“Prediction is very difficult, especially when it’s about the future” wrote Niels Bohr. He was right, and I think more so when considering the digital and mobile landscape. But I see some clear themes emerging for mobile this year that are worth headlining.
At a December event I participated at, I was asked to come up with a buzzword that we will all be sick of hearing this year. I took the brief—“keep it lighthearted and informal”—and invented a new buzzword. I have absolutely no doubt we will get sick of it, in fact, I feel this second outing may be its last. It’s ‘Mobile mutuality’. (It has an acronym, MUTT and it was pointed out, as I am Scot, I could get away with SMUTT although that was by a mischievous fellow panelist, so I parked that thought.)
But mobile mutuality is increasingly happening, and we’ll see a lot more of it this year. In essence, it’s the healthy erosion of the traditional ‘walls’ that sit between mobile and online, and also between online and offline, allowing for the planning of mobile to be more consumer-based rather than channel-obsessed.
These walls curb creativity, and really limit realistic investment in mobile. Mobile mutuality exists, of course, because of consumers rapidly adopting mobile into every facet of life. One way it will manifest is what some people are calling 'flow advertising', seeing a single piece of advertising in one space as part of a composite campaign story told across platforms. That sounds like MUTT to me, and I like it. Maybe I’ll foster this a little more.
I think the hype will diminish around programmatic trading in 2014, but its importance will increase. This is a credible and necessary evolution of the digital media landscape.
Mobile’s exposure to it will be modest but important. I’m ever the optimist, so what I like about this opportunity is the chance to make all inventory worth something more. What worries me is the balance not being struck between the transactional operational task and the media product itself. Too much of the former is the road to volume and murky bargain basements—and there’s enough of that already in mobile. Too much of the latter will effect true scale.
Progressive audience owners, be they broadcasters, telcos, or publishers, are adopting more dimensionlised media portfolios that included some programmatic volumes but ideally with added data bells and whistles, whilst in parallel, spending time enhancing other product sets in the portfolio equally. There remains, in my view, far too much of an imbalance in favour of pursuing the efficiency, and sell-through rate objectives above all else.
Mobile ‘always on’ strategies
2013 saw big lifts in mobile spend across APAC. There was great quarter-on-quarter growth, but what underlies this points to positive behaviours that will take hold this year: that of more brands adopting always-on or at least planned sustained flighting of mobile campaign work.
Programmatic trading, mentioned above, can be one of the enablers to this, which of course will vary across verticals. Brands that are in their third year of mobile have the experience to draw upon to produce a good case for this type of activity, and in 2014 they will.
This term polarises folk. I know why. But language aside, as the abundance of opportunities in mobile becomes so manifest, and we’re promised the ability to do it quickly and simply, there needs to be a counterbalance to a probable by-product: homogeny.
One such counterbalance is what the media world has always done well anyway, which is to offer different, exciting ways to tell brand stories outside of the norms. Injecting some rarity into this world of abundance is a good tactic, and we’ll see more of it. Some will succeed, some will fail, but the exercise is worth taking for those monetising audiences, and brands wanting to be seen differently. The ‘programmatists’ will not like it, as it won’t scale for a while, if ever, but large scale shouldn’t be the sole defining attribute of a good media product anyway.
It’s here, not going away and this year will enjoy absurd levels of hype way out of kilter with consumer take-up. And I don’t mind that at all, as we all know this is the start of something that will outlive us all—to be truly connected to things around us that matter, far more holistically and innately. The scale will not happen this year, but treat 2014 as the wake-up call, as it’s marketing that stands to benefit. CRM or CEM teams should be really taking notice as it feels a strong 1:1 opportunity. Go out and experiment.
I’m tired if hearing about ‘big data’, and I think many are. It sounds scary, tricky, and you can hear the stampede of a trillion solutions vendors approaching. I far prefer actionable intelligence as a notion, as data in of itself is dumb, and thinking means nothing if you can’t execute on it. Some of the banks and retailers made sizable moves in this area 2013 and many more, particularly goods manufacturers will this year, I believe.
HTML5 as a bright and broad canvas
The defining language to structure web based content on pages for mobile devices took giant leaps in 2013. Now pretty much the markup convention, it has become widely adopted. With that comes real momentum in its development. In 2014, this means that brands can create really wonderful experiences that have just not been achievable before now, be they campaign- or site-based, with interactivity between the creative and the devices hardware and software enabling real connection. There is no excuse for lazy static creative, or simplistic engagement.
So these seven themes encompass all facets of the mobile sector from strategy to publisher, brand, media and technology, all maturing, and in some way converging. 2014 will be another important year for mobile. Everybody should make sure it’s an important year for mobile in their organisation.