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'Mobile is a thing you do, not something you consume': power of mobile as a storytelling medium

Power of mobile as a storytelling medium

For all its warts and glitches, no device has been more essential to our digital (and physical) lives than the mobile device. At a breakfast panel discussion with The Drum, industry stalwarts got together and gave insight in how to better engage with consumers via mobile.

Keeping us on-screen, and taking it across screens

Android or iOS? Samsung, Apple, Google, or Huawei? The choices for cell phone are varied, and over time, the ways brands interact with them have shifted, too. One evolution for consumers has been the maturity of the app environment.

According to Mitchell Reichgut of Jun Group: "The landscape has changed dramatically. The journey has changed."

A majority of interactions happen through app versions of social networks, games, utilities, or publications, and most of the rest involve using Google as a search tool itself. The reliance on apps makes one wonder if the mobile web itself is dead, but Steve DeAngelis of M&C Saatchi Mobile disagrees: “The mobile web is not dead, but a lot of companies don't want to share with Apple & Google. A lot of people will develop outside the app on the mobile web, but many businesses have purchasing outside the app, but that makes it harder to get to the purchase point.”

The firm installation process onto smart devices is very rigid, and both App Store and Google Play promote security features, but those alone can’t keep out malevolent threats. “It’s very protected,” Reichgut says of the ecosystems. “But there is still a lot of fraud.”

But he also believes there are a lot of opportunities as well. The mobile experience has proliferated and matured to the point of becoming a replacement to many people’s computers during the day, so reaching them where they are — everywhere — is important for brands. DeAngelis points out that success is deeper than just installs.

“Brand ROI is important,” he notes. “If we're exceeding our goal in direct response, good. Cross-screen attributions are important as well. Branding does work, and brand affinity is important, but often they want to just talk about numbers."

Greg Glenday, chief revenue officer at Shazam (recently acquired by longtime partner Apple) has found success in multi- and cross-screen interactions with brands. Once averse to having its own advertising, the music identification app reversed course, with good reason: “We started doing ads because it works,” he said.

Paying to play has helped the mobile-first service, but using its primary function—giving you the name and artist behind a song you’re listening to—turned into a hit game show, “Beat Shazam” on Fox. The Jamie Foxx-helmed show was a ratings magnet in the summer when the first season aired, but it's the downloads, which Glenday says “started exploding” and searches, “all at the bottom of the funnel, that are generating more revenue.”

Keeping users engaged — and keeping intruders

Nowhere has advertising become more intrusive than in the mobile space. But as the appearance of pop-up ads interrupt experiences for brands and publishers, how do you keep people engaged without forcing them through a paywall, or even worse, losing their interest altogether?

Brian Dell, the director of Quartz Creative keeps it simple: “We don't put bad experiences in front of people to try and make money. Advertising can be cool.” The experience for consumers is the most important thing, he says: “We don’t really do programmatic exchanges.”

Instead, through the Quartz mobile app, which emulates a chat messenger, and the infinite scroll of their website, “we build the product with the ad experience in mind.”

Reichgut says Jun Group isn’t for interruptive experiences, adding: “What people want is specificity, scale, price. Advertising in the app.

Shazam also made what Glenday believes is an unpopular decision with his sales team: the company doesn’t do banners or pre-roll ads. The better option, he believes is: “if you treat the user as sacrosanct, the button is always there. They don’t come to your app for a Tide pre-roll. We don’t do pre-roll. There’s no logical place where it wouldn’t look like a shoehorn.”

However, content itself is still key, as DeAngelis thinks. While “most people don’t like pre-rolls, it can make sense for some campaigns.”

Something else to keep in mind: timing and momentum. “Where is the momentum gathering?” is the question that Dell poses, which is key for the publication’s success. “We know our audience and the context of what they go through every day which is when we push content."

Data, given the platform also has a role in reaching consumers effectively. With that data comes the other half of the mobile marketing coin—privacy. “There has to be a balance struck: value exchange between privacy and information,” according to Reichgut.

It gets tricky overseas, with the implementation of the European Union’s Global Data Privacy Regulations approaching. A lot of brands that deal with consumers internationally will face consequences. DeAngelis notes: “Interpretation of the law means a US-based brand could be liable. If a person from the EU comes to the US (for instance, a global brand like Coca-Cola) it can face the same sort of fines that a more regional brand does. We’re starting to see the biggest brands audit compliances.”

“The fines are mind-boggling,” Reichgut adds. “Make one mistake and you will be the poster child.”

Dialing up, and picking up opportunity

For every threat lies an opportunity, says every person who took an Advertising 101 class. And the opportunities are still developing for mobile. “Two to three years ago,” Glenday says of Shazam. “We did audio recognition. Then we added the camera. Brands responded and started getting packaged goods to consumers - bringing packaging to life.”

One of these brand connections Shazam has had was with Snickers, where customers utilized audio to connect, and branded bars use AR experience by simply Shazaming the candy bar. Lays also worked with them on a sweepstakes, in which a million users were able to scan bags that didn’t have any Shazam branding. Glenday says the music discovery aspect to Shazam allows an opportunity for brands to discover new audiences. "Brands want to invest in things that are about recognition and discovery.”

Dell of Quartz thinks the mindset has to change on a holistic level. “Mobile is a thing you do,” he says, “not something you consume.” He then posed the question, “What are the familiar forms of traditional advertising that can be radically changed, but still familiar? People know how to use email and text. But how do you add AR to that experience.” He cited that Quartz enhanced its news experience by using 3D printing models to display the rings of Jupiter.

Reichgut also cites AR as something his clients are taking advantage of, but there’s a lot of trepidation once new tech arrives on the market. However, he sees that the brands leading the charge are lifestyle brands. “They have something to prove and they want to drive revenue. They're not using (AR, VR) in large percentages. Most money they spend is going to drive-by impressions.”

On the other hand, Reichgut thinks “tried and true” methods may also have a grand effect, considering more direct response. “It has enormous value, he says. “But it’s hard to track. The strategy here is to think through goals and decide what you want.” Or, he laughs, there’s saving room for an experimental budget, where “you can throw a bunch of money at the problem and see what sticks.”

DeAngelis thinks mobile deserves the same treatment as any traditional or digital form of marketing. “Think through the acquisition marketing,” he says. “It’s expensive. You need a full-funnel strategy. How do you measure success? Optimize the whole experience before spending money.”

At the end of it all, he adds, the product itself needs to be strong. “The mobile phone is the consumer. With it, you can tell more about the consumer than through their personal computer.”


  • o Mitchell Reichgut, CEO at Jun Group
  • o Steve DeAngelis, VP North America at M&C Saatchi Mobile
  • o Greg Glenday, chief revenue officer at Shazam
  • o Brian Dell, director of Quartz Creative at Quartz

Moderator: Ronan Shields, digital editor, The Drum

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