If everyone else is going mobile, should you?

I was interested to read on the IAB’s website (http://www.iabuk.net/) about the tremendous growth in mobile advertising in 2011. According to their research, mobile advertising was up 157% in 2011 vs. 2010. Of course, it’s off a much smaller base than even other types of digital advertising. But it still stands at an impressive £203 million in the UK. Not too shabby when you compare it to 2008 when mobile advertising was a paltry £14 million.Does this mean mobile is a bandwagon you should jump on? Frankly, I could argue the point either way.

On the plus side, mobile continues to grow. Ipsos MORI’s Tech Tracker tells us that 39% of UK adults access the web via mobile and Smart phone ownership is now at 42% (http://www.ipsos-mori.com/techtracker). And these figures continue to grow. What’s more our research among youth in London last year (http://www.ipsos-mori.com/youthintransition) showed us that mobile is everything and that young people expect a trade-off, such as advertising, if they get apps and other mobile-friendly things for free. If it’s all mobile with youth, the mobile is helping to future-proof. Why wait to learn your lessons?

On the negative side, 39% of UK adults access the web via mobile. Yes, this figure is up but it’s still low right now. And, if young people expect a trade-off, they still don’t like advertising very much and they expect to be entertained by advertising (as I wrote in Campaign in October 2011 http://www.campaignlive.co.uk/analysis/1100304/Entertainer-Youth-Advertising/), which might be more difficult on mobile if you don’t know how. Further, as others have mentioned before me, it’s not clear that consumers think brands have permission to be on mobile (although, given the preponderance of popular brand apps, I’m not sure this holds water).

Ultimately, it depends on what you want to do and who your target is. It’s unrealistic to think mobile is going to lead your campaign right now (although I haven’t seen evidence of anyone expecting this just yet). But it might play a role in increasing your reach or reinforcing your message.

Smart phone penetration tends to be higher among those under 35 years old. So, if your target is over 35, you’ll need to treat mobile advertising with care – certainly you’ll need to ensure that it’s not accounting for too much of your budget. If you’re targeting ‘youth’, as with any other medium, leverage it in the way that they expect – fun, cutting edge and / or giving them something back.

Mostly, no matter what the target, you need to make it simple. The fact that Apple was the first real mobile evangelist has made this par for the course on mobile. After all, mobile Internet was there before, but, like St. Paul, Apple brought it to the masses. And one of its best mechanisms for doing this was to make mobile simple and sleek, as it did with digital music.

So, if everyone else is going mobile, should you? On the whole, I fall into the yes camp, so long as it’s with sense. There are some great things you can do with mobile; so it’s totally worth a shot. Don’t be afraid to experiment, especially if this is a big medium for your target audience. And, if you’re new to it, expect some failure. Learn from that failure: you shouldn’t shy away in future if it’s not perfect the first time.

Tara is a Director at Ipsos ASI. Follow her on Twitter @TaraatIpsosASI.

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