I was at MobiAdnews' Nokia-sponsored thought leader meeting today on the subject of mobile advertising, and I have to thank the organisers for bringing us together.
It was a small but interesting group ranging from representatives of creative agencies, to brand owners, to media buyers, to content creators, to yet-to-be launched mvnos, to handset makers, to bloggers...
Some great ideas and predictions were shared, many of which will be summarised in the MobiAdnews reports on the event (which I'll point you at when they become available).
And while there was some consistent thinking around some of the barriers we all see, and the potential opportunities, the one thought that stayed with me was that there remains a huge reluctance to let go of mass and centralised control.
Ajit (Jaoker - OpenGardens), and I both raised the impact long tail will have on the mobile internet - and the neccessity to create opportunities for advertisers and content creators at this end of the spectrum (a la google adsense).
But there may be a more fundamental issue. If you are wedded to the notion of selling mass produced products to mass audiences, you're likely to be tied to the ideas of mass markets, mass media and attention for eyeballs.
To really grasp how things are going to change we have to understand that the same thing that is happening to media (ie disaggregation, co-creation, the use of platforms to serve communities of shared interest, setting their own agendas and creating their own rules, content (and yes, 'adverts') will inevitably happen to all mass produced things.
How do you sell a mass produced one-size-fits-all product to people who want their content disaggregated and delivered to them exactly where they want it, when they want it, and honed to the interests they self-select and/or navigate to/discover through trusted communities?
One answer might be to tailor the advert to the segmented user group. Take a look at realtimecontent.com for a vision of this.
It's a brave attempt to solve a difficult problem. But I'm not comfortable with it. I wasn't sure why before. Now I think I am - it doesn't address the fundamental miss-match here - that we're trying to sell the same mass produced product to different people by effectively pretending (spinning that) it's a different product.
It ain't, it can't be and it won't be until you let the community of shared interest take a stake in the creative process. Context is not enough.
How does that work in the production of things in which mass means affordable - cars for example?
Well, on a niche global scale, a group of people sharing the same interest in developing the perfect car for a family of 3, which also uses it for the weekly shop and occasional trips to the dump etc could be huge. Certainly large enough to benefit from economies of scale.
If you have that community engaging in the process of design, assessment, testing etc they'll not only become your ready-made market, they also become your ready-made marketing force. They already have a personal investment in the future success of the car. Powerful.
ADDED June 27:
Further to the above - consider which have been the most successful/faster growth consumer products of recent years - PCs, mobiles, mp3 players.
What they all have in common is that they can be hugely personalised. This may not always mean that you can change the style/look of a device, but it does mean that their function can be creatively hacked to meet the individual users requirements. In the case of PCs and mobiles this is through everything from the software they run to the look and feel of their 'desktops', wallpapers, etc etc. In MP3s it is through how the user chooses to fill them (ie uniquely tailored 'content' for you).