after seeing some interesting data revealed by British Journalist and graphic designer David McCandless, so I thought I would braindump and get it all out in a post.
David and his team scraped 10,000 status updates on Facebook for the words ‘break up’ and ‘broken up’ and discovered trends in the days and months in the year that people choose to end their relationships. The data showed that break ups peak before social occasions like Spring break and Christmas (tightwads).
One slight problem with this data, it’s rubbish. The trouble with using keywords in status updates is that unless its dead specific, you’re just going to end up with junk. For example, how many people use the word ‘break up’ in their status before SPRING BLOODY BREAK? And before summer, and before xmas, and before easter. “Can’t wait to break up!” or “Broken up for da summer Wooowwoo” or just simply “Broken up!…lol” etc etc etc.
Anyway lets forget about the data that David scraped for a second because Facebook CAN tell when people break up – but sadly that info is only available to Facebook themselves.
How? Relationship status updates.
Facebook knows when people end their relationship or ‘get complicated’, also when people hook up. Times that by 500 million people and you’ve got a pretty good picture of when the world just is going through break ups and make ups.
I love using data to find out this sort of stuff, that’s probably why I’m so fascinated with Facebook, once you get to critical mass like Facebook has you can literally find out how the world feels, which brings me nicely on to -
Google Flu Trends
This.is.amazing - Google can predict the outbreak of flu epidemics in cities and regions 1-2 weeks earlier than federal centres for disease control and prevention.
How? By analysing the millions upon millions of search queries occuring each day and looking for keywords such as ‘cough’, ‘fever’, ‘flu symptoms’ and ‘flu cures’.
We have found a close relationship between how many people search for flu-related topics and how many people actually have flu symptoms. Of course, not every person who searches for “flu” is actually sick, but a pattern emerges when all the flu-related search queries are added together. We compared our query counts with traditional flu surveillance systems and found that many search queries tend to be popular exactly when flu season is happening. By counting how often we see these search queries, we can estimate how much flu is circulating in different countries and regions around the world.
There’s been much talk recently about how Facebook’s move to location-based features will impact services such as Foursquare, Gowalla and the like. Whilst everyone debates who will be crushed/acquired first, I think it’s time for some other companies to start shaking – online & mobile ad networks.
Back in early 2009 when I was doing mobile advertising mashups at Nokia, I spent a lot of time thinking about how to use someone’s Facebook social graph to create mobile ads that would be more engaging for users. My main goal was to combine the features of the Nokia device (location, music, games etc) with the immense amount of data Facebook has about you and your friends, resulting in highly relevant and targeted ads.
I started to really get stuck into Facebook Advertising, which is Facebook’s ad network used for running those tiny ads you see around the sidebar and various other places on the site. Anyone can go in and place an ad but the killer feature is the huge amount of targeting options available to you. From age all the way through to interests, and you can also target by applications installed, even events! (Check out my own campaign for an example). It quickly dawned on me that Facebook was in a perfect position to turn this into something that could give Admob a kicking.
In August Facebook launched its location-based feature on the iPhone called Places. It enables users to ‘check-in’ to wherever they are and push that location to their news feed for friends to see.
This means that not only can they add your real time location to the list of targeting data, but also all your friends locations too. The possibilities with all this information are endless for advertisers.
There’s already rumours of Facebook testing a Places powered deals service which rewards a user with freebies for checking-in at a location with 3 or more friends.
It’s not hard to imagine what a easy transition it would be for Facebook to become a fully fledged mobile advertising network. All they need to do is connect the dots between Facebook Advertising, Places and Connect.
I’m not talking about running text and banner ads on their app and mobile site, I’m talking about the bigger picture, taking on Google and Apple. (more…)
I’ve had a pretty interesting last few days at the movies watching three films that couldn’t be anymore different in plot, execution and budget. The one thing they did have in common is the effect they had on me – I left all three feeling inspired.
First up is The Social Network, which probably needs no introduction or explanation – the guy made a $25 billion business from his bedroom in Harvard and managed to get 500 million people (and growing) actively using Facebook.
Even though I already knew how Facebook started and everything about its rise to glory, watching it play out on screen (with a sprinkle of bullshit) was amazing. The best part about it is that Facebook wasn’t a new idea, there were dozens of successful social networks prior to them ever existing, including Myspace, Friendster and Faceparty, just like there were app stores before the iPhone and search engines before Google.
There is always room to make existing things better..no matter how far ahead or well established the competition is. Perfecting UX, usability and focusing on constant refinements and new features can really smash competition to pieces. So feeling inspired I moved on..
Next up is two short films by my good friend Paul Cheung which I saw with about 100 other people at a private screening on Saturday.
Paul had probably wanted to be a director long before he told me about it, but its amazed me how it went from an out of the blue conversation which began “I want to be director” to suddenly having two short films produced from what seem like no time at all.
With no experience or money Paul took a sabbatical from his job as a journalist and managed to get a team of people together to help produce his first film…for free. The film is called Sushi Tales, a psychological thriller about ‘a couple whose lives are turned upside-down by the discovery of a mysterious note’.
I was sitting there watching the film just thinking ‘shit, he’s just gone and left his job with no knowledge or experience of the film industry to make this film…and it looks wicked’. And it did, the film wouldn’t have looked out of place in any cinema, the way it was shot, the music, the storyline, the sound, lighting, sharpness of the picture – I was expecting some You Been Framed blooper (sorry Paul).
