Friday, June 20, 2008

Using mobile social networks to target advertising... one day

I was due to be in Brussells on Monday to present on the subject of using mobile social networks to target advertising.
For a variety of reasons I can't make it. My good friend Jonathan Macdonald is going to fill in for me. Many thanks for that.

Still, I'd done all the prep work so I'd rather share that than waste it. Right below you'll find the slide deck and then below that my notes to go with them. It's not quite the real thing - but if it gets you thinking and makes you want to take the conversation in various directions, I'd be delighted to read your comments.

In summary:

  • First we need ubiquity
  • UGC-powered broadcast models and Total Community models require different approaches
  • Viral is something we do together
  • Be ready to give up control

  • Slide Two

First things first.
The company I work for, Bauer Consumer Media, is one of the few media brand owners to sell its own mobile advertising, at least in the UK.
We can do this because we have long term excellent relationships with key operators. Our brands include FHM, Grazia, Heat, Motorcycle News, Angling Times, Mother & Baby, Your Horse, Zoo, etc.
In mobile our best known brand is Eyevibe – the video mobile social network which operates across 3, 02 and Vodafone in the UK.
Selling our own advertising reveals two significant truths for us:
1. A lot of people still don’t know where to start if they want to place an ad on mobile.
Is it with the operator, the agency, the media property, the handset maker even. So just to be clear: If you want to place an ad on any of our properties come and speak to us!
2. We’ve learned a bit more about the scale of the opportunity than most media owners. And right now, that opportunity is small.

  • Slide 3
What that means is that while I’ve been asked to talk about ‘exploiting mobile social networking and user generated content to deliver highly targeted mobile advertising’ the reality at present is that none of us have big enough pies for media buyers to trouble themselves with slicing up.
At the moment we are stuck with selling our services, and the eyeballs gathered by whatever community features we deploy.

  • Slide four
Eyevibe has 350K unique users a month generating 28m page impressions each month.
That may sound impressive, and in mobile internet terms, it is. But it’s not enough to start dicing and slicing for the average media buyer.
We know for example that our core age group on eyevibe is 18-25. 18-25 year olds who are heavy users of mobile internet are a pretty focused group right now. That’s focus enough to offer advertisers without going too much further.
  • Slide five:
One current example: Doritos is carrying out a mobile advertising trial with Bauer. The five shortlisted entries to its £2.5m 'You make it, we play it' competition are being shown as post-roll ads on not only eyevibe but also on Empire and FHM’s mobile sites. They are targeting 18-24 year olds. Users are asked to vote for their favourite and the ad will be aired on TV during the UEFA European Championships.
  • Slide six
Mobile is playing its role in an integrated campaign and one in which the planners have identified mobile as having high penetration among the 18-25 age group.
Targeting broad channels within a mobile social network, rather than tightly targeting individuals within it may be the best fit for today’s media buyer. In fact that’s an approach we are working on with eyevibe – the sponsorship of channels.
In short, it is too early to be deploying highly targeted advertising on mobile..
  • Slide seven
Why is this? Because we are not at internet scale yet – or anywhere near it. It’s more like the mid 90s on the internet. And remember, Google adsense didn't emerge until there was already a good deal of advertising volume on the internet. Ubiquity first, targeting second.
We are not yet at that volume and your business plans for the short to medium term must take account of this.
Pains me to say it, but it's important to understand the reality of now before examining how value will be created in the near future.
  • Slide eight
Now, all that said, scale is coming. Only a fool will think otherwise. Flat rate data is becoming ubiquitous, 3G footprint is expanding, emerging nations are going to mobile first adding billions to those online, search is improving, walled gardens are coming down.
So no wonder Google’s Eric Schmidt now predicts more ad revenues from mobile internet than fixed line in a few short years.
What I'm going to talk about speaks perhaps to the understanding google has arrived at. Google are focused on services – where ads and content meet. They also see a new slicing and dicing niche emerging from location based services.
When we reach scale then we have the possibility to create more value with real relevance. Ads have the opportunity of moving from interruption to engagement – from lowest common denominator to being focusedm useful content for the user.
  • Slide nine
So with that in mind, let’s return to that question ‘Unleashing the power of the user: Exploiting Mobile Social Networking and User Generated Content to Deliver Highly Targeted Mobile Advertising.

