Agencies Show Their Age On Mobile

Editor’s note: David Hewitt is VP, global mobile practice lead at digital agency SapientNitro.

Mobile strategy is about more than just phones. Mobile platforms and engagement strategies in our digitally enabled world need to support all marketing initiatives, both offline and online, and be truly multi-channel. Mobile maturity is one area, however, where brands and agencies are playing catch-up with consumer demand.

A siloed approach to mobile has been commonplace over the past couple of years. Many agencies have supplemented traditional creative with mobile ads that lack a larger strategy, subbing out app development that offers no real value and failing to thoughtfully consider the best platforms and devices for mobile campaigns.

For example, Shazam recently made a splash by enabling second screen synchronization with the Super Bowl broadcast, and the company says it saw record engagement during the game. Unfortunately, problems arose because not all hub pages were optimized and users had to complete Bud Light’s age verification screen on a screen that was not touch-friendly. Considering the large number of iPhones participating, it should have also linked straight to the promoted song on iTunes, instead of emailing it a day later. It’s likely that there was a lot of user drop-off, especially given the three-step process.


Missed opportunities like this will become less common over the next year as brands and agencies fight to stay ahead of the curve, proving 2012 will be a game-changer for mobile.

This shift to a more optimized mobile experience is not merely because the industry is a year older, but because enough agency and brand leadership are seeing a critical mass of mobile and multi-channel initiatives bear fruit. Marketers are realizing the growing risk of doing nothing.

This year, the market demands a more entrepreneurial mindset. Mobile is not just the hot topic of the moment — it’s the future. Embracing this reality requires a shift in thinking and many brands still do not have a mobile or encompassing digital strategy in place. Moreover, many agencies are still growing a set of basic mobile capabilities. Creating both smartphone and tablet-optimized experiences, along with the increasing need to pick platforms and develop apps, is becoming the norm.

Last but not least, 2012 is begging for brands to truly integrate mobile with commerce and CRM programs, and create new integrated experiences for in-store, at home and on-the-go.

While 2012 brings a new confidence to place bigger investment bets in mobile, here are some tips and trends to consider:

  • Look at all of the touch points and device considerations that surround a mobile campaign. Consider environmental conditions like in-store Wi-Fi, device detection and fallback tactics such as developing SMS or mobile web alternatives to more specialized mobile tactics.
  • As mobile becomes more integrated with other touch points, the need to get store Ops and IT involved becomes a critical success factor. Pick an agency that knows how to work intimately with all facets of your organization.
  • On the flip side, some agencies and platform providers are so bent on serving every device that the entire experience gets ‘dumbed down’ so far that it doesn’t engage anyone effectively, especially the smartphone crowd that is more likely to participate. Know what devices to optimize for and how far to take it. Remember not to just look at today’s device penetration for a market, but also the consumer behavior that goes with it and where the trend lines point.
  • As the promise of enterprise mobile solutions and point of sales integration continues to heat up, plan for concepts and pilots that set a bigger stage for follow-on investment.
  • 2012 will be the year of getting websites and relevant marketing assets optimized for tablets, not just smartphones — especially as tablets continue to heat up for mobile commerce and chip away at market share for everyday PC tasks.
  • ‘Big Data’ is back as a buzzword and unsurprisingly so; the more multiple channels are connected, the more we need data to serve up the right experience to the right prospect and customer. There is a lot of opportunity here with location-based service integration and better behavioral and preference-based targeting. However, most of the real benefits won’t be realized until 2013-2014.
  • As most direct consumer brands have a mobile app of some sort, expect to see enhancements that bring context aware features, embedded loyalty, and in some cases pre-paid and mobile wallet capabilities.
  • Much of 2011’s mobile marketing budgets were still made up of slush fund ad budgets. Expect to see more purposeful campaigns and sizable budgets set aside for mobile.
  • Look to work with agencies and partners that don’t just put a person in the room that ‘gets mobile’ but has shown they can deliver it across channels and touch points.

Various agencies and brands sit in very different places across the mobile and multi-channel maturity curve. In 2012, those that don’t figure out mobile will really start to show their declining relevancy to today’s consumer.