I left totally inspired, thinking I need to get off my arse and make some of my ideas a reality. Taking a look at the mobile marketing industry today I can see so much stuff that is just begging for someone to try and improve. Watch this space.
You can see the films for yourself:
Paul’s second film followed shortly after, it’s called Early Birds and completed wowed me, it’s like a BBC HD ident or something. Check it out:
Ahhh operators, you gotta luv ‘em. Just as it seems consumer behavior is really benefiting from the introduction of true smartphones and cheap ‘all you can eat’ mobile tariffs, they go and throw a spanner in the works.
O2 have just announced the end of its ‘unlimited’ tariff for smartphone users, this follows Vodafone last month and no doubt Orange will follow suit soon enough. Any new or upgrading customers will be shoved onto the new plans, existing customers keep the same tariff, but hey, you gotta upgrade sometime right?
There are a number of reasons floating around as what caused this change, one of them involves Apple. They’ve basically said to operators (these are my words) “Stop fucking offering ‘unlimited’ tariffs with the iPhone when you write “subject to fair usage’ in small print at the bottom of contracts, you anti-innovation bastards”.
However the O2 Chief Executive Ronan Dunne has stated another reason – they are seeing data traffic doubling every four months, this means their ‘flat fee’ tariffs aren’t making them any money if everyone is canning it more and more. Dunne reveals some interesting results about how this consumption is happening, apparently 97% of O2 smartphone users actually use less than 500MB per month and a tiny fraction use more than 1GB (0.1%). This means a small percentage of ‘super users’ are ruining it for everyone else by putting strain on the network, resulting in the new capped tariffs.
But wait! By the figures O2 reveal doesn’t that mean that someone who uses less than 500MB today, will in fact be way, way over that number by the end of their 12/18 month contract as usage is doubling every 4 months?
He had this to say:
“But at the same time, we’ll start to change customer perceptions about the value of the data they use; a vital part of ensuring that people share it responsibly and considerately.”
That is exactly the kind of attitude that stunts innovation, do you think we’d be in this great position today where people don’t second guess how much they pay to view a video or use an app if we still had limits and charged per megabyte? All these awesome trends we’re seeing with apps, social networks, location etc would never of happened. I know operators are seeing very little return from the iPhone/Android eco-system, they make no money while developers and Apple make millions, but this is the wrong move. Changing customer perceptions back to the old days? Pssh.
Now back to the original point of this post, The Guardian writer Charles Arthur puts forward a really interesting argument to what the hell these 0.1% of super users could be doing to download gigabytes of data every month. He thinks it’s caused by P2P users who are worried about the new Digital Economy Act and have now switched their illegal downloading to their mobiles to avoid being tracked by the government/ISP and getting ‘three strikes’. Those users are supposedly taking the SIM out of their phones and sticking in a dongle to download their movies, albums and what not. As he says “the tiny number of P2P mobile downloaders are screwing it up for everyone else.”
Couple of things wrong with this argument, Arthur makes the assumption that these users are smart:
“someone who’s using their iPhone SIM as a dongle really isn’t worried about upgrading; they’ve probably got a PAYG SIM stuffed into their iPhone for their phone calls. They’re not stupid.”
If these guys aren’t stupid, why the hell would they using their phones for P2P downloads? Surely they would be using VPN’s, Proxies and dozens of other Digital Economy Act avoidance tricks are much less hassle than having your SIM out of your phone and actually cost a lot less than a dongle. Some methods here revealed by a 5 second Google search.
So now that we’ve established that anyone with a brain wouldn’t use their phone for trying to avoid the Digital Economy Act, what are these users doing? Oh, this is so easy …
Come on now, had you forgotten about the old king of the internet before Facebook was around? What do you think happens when phones get bigger screens, faster internet and superior video-watching ability? Yes that’s right, people use them to watch porn from free online streaming sites like Xvideos, Redtube and probably a million more, aaand wouldn’t you know, the two I mentioned have mobile sites too, here and here (warning: porn). In fact just add ‘mobile’ or ‘m’ to any porn site, they’re probably mobile optimised.
I figured I better try and back up my argument with some facts:
This is some pretty big news for mobile that hasn’t got the reaction I think it deserves (or do I just play too much Playstation 3?). It looks like huge efforts are being made to make mobile, console and PC gaming completely compatible.
First up is Microsoft who recently demoed their Windows 7 Mobile playing Indiana Jones, then switching the game to PC, then onto the Xbox 360. Next is BigPoint and Unity Technologies who have developed browser based software that will enable iPhone (and eventually Android, iPad) gamers to play against PC, PS3 and Wii players.
On a basic level this means that you’ll be able to play multi-player games with people sat at their PCs at home whilst on your mobile. Also things like the ability to carry on your game where you left on the PC using your phone would be a typical feature.
But think about the possibilities this has for the actual games themselves; experiences have the potential to be completely immersive. What you do and where you go with your phone in real life can affect what happens to your character in a game using mobile technologies like GPS.
The service, available for UK- and US-registered mobile phones, enables users to get up-to-the-minute flight information for yesterday, today and the next five days. Users text D for Departures or A for Arrivals followed by a space, the departure date of the flight (in the form DDMMYY or MMDDYY for the US) and the British Airways flight number (eg BAXXXX) to 60747 in the UK, 70615 in the US.
OOohh laawwd – how the hell is anyone meant to use this service again if they have to remember all that?
So I decided to give it a try and deliberately entered false details to see if I would get a error message back saying explaining how to do it correctly. I.e “Sorry that was wrong, please try again by entering D or A….”