Is it right to lump these together? Perhaps not. Here’s why.
  • Slide 10:
I think there are two kinds of user generated content models:
broadcast and total communities.
Youtube and wikipedia and our own eyevibe are great examples of UGC-powered broadcast models.
1% of users contribute. 99% consume.
Let me be clear. This is not a bad thing. The 99% now have something they want to consume, created by that busy 1%. It didn't exist before. It's been carved from that cognitive surplus that Clay Shirky introduced us to. New value has been created.
It’s actually a very good thing if you’re an advertiser of the old school. Youtube, for example has some videos which have been viewed by 1m plus. That’s an audience – and it’s one in consumption mode.
  • Slide 11
What they are consuming is content. And if your advertising model functions in a content way you have opportunities for success. In simple terms: music video to promote sales of tickets, downloads etc, discount vouchers to promote sales of products, wallpapers to promote fan affinities etc.
Users in these worlds soon spot straight-forward 30 second spots though – and turn on them. Yes they are ready to consume content on youtube, but not to be spun at.
  • Slide 12
Simple ad models we are familiar with such as pre-roll etc have a better chance of success if users are receiving something in exchange – your download is free if you watch this ad, for example, seems a reasonable bargain. Just make sure the ad is relevant to the content if you don’t want those eyeballs to simply turn away…
Consuming your ad as a part of their selected experience can work.
There are, for example videos on youtube which reach multi-million audience. eyeballs matter when you have this scale – for branding purposes at least. an ad for a web2.0 conference on a great bit of web2.0 thinking could work well.
The greatest aggregate value will of course be achieved by activating advertising in the long tail in self-formed audiences.
So UGC-powered broadcast models can deliver value and are relatively easy for traditional agencies to understand.
  • Slide 13
Then we have Total Communities, the other UGC model. These are communities in which to take part you have to create part.
Think of twitter. If you don’t create a profile you can’t take part. And if you don’t contribute some thoughts through microblogging you’ll get little value.
These are models which aren’t architectured to be accessible to large consuming audiences – they are for small communities to form around shared purposes and interests – facebook, myspace, secondlife… social networks/mediums.
Itsmy is a fine example in the mobile world.
And in these cases I’m going to suggest traditional ad models will prove less effective.
  • Slide 14
So it may not be a question of using social networks as a vehicle to deliver highly targeted advertising, more that unless you consider different advertising models advertising will simply not be effective in social networks.
In Total Community models ads as content models are king.
Itsmy allows users to choose if they want to display ads, and if they do, they get to choose which ads to display. It changes the relationship with the brand. Now your choice of relationship with your brand says something about you, it’s now your content.
Even in huge networks like facebook and myspace, we know response rates even to relatively targeted banner ads is poor.
I believe this has much to do with the mode of thought people are in when they are using Total Community sites – they are more creative than consuming.
They are also looking at each other, rather than at you.
Give them an opportunity to join in the creation of an ad message and they are not only more likely to respond, they are also more likely to share.
As Mark Earls, author of Herd, says, “give them something to do together”

  • Slide 15
This is at the crux of the idea that viral marketing may be “the key enabler for the success of mobile advertising”.
To be successful viral marketing must follow the rules of a networked world – and they are rules that appeal to people in creative mode, the mode we find people in in total communities:
Speak in an authentic voice (close the gap between creation and marketing)
2. Lose the TV envy (think relevance over quality)
3. Give people tools to make it their own (that which we create, we embrace)
4. Don't bother with urls, links or 'brand messages'. (We don't do spin) If people are interested they will search. Buy the keywords if you want to make it easier for them.

  • Slides 16-18
What it takes to succeed in the viral environment:
  1. A willingness to relinquish control.
  2. Toolkits users can play with.
  3. Creative users.
2 and 3 are readily available.
Number 1 is down to you.

  • Slide 19
  • First we need ubiquity
  • UGC-powered broadcast models and Total Community models require different approaches
  • Viral is something we do together
  • Be ready to give up control

The rate of change is so rapid it's difficult for one person to keep up to speed. Let's pool our thoughts, share our reactions and, who knows, even reach some shared conclusions worth arriving at?