Brands must end “fixation” with apps, says Google ad director

Brands Apphyxiated

Brands need to look beyond native apps designed to run on one operating system, like Apple’s iOS or Google’s Android, and consider new platforms such as the mobile web if they are to maximise the impact of their mobile ad campaigns, according to Google’s mobile ad director for EMEA, Ian Carrington. Speaking at a panel discussion hosted by PR firm Edelman as part of Social Media Week in London, he says marketers are “fixated” on developing apps without really understanding what they’re trying to do. He believes that, while apps are a useful tool to appeal to loyal users already familiar with a brand, the mobile web provides an opportunity for marketers to reach a new audience across any device.

“People are fixated on developing apps but an iOS app may not be the answer to [a brand’s] marketing needs,” he says. “The mobile web is very important, it goes across every device, can cache information. It’s about acquiring new customers; apps are about targeting loyal users. Brands must bear that in mind in their mobile strategy.”

Mobile is an increasingly important platform for marketers as the penetration of devices such as smartphones and tablets increases and consumers spend a growing amount of time on the mobile web. Mobile is also key in emerging markets such as India, where more people have access to mobile phones than PCs. Nathan Eagle, CEO at mobile marketer Jana, believes that many brands are ignoring these emerging markets, forgetting that some 80% of mobile phones are not “smart”. It is also important for advertisers to ensure they think local and can leverage the most popular technology in any given market, such as the mobile web in Pakistan and SMS in India.

“Focusing on the latest iOS app is naval gazing,” he says. “It’s important to really think about the other 5bn handsets that aren’t smart. How can you engage with those people and leverage technology that is ubiquitous in those markets. There is no one size fits all approach.”

Google’s Carrington suggests that technologies such as HTML5 will be key to the future development of mobile advertising, enabling brands to integrate their marketing message across a range of media, whether TV, mobile or PC. This is especially important as the use of internet-connected devices grows, with consumers increasingly watching TV while using their smartphone or tablet to browse the web and search for products they see while viewing. Jay Altschuler, the director of global media innovation at Unilever, suggests that consumers now expect to be able to interact with a product or brand they see advertised on TV or on a billboard, with mobile acting “as a bridge” between the physical and digital world.

“Advertisers now have to think about telling stories across multiple screens in a non-linear fashion,” he says. “The TV spot is only the beginning of the experience.”

However, the full integration of physical and digital is still some way off, with Carrington suggesting that businesses are still playing catch up, waiting to see which technology will drive the adoption of mobile marketing and commerce. While QR codes have boosted the market, Altschuler describes it as a “band-aid technology”, with NFC seen as the bigger opportunity and Google already testing its mobile wallet in the US. But Eagle cautions against getting caught up in NFC. “There is too much emphasis on having the latest thing,” he says. “We need to implement this with what people already have in their pockets.”

It will also be important for brands to integrate social into their mobile ad campaigns, with Eagle describing the two platforms as “synonymous”. Carrington adds that both provide advertisers with a ream of data on their consumers, allowing them to target offers and ads at specific groups. “Social is not a destination,” he says. “It permeates through everything we do.”

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