What do you picture when you hear the words “mobile advertising banners”? Probably some 2 or 3 frame, unengaging, pixelated GIF that reminds you of the web in the 1990s. While it’s true they often get a better click through rate than online, this is usually down to the fact that it’s the largest graphical element on the mobile screen.
Mobile banners haven’t really changed much in the last 4 years, however phones have improved beyond recognition with faster processors, 3G capabilities and better screens. However just as important is the improvement in handset targeting by advertising networks, this enables mobile websites to serve ads based on the capabilities of each phone model – so basically serving better ads to better phones.
As you know the mobile landscape is changing, Apple and Google both are now owners of the hardware, software and advertising networks. This means they completely control the mobile advertising eco-system for their handsets, free from the constraints that have handicapped creativity in this part of the industry for so long.
In the future advertising units & banners will have access to features on the phone, either through Flash, Flash Lite or HTML5. We’ve already seen Google’s ‘Near Me Now’ function on its website which directly accesses the phones GPS unit to provide shops and restaurants nearby. I think it’s only a matter of time before we see the accerometer used in the same way.
For those of you who don’t know, the accelerometer is the component in the phone which measures tilt, motion, shaking and swinging. It is responsible for sensing if the handset is portrait or landscape and switches the display accordingly. The iPhone was arguably the first real phone to ultilise it fully within its user interface and applications.
Aaaand did you know that Flash Lite 3.0 already has the power to access to data from the accelerometer on phones such as the Nokia 5800? Flash developers head here and here for example code. Oh and Flash Lite works WITHIN the browser so the following examples can be done today! (I’ll be covering this more in my next post)
Enough talking fool, show me some examples!
So what kind of unique, engaging, mobile-only experiences could you create using this technology?
Here are some examples of online banners that would fit perfectly with the accelerometer and the mobile web. These are a mixture of Flash banners and whole page takeovers, they inspired me and hopefully they’ll get your imagination and creative juices flowing about the possibilities of mobile advertising.
Wario Shake It
This is absolutely perfect for mobile, shaking your phone to set off all the elements falling. Plus Flash Lite has access to the vibration on the phone so this could shake the phone too!. Check it out here
Fiat ABS Banner
Imagine interacting with this by tilting your phone. Great Ad.
I’ve written about this before, but last week it resulted in me getting less food for my money – which my friends will tell you makes me very angry, so I’m bringing it up again.
I was meeting a mate after work for something to eat, the plan was to get onto Money Saving Expert and see what was on offer, print out the voucher and go munch. Giraffe had a 2 for 1 on main meals deal which fitted perfectly.
In the rush out of the office I forgot the voucher, because of this I changed my mind and we went next door to Wagamama instead. Why? Because paying full price for something when you know it’s on sale feels like a massive waste of money, you either can’t live with knowing that everyone else around you is probably eating for 50% less or you tell yourself that you’ll return another time with the voucher. Plus I like Wagamama that tiny bit more if paying full price but when it comes down to a good offer like 2-for-1, Giraffe would win every time.
If I could have sent that voucher to my phone rather than to a printer, Giraffe would have had my business. The same has happened in the past with vouchers from Gap, Urban Outfitters and plenty of others. It’s even more of a pain when you don’t have access to a printer.
How many times have you used a mobile SMS voucher compared to lets say, a printed email/pdf voucher? There is no comparison, how can the most commonly used mobile service in the world be overlooked for something you can only do if you have access to a printer? It makes no sense, ask any person who has used a printed voucher if they would rather use a text message instead, what do you think the answer would be?
According to reports, Google is developing the technology to enable them to start selling advertising space on real life billboards and posters in Street View. Google registered a new patent which describes how it plans to identify buildings, posters, signs and billboards and give advertisers the ability to replace these images with their own ads.
As cool as this is, it raises a number of potential questions which I’m sure will have to be dealt with some point in the near future, especially if this technology can be used for turn-by-turn navigation and Augmented Reality applications. Who actually owns the real life space once it’s online/mobile?
I would say Google own it but no doubt the likes of JCDecaux and advertisers will pipe up and suddenly want their cut. Google will probably play nice and give these sorts of companies revenue share but who knows? Would love to see the outcome of a court case on this one.
This is a really interesting subject and something I think we’ll be hearing much more about in the years to come. What’s your view?
Updated: Wrote this post last year before the iPhone 3GS launch, obviously that version didn’t have video calling or mobile tv as its core features but could that change this year? I was a thinking a bit too far ahead last year but now it seems other blogs are mentioning the same thing.
Rumours (and screenshots) are flying round featuring a front facing iPhone camera…9to5Mac has a post with all the theories. Remember the iPhone can’t save video calling on its own, operators will need to create unlimited bundles with standard tariffs otherwise it’s not going to be able to sustain the initial uplift. Maybe this is the kick start video calling needs to begin lowering prices?
Check out the new image and original post below:
The new iPhone is due to be announced soon and I have the feeling that it’s about to change the way people use (and perceive) Video Calling and mobile TV. The two services desperately need a jump start and have been poorly received by consumers for years.
As a consumer I know that Mobile TV is very appealing, I can’t tell you the amount of times I have been out and wanted to catch the football or a episode of Californication. Even at my desk, I can’t be bothered to keep turning my head to watch the plasma and would gladly have a phone in front of me with the TV on. The proposition isn’t hard for the consumer to understand, it’s TV that you love and know…on your phone. Simple.
