A little app problem for mobile marketing

Much has been written about mobile advertising, usually “it’s almost here! really!”, yet one basic challenge remains — handsets are cluttered with multiple web interfaces, and the problem is growing exponentially as new smart phones such as the iPhone allow anyone to load thousands of app buttons to get services online.

So many doorways. How will advertisers intercept them?

To understand the challenge, consider that the common web browser for computers created a single doorway that allowed certain advertising companies to thrive. The reason Google was able to gain a stronghold on internet advertising is that personal computers have only one interface to get online — the web browser. Google could become a popular search portal because everyone could easily find it within the common browser.

Ah, but mobile is different. The iPhone and Google’s own Android system enable users to load cell phones with apps — software applications for checking stocks, the weather, directions, retail store prices — and each button is a separate on-ramp to the internet. How will advertisers intercept users if users are taking a million different doorways online?

Brian Wieser, global director of forecasting for Magna, recently said U.S. advertisers will spend $229 million on mobile marketing in 2009 vs. $169 million in 2008. But he noted the market remains a “highly fragmented group of divergent advertising models collectively organized around portable media.” Exactly.

Photo: Sigalakos

2 thoughts on “A little app problem for mobile marketing

  1. The problem you lay out is the same that any website faces today. There may be only a handful of browsers, but there are millions of websites. How does a website stand out? By doing things, different or better, sticking with it over time and building audience. And then the best sites attract the ad dollars.

    The same analogy applies to mobile. There are a few really good mobile devices. And there will soon be millions of apps. The apps that do things the best for the tasks at hand will get the notice. And thus have the potential to attract the ad revenue.

    And really, though the platform differences may be a bit more complex than the optimization process for current web sites, essentially it’s the same thing. The ads can be served from a single source to the various mobile apps.

    When you start looking at the device as the browser, rather than the apps themselves, opportunities start to open up. An ad serving network could easily be platform agnostic. Just build the calls into your app and take the check, much as it works on the web.

    The bigger question in mobile, though, (and I think you make an excellent point here) is whether it’s worth building the branded app. I think the jury is out on that. Some offer a natural fit (like Travelocity or IGN…or my Bojangles locator 🙂 but others get quickly lost in the glut of apps. Or used once and deleted. I would definitely be skeptical of climbing on that bandwagon.

  2. I think we agree that mobile advertising will be challenging for companies like Google, who did benefit from one common web pathway in personal computers. The browser was a common ecosystem; mobile apps are discrete little trees with no connection.

    Each app on a smart phone takes a single click to get to the information you want. You don’t need to stop by Google to first search for it (and encounter ads) — you simply click on the movie icon to find movie times, etc.

    It is possible that every app could band together to create a common platform for advertisers, but I doubt it.

    I guess if Google were really concerned, it would get in the game of trying to design a mobile operating system to help support ways to sneak in advertising. It would feel a little robotic … perhaps they’d call it Android.

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