The hullabaloo over mobile advertising continues with news of Nokia’s acquisition of Enpocket a couple of weeks ago. But if you talk to the people who control the ad budgets, there isn’t much to get excited about. In fact, my recent conversations with several major agencies all suggest that the market shouldn’t expect anything beyond the continuation of test budgets in 2008 and likely in 2009.
Advertising on the web thrived because advertisers could leverage the same creatives in large volumes across multiple websites and measure the performance in a consistent way. As long as the mobile carriers continue to act as individual gatekeepers, mobile advertising will struggle to grow as fast as many in the industry project. Carriers continue to inhibit access to off-deck websites and content, limiting the volume of mobile web traffic and ad inventory. They have also refused to work with each other, making it impossible for advertisers to deliver and measure ads on the same publisher across their networks. Lastly, carriers own the data that is most useful for targeting advertising in a mobile context and have been unwilling to make that data available, even for a fee. Unless mobile advertising is deemed highly relevant by consumers, very few consumers are going to be willing to tolerate the “intrusive” delivery of ads during their mobile experience. Carriers hold the key to this relevancy because they own the needed data.
The carriers control the destinies of all of the players in the US mobile advertising market. We can only hope that they look to models in markets such as Japan to see that that collectively opening their doors can help create a larger mobile advertising pie for them and everyone else.