However the price has always been far too high , I’ve found that most people don’t know that their operator offers TV and the ones that do think it’s too expensive to take up. Currently the price sits at around £3 per month on Vodafone to £8.99 per month on Orange…That’s 35% of my line rental!
Video Calling is just as expensive, on Orange it costs 50p per minute to call someone on another network. Video Calling is a service I would dip in and out of but why would I ever bother at those prices? I know many things have been listed on why video calling isn’t popular, everything from unflattering camera angles to human nature but lets face it, cost is usually king and if it was free people would use it more. Plus video calling is aching for a sprinkling of decent Apple-style user experience.
Samsung have started adding Wi-Fi to their LED range of televisions. Not only can you use Twitter and Flickr from the on-screen widgets but you can also watch YouTube (which brings up questions about the future of traditional broadcasting just by itself).
The reason why this is important is because the TV can now send and receive information via the internet. Add a NFC chip onto the television/remote control it then becomes a portal of unlimited opportunities.
Compare the adverts you sit through on TV to on the internet, I barely notice the ones online but on TV brands have the chance to really grab my attention. My attention is on the screen, I’ve probably got a packet of Pickled Onion Monster Munch in hand (get in), I ain’t moving. Then…wow the new Adidas Predator advert comes on, jeez I sure would like a pair of them, move my phone over the remote and BEEP BEEP > coupons, nearest store, catalogues, competitions, apps, the list could go on. The same applies during programs.
As you all probably know by now, Google are releasing their own phone called the Nexus One. The phone is nice, good features but definitely no iPhone killer. However as suggested by Mobile Industry Review it represents something much more than that.
About 6 years ago the first Nokia handsets shipped with Wi-Fi capabilities, there was a huge buzz about being able to make free calls over the Internet using your mobile, however operators put a stop to that by strong-arming the manufacturer by literally saying “Disable it or we won’t bulk buy your phones”.
Sure enough the Wi-Fi stayed but the phones never got VOIP calls until YEARS later. And when it did arrive they tried to charge for it. Operators want other stuff too like putting their own maps application on phones, app stores, and a whole bunch of extra crap they were never meant to do. If you’re trying to build something into the core user interface it’s probably better to let the people who made the rest of the phone do it.
This is typical of how things work in the mobile industry, manufacturers bend over backwards for operators because without them it’s extremely difficult to get your latest and greatest mobile into consumers hands.
But what if you’re the most visited company on the web?
Two weeks ago, O2 launched their very own SMS advertising network called O2 More. The opt-in program aims to “deliver highly personalised campaigns for advertisers and give customers access to a wide range of exclusive and relevant offers from over 50 leading brands.”
It works by the O2 customer signing up and filling out their age and interests online (picture below), O2 will also use their location and usage data:
What other information will be used for O2 More?
Only things we know about how you use your phone since you’ve been on O2. For example, if we know you download music to your phone, we may send you details of a music offer. We want to make the messages you receive from us as relevant as possible.
I dug around and found the O2 Sim card I used for the AQA vs 118188 test and signed up for O2 More. Check out the registration screen below (click to enlarge).
This is the first time one of the big four operators has opened up their customer data to brands and it’s probably long overdue. There’s no reason this couldn’t have been done years ago so why now? Are brands and consumer attitudes changing?
Shaun Gregory, managing director of O2 Media said in a statement:
“Mobile advertising has been slow to deliver on its promise. Much of that has been down to a lack of understanding, limited opportunities and no real accountability or measurement. O2 More is about to change all that and will spearhead the UK’s first truly personalized media business.”
I personally think that operators are seeing power shift over to manufacturers and are making (slightly vain) attempts to combat this. For a long time operators have been holding all the cards for targeted mobile advertising, they have your location, personal details (when you sign the contract) and even your browsing habits. But now everything has changed, advances in technology means that the handset can do all of this and more, putting the manufacturers in pole position.
2009 is over and very soon the Mobile Data Association will be releasing its messaging figures for the year just gone. These are going to be much more interesting (to me anyway) than most years because of one thing – the iPhone.
In June last year, Apple released the 3.0 update which enabled long-awaited MMS functionality on the iPhone 3G. The newer iPhone 3GS shipped with MMS as standard. What affect will all these dormant iPhone have on
Lets take a look at the figures:
Video and Picture messages (MMS) usage stats for the last 3 years in the UK:
2008 total 553 million (+104 million from previous year)
2007 total 449 million (+113 million from previous year)
2006 total 336 million
These statistics can be broken down as follows in 2008: Year on year growth (2008 vs 2007): 23% growth
As you can see the growth is pretty steady, which is great because it makes any spikes easier to spot. You would normally expect something in the region of +/- 10 million from 2008s figures for 2009.
I’ll check over the figures when they are released for any abnormalities, and do a bit of digging to see they can be attributed to the iPhone. The majority of the spike would need to be from O2 as they had exclusivity on the iPhone until late 2009.
Last month I got a email from the guys at Juniper with some lovely mobile coupon statistics that got a few blogs excited about the progression of mobile coupons:
Personal Marketing Comes of Age with 3 million Britons Now Redeeming Coupons via Their Mobile Phone - According to New Juniper Survey
According to a new survey report from Juniper Research more than 3 million consumers have now used mobile coupons in the UK with UK brands benefiting from a 6 fold increase in response rates through mobile coupons.
The mobile coupons consumer survey, launched globally today, provides detailed insight into consumers’ current usage of mobile coupons. It also gauges the future prospects for new interactive mobile marketing techniques such as coupon services and smart posters.
Howard Wilcox, Senior Analyst at Juniper Research, commented: “The redemption rate for traditional paper coupons is typically 1% or less, but, based on our survey, mobile coupons offer 6 times these rates. This means that retailers and brands have the opportunity to exploit the mobile channel via personalised coupon offers direct to the ultimate personal device - the mobile phone.”
The survey showed that in excess of three quarters of those questioned were aware of mobile coupons and that once people receive coupons then there is a strong probability that they will also redeem them. The Orange Wednesdays campaign is a prime example of a successful mobile coupons programme.
I think that ‘personal marketing comes of age’ is a bit pre-mature, I hardly ever see mobile coupons in the UK apart from Orange Wednesdays. Do you?
So I emailed the extremely helpful guys at Juniper with the following question:
Would be great to know how many of those 3 million came from Orange Wednesday, I rarely see mobile vouchers so I'm expecting the results to be skewed by initiatives by Orange
Ever since the dawn of time mobile marketers have been using the ‘Starbucks coupon’ example to sell the idea of location based coupons into brands and businesses. I’ve used it a few times because it’s the easiest way to explain to someone who’s ‘non-mobile’ about location and the possibilities.
The scenario goes like this, you sign up for a mobile coupon service, fill out your profile, ticking coffee and various other things as your interests. You walk past Starbucks one day and BAM, your mobile beeps and it’s a 20% discount SMS coupon for a cup of coffee. Then you stroll in, extremely happy and redeem your coupon. Win for you and a win for Starbucks.
This basically applies to the concept by operator AT&T, the idea is simple, as consumers walk around a city, they get mobile alerts whenever their favourite nearby stores and restaurants have a deal. It works by the mobile operator constantly monitoring the customers location (opt-in of course), then matching that info to available retailers to push coupons/info.
Sounds great, apart from one problem….it uses SMS.
Firstly you will never escape the fact that SMS advertising messages are intrusive. They arrive into your inbox just like personal messages, they don’t have a separate folder, they don’t arrive silently, they don’t generate a different on-screen alert or icon. Oh and if it’s a coupon, you can’t sort by expiry date.
Just like any consumer, I’m interested in around 100+ different brands, everything from clothing, electronics, all the way to peanut butter. Do I want discounts on these brands? Hell yes (I love those printed vouchers), gimme as much as possible. Do I want my phone beeping several times a day and my inbox filling up? Hell no.
No matter how targeted the coupon is, there is no way a location based SMS service can remain useful and scale to cover the amount of brands an average consumer likes without severely pissing them off, regardless of opting-in. (more…)
I remember testing out QR codes for clients 3 years ago when considering if we should include them into a few campaigns. None of them went for it, the main problem was that such a small percentage of mobiles were compatible with the QR code application, plus no phones actually shipped with the reader installed meaning that you would have to get the user to download something before they could even interact. This didn’t sit well with any brands and eventually all talk of using them vanished from future projects.
Fast forward to today and isn’t it funny that Augmented Reality has exactly the same problem, but brands and advertisers are going absolutely nuts for it?
I’ve always steered clear of making someone download an application to interact with advertising (excluding typical iPhone apps). It’s no secret that drop off rates are increased massively when you throw in a download. We have App Stores now to make that process a lot easier along with unlimited data plans which eliminate cost concerns for the users. But as super duper as it is, I still have a niggling feeling about AR. (more…)
Aside from doing the mobile marketing campaign stuff, I also spend a lot of time designing WAP sites and mobile banners for various promotions that require landing pages/advertising across different publisher sites. I’ve been making mobile banners since 2006 when I was at Enpocket and even though mobile has come a long way to become cemented in advertising and brand strategy, some things are still exactly the same as they were 3 years ago…there is a serious lack of love for the mobile banner.
If you work in advertising/creative in any shape or form you will have no doubt come across brand guidelines before, these are the documents provided to agencies, partners and freelancers to ensure that the company is represented clearly and consistently both inside and outside the organisation. This includes rules for print, outdoor and online, such as size of logo, spacing between elements, colours, tone of voice etc. The guidelines often need to followed to the letter otherwise any designs you’ve done will get thrown out during the brands internal sign off process. This is where the trouble begins…
I’ve made hundreds mobile banners and WAP sites, in that time I’ve seen brand guidelines include specifications for mobile just once - both for regular advertisers and those dipping their toes in. Instead you’re expected to apply the same rules and assets for online to any mobile designs. This causes a number of problems because in many cases, it’s impossible to do on mobile.
Mobile screens are small and banners are even smaller (as well as being highly restricted but more on that later). Meaning that any logos, graphics and mandatory slogans/copy often become illegible as they scale down. You would assume this allows you some leeway with getting designs approved, after all if you can’t make out half the things in the advert it’s pretty pointless.
Often the only way to fit something into a banner is by re-working some of the assets, such as making a portrait logo into landscape by moving the elements side by side or removing some copy heavy slogans. Nothing radical. But exceptions are rarely made by brand teams, partly because they don’t understand the limitations of mobile or have anything other than online to reference it against. This means they would rather let barely legible creative through the approval process than something that is clearer, more effective and likely to get a click. Once brand team sign-off the creative it usually goes live without anyone from the company checking it over again as responsibility is delegated. In the end you’re left with a banner that leaves you wondering “who is actually going to click on this thing?”.
Check out this logo I picked completely at random as an example:
The static banners above show the difference it makes by adapting for mobile. Would you rather have your advert unrecognisable but adhere to the guidelines? Or work on getting the best out of your money by considering how to adapt for the medium?
Some brands have logos, slogans and assets that luckily already work well for mobile but those who don’t can count the cost in a number of ways including:
The ad campaign doesn’t perform well, wasting money and affecting the brands confidence in spending money on mobile advertising again in the future.
The poor quality creative has a direct effect on the consumers perception of the brand, which is kinda ironic after the brand team signs it off.
The brands Competitors DO create mobile brand guidelines, making their ads look considerably better to the consumer.
Working on the ad-serving team at Nokia, I got to see how major ad campaigns were doing and it’s no surprise that click through rates have a direct correlation to the quality of creative. If I would have had all the banner creatives on the screen and hidden the results, you could have easily guessed which ones got the best CTR just by looking at the graphics. Obviously there are other elements involved in attracting the user to make that click but in my opinion the creative is the most important. If it wasn’t then everyone would just run text ads right? In Google’s own words, “Text is often useful, but sometimes videos and pictures are a more effective way to receive information.” (more…)
9. “Location-based technology is intrinsically exciting for consumers…”
No it’s not. The phrase “location-based technology” intrinsically puts most people who aren’t in the mobile industry to sleep. And they look equally unimpressed if you promise them their phone can guide them to the nearest cashpoint.
That was the big selling point of the early days of LBS, until the industry realised that even half-cut consumers can womble their way to the nearest bank machine under their own steam. Now the buzz is around social location, and mashing up your handset’s GPS with social media and Web 2.0 services.
The problem is that this is all still technology-led. The assumption that everyone wants to track their friends – and especially that they regularly go out in town with no specific plans in mind of who to meet or where to go – is unproven at best. As is the idea that people want to geotag all their photos and videos and share them with the world, all the time.
The next year or two will see some really smart, desirable mobile services launch that use location. But it’s the ones that are actually based on stuff people want to do that will succeed.
It’s more about great, desirable services that happen to have location elements in the mix.
I disagree with this statement on many counts.
Of course the term “location-based technology” isn’t interesting to the consumer, just like “Capacitive Surfaces” (iPhone touchscreen), “API’s” (applications, websites, plus loads of other cool stuff) aren’t, however these are the things behind the most popular consumer products and services today. You just need to wrap up the technology in a way the consumer can understand and get excited about.
“The problem is that this is all still technology-led” – I really don’t understand how it is technology-led, it’s totally service-led. Location needs to be a service to exist for consumers, for example a GPS chip is just a GPS chip without a TOM TOM attached it. Without all the other stuff knowing your own location is pretty useless, unless your a mountain trekker. (more…)
After recently hitting the jackpot by finding a Pay As You Go sim card topped up with £14 credit under a sock in my flat, I’ve decided test out premium rate SMS question and answer services.
The concept behind of these services is very simple, once you text in your question it gets routed to a researcher who will send you back an answer within one SMS. At the cost of around £1 per answer, it’s not cheap.
Most people are familiar with AQA (Answer Question Answered) who are undoubtedly the grandaddy of the whole SMS answering thing. They started out in 2004 and have answered over 20 million questions to date.
However competition is never far away from a good idea and since the AQA launch there have been dozens of identical services launched in the UK and abroad.
It’s really interesting that people are still willing to pay up to £1 to have their question answered when services such as Google and Yahoo Answers (plus dozens more) could potentially answer your questions for free on your mobile.
Even Twitter is a potential treasure chest of answers, just tweet your question out to your network and sit back. However you probably need more than the 54 followers I have to get the kind of knowledge range needed, I bet Ashton Kutcher never has a problem with a tweeted question.
Lets face it, there is nothing easier for a consumer than sending a text which is why they are paying £1 for the pleasure. You text a question then get an answer back. Simple.
But who is the best in the UK? Lets find out and move onto the main contestants for the UK showdown.
The original SMS answering service, but are they still the best? Generally liked by most people and a recent BBC Watchdog experiment revealed they are the most accurate. Lets see about that. Cost per answer: £1
The quality of the service has been in question ever since they made the headlines last year by sending out racist jokes. The website has some nice touches such as the live question feed, plus decent exposure on TV and outdoor ads, but can they provide me answers without offending me? Cost per answer: £1
As you may have noticed in the last couple of years there has been a surge of popularity in online discount vouchers in the UK. A week doesn’t go by without a voucher for Gap, GBK, Ask, Urban Outfitters or H&M landing in my inbox. All you have to do is print them out and take them in-store. Sites like Money Saving Expert are visited by millions looking for discount vouchers to download.
The peak of the craze was in December 2006 when Thresher’s saw its ’40% off all wine and champagne’ voucher downloaded and printed by millions of people and was so popular that it made the news. The following year they relaunched the offer.
Since then printable vouchers have exploded and been in constant supply from top high street retailers, in fact I’m holding a 30% one for Gap right now. If you head over to the discount section on Money Saving Expert you can literally download hundreds of different printable vouchers from restaurants to shopping.
At first the vouchers were either PDF or JPEGs that just circulated around via email. Many had a space to fill in your details such as name, age but you never had to fill them out to use them (or they just weren’t enforced properly). Often you don’t even have to hand the voucher to staff, simply display it.
Now it seems these companies have realised that they could be capturing the information of thousands of consumers. This means that store and restaurant websites are requesting some information before allowing to download vouchers such as name, age and email address, some are making it compulsory to sign up to newsletters or become website members. This allows the company to keep the customer updated on new offers, products and news.
A couple of things to note about these printed vouchers is that they almost always contain no unique numbers or barcodes. After asking a few stores about the process, they simply said that staff are told the length of the offer, the button to press on the cash register to apply the discount and to put the store receipt in a separate pile to be counted later. How old school is that process! We are talking about massive chains like Gap here. This is perfect for mobile. (more…)
Am I the first person to start noticing that IVR systems don’t really work that well with qwerty keyboard mobile phones?
Every single time I call my bank of mobile phone operator I get the IVR asking me to enter characters from my password. I glance at my keypad in a panic trying to work out what button equals what letter before the automated voice tells me ‘sorry I didn’t get a response’. Then after two attempts you get put in the queue for customer services. Aaaargh.
RIM (makers of Blackberry) have a global market share of 18.7%, add onto that devices from Nokia and LG that feature qwerty keyboards and you have a large, growing number of users whose experience is being affected by the type of handset they have.
I’ve become one of Spotify’s greatest fans. It is easily one of the best services to appear in the last 12 months and will hopefully be around much longer. I use Spotify every time I’m on my computer for longer than 5mins, it’s fuss free, instant and has allowed me to build a playlist that I’m never bores me. Unlimited free music is always going to be a winner.
However over the last couple of weeks something about Spotify has really started to bug me more and more. This has nothing to do with error messages, bugs or music availability. It’s because I now want my entire 200 song playlist on my iPod.
Of course this isn’t possible, Spotify is just a streaming service and the music companies wouldn’t be too happy allowing their tunes to be downloaded for free.
There is an option if you right-click on a track to buy it from 7Digital.com but if you have 200 tracks it’s not exactly the best experience for you or your wallet (songs are roughly between 79p and £1.19 each).
So what’s the solution? Would I pay £200+ for my playlist? No. How much would I pay for my playlist? Nada, I want it for free. (more…)
Yesterday I came across two Bluetooth billboard campaigns I remembered seeing a few years ago. They both share similar qualities using a bit of mystery to (hopefully) intrigue the consumer into interacting with the brand. However being in public areas they could easily be seen as being intrusive and offensive rather than creative and innovative. More detail about each of the campaigns below:
Schiesser “Mystery” Underwear Campaign:
First is the ‘Mystery’ billboard by underwear company Shiesser. The billboard features a sketched silhouette of a woman with the line “The prettiest things are hidden from view“.
Then when you activate your Bluetooth you get sent the Schiesser Showroom Application which displays a catalogue of models in lingerie, thus filling out the silhouette. Agency: Mindmatics
Big Brother “Big Brother is watching” Campaign:
Next is the Big Brother campaign in Australia to promote the launch of the new series on TV. Bluetooth transmitters were installed into 20 high footfall bus shelters around town. Two messages were sent to people nearby (as a .txt file).
The first message is targeted for the location, with something along the lines of “Im watching u. Ur at the (customised current location)”. The second message is received 30-40 seconds later with the big reveal, saying “Big Brother is back. 7 PM weeknights on TEN”.
The campaigns theme is based around the Big Brother slogan “Big Brother is watching” hence the stalker style message. Agency: Marketforce
Quick Background On Bluetooth Marketing
Bluetooth Marketing (also known as Proximity Marketing) is distributing content via Bluetooth transmitters, usually in billboards, shop displays or hidden out of sight. You can send any type of file to a mobile, whether you can open it or not depends if it’s compatible with your handset. Files are usually video, audio, images and applications – the speed of Bluetooth means you can generally send 1mb files in seconds which makes it such a attractive method of mobile advertising. It is free to send and receive files and no personal information about the user is divulged. It works in exactly the same way as peer to peer Bluetooth, which means you can either accept of reject the file transfer.
Innovative Or Intrusive?
So as you can see these could either be seen as smart bits of advertising…or two billboards sending random members of the public pictures of ladies in pants or stalker messages scaring them to death. (more…)
Over the last 4 to 5 years a monster has been slowly created as mobile phone companies make their phones better and more feature rich. Mp3 and loudspeaker capabilities have now become standard in even the most budget models meaning that every kid and teenager is armed with a mini annoying ghetto blaster.
If you live in London you have no doubt seen teenagers on the bus, train, wall outside the off license playing crappy sounding tunes from their phones. Ever wondered why they do this when the phone probably came with headphones/handsfree? (more…)
It’s always interesting to watch different trends and behavior slowly emerge on Facebook. You can tell alot about the mindset of your demographic by keeping an eye out for reoccurring theme across different friends status updates whether it’s about a film, person, product or general feeling towards something.
When Facebook first came on the scene I remember it being a race to see who could get the most friends, this seem to define your real life social standing. On several occasions down the pub I kept being asked how many friends I had on Facebook and being constantly beaten by others with a few hundred people more than me. My reply of ’Yeah but how many of them do you actually want to speak to’ fell on deaf ears.
The mentality of quantity over quality might have had something to do with many users emigrating from Myspace where you usually just add anyone and everyone. Myspace of course was no where near as personal as Facebook back then, most people don’t even have there full or real name on there. Then on top of that you have fears of identity theft, getting sacked and various stalker behavior.
Over time users have realised that maybe adding people you don’t know that well and letting them go through all your photos, friends and personal info probably isn’t a good idea. Check out the status updates from pals above, they are getting more and more common.
It all came to a conclusion when a friend recently said ‘How many Facebook friends are you down to these days?’
The social news site Digg has recently launched an innovative advertising system where users vote on adverts to make them more popular.
If you haven’t heard of Digg, it’s basically a news portal where the community votes on stories and content from around the Internet. The more popular the story the higher it appears on Digg until eventually it appears on the front page. Imagine the BBC website with all the stories on the front page there because viewers voted on them. Alternatively if Digg users dislike a story they can ‘bury’ it, making it go further down the pages.
The same principle applies to ads now appearing on Digg. If the community likes the ad more people will see it, if not, it gets buried and no one sees it. Essentially your recommending it to your fellow users by voting it positive.
This is really interesting because you’re immediately challenging the advertiser to create an engaging ad campaign for the audience. If the brand goes in half hearted then not only will they lose money but the attitude of 2 million plus Digg members could take a negative turn against the product/company.
I think this probably works best for viral types of advertising, I can’t imagine people voting up the launch of a new breakfast cereal or shampoo. Viral ads like the Nike ‘Ronaldinho R10‘ or John West ‘Bear Fight‘ video could be the way to conquer it. I would certainly hire one of the most active Digg users to consult on my ad.
Another problem is relevancy. Ads that appear are based on other peoples votes which could lead to hugely inaccurate results for the end user.
However assuming some funky algorithm is involved and I only get shown ads from people who are my friends and those who have voted on the same types as story as me (Sports, Technology, Gaming etc) it could be positive or negative. Just because you and me vote up the same type of news stories/online content doesn’t mean we like consuming the same things. Even if I myself voted on video about a basketball player scoring from the halfway line on the buzzer. It doesn’t mean I want to be sold the latest basketball gear. I don’t even like basketball, I could have just appreciated the shot.
I think socially recommended ads can be great, I’ve found through research in consumer testing that things to buy that are recommended by friends are much more trusted than those recommended by sites like Amazon. Check out the example below, which products would you be more likely to click on? (privacy considerations aside)
After writing about the best of Nike’s mobile marketing campaigns, I started to think all the cool football ads they have produced over the years. I’ve compiled a list of my personal top 17 ads in no particular order, although after some thought I think “Nike Take It To The Next Level” is my number one.
What’s your favourite?
One of the best, I remember the buzz going around when this came out in 1998 and all the lads humming the tune on the football pitch every time they did a bit of skill.
Apart from the nice bit of skill Davids does, I like how him and Bierhoff leave the rest of their football friends to blow up in the building.
Updated 06/10/09 : I’ve added the videos for each campaign
You have got to hand it to Nike and their agencies, time after time they produce some really innovative and engaging mobile marketing campaigns.
It seems like Nike totally trusts its agencies and lets the mobile experts there do what they do best. Campaigns have mobile at the center rather than a text call to action awkwardly shoe horned in at the end, because of this you get some fantastic, groundbreaking work.
Here are my favourite picks:
Nike iD Interactive Billboard – Times Square, New York
Nike launched a 23-story interactive billboard in times Square displaying customisable footwear from the Nike iD range.
You dial the number that appears on the billboard and use your phones keypad to start customising the on-screen shoe….in real time! You then get sent a text message with a link to download a wallpaper of your design or even buy it.
The beautiful thing about this is that it works on every phone, no apps, no software, just a simple phonecall. Brilliant.
Check out the larger image here or the video below:
Over the last few days I have been trying out Spotify as I was really interested in seeing how it uses audio ads to fund the service.
If you haven’t heard of Spotify it’s a free music streaming program (imagine iTunes with all the content in the Store being free) with over 3 million tracks and 1 million users since launching in February. You can’t download songs but you can listen to as many as you want.
So what’s the catch? Audio ads play at the rate of 4 to 5 per hour plus a few banner ads on the program itself and if that bothers you there is a paid-for premium service at £9.99 per month.
After listening for a few hours and trying all the features of the service I was amazed that you get so much for such little ad exposure. I would go as far to say that even 7 to 9 audio ads per hour would be fine. The ads themselves are pretty polished and low on annoyingness, it’s cool that the banners in the program change to match the audio ad when playing.
Audio ads are usually some of the most disliked by consumers in my experience through focus groups. Pandora famously conducted a trial in 2007 serving an McDonald’s ad to just over 100,000 users, with 100 writing in to complain and far more complaining around the web. Pandora decided to halt all advertising until announcing in January this year that they will start serving ads again. I’m guessing the great execution of audio ads on Spotify made them have a rethink.
So why did it work for Spotify and not Pandora originally? (more…)
It’s a shame when one of the best restaurants in the world launches a mobile site that it doesn’t get the attention it deserves.
Nandos now have a very simple mobile site that allows you to find your nearest restaurant and check the menu (like you don’t already know what your gonna have). Admittedly nothing ground breaking is going on here, my love of peri-peri chicken encouraged me to write about this but it did raise some interesting questions about the usefulness of these sort of WAP sites.
I wonder how WAP store finder/presence sites will be affected as more and more phones come with map applications.
Could it be more valuable to Nandos and other establishments to pay for sponsored search results in applications like Google Maps Mobile rather than build dedicated WAP sites? For example when people search for ‘food’ or ‘restaurant’ Nandos comes up first in the results on Google Maps Mobile. Check out the Hilton example here.
I have the feeling that companies like Google will offer more features to businesses that advertise within maps like allowing menus and products to be uploaded or even organising test drives for dealerships. Small companies don’t usually have the money or the know how to get WAP sites built. Self contained ‘mini sites’ in local search applications could be the answer to this.