The Uniqueness of the Mobile Channel

I’ve written before about how people often trot out that mobile is so exciting as a medium because it’s so “personal”. Somewhat contraversially, I’ve tended to challenge that as a hangover from the old push-sms-based mobile marketing days and suggested that no one has really questioned it since.

Granted, mobile has the potential to be very personalised, but in a mass market, scalable way, those tools don’t exist today and are certainly inferior to what we can see happening online.

But where I think mobile is different, is that it can be a medium which people use, while consuming other media simultaneously. For instance, you might use the mobile while watching TV, or as you read the newspaper. While not entirely unique in old media (perhaps people did read the paper while idly keeping an eye on the TV screen), we can say that it probably wasn’t normal behaviour and certainly no one would have been fully engaged in more than one medium simultaneously.

In the newer PC environment, it’s arguably more frequent, especially with watching TV and being online.

However, with the mobile phone, it’s frequent enough to be a commonplace experience. As a matter of course, people have their phones within reach while watching TV, when they see a poster on the street, even in the cinema, if the muted vibrate noises in my local cinema are representative.

I’ve been thinking about this following the spike that AdMob saw in mobile web traffic, which was published in its January metrics a few weeks back, which coincided with the Superbowl – some kind of sporting event in the US, allegedly. The spike in mobile web traffic was a significant difference from the average Sunday afternoon and didn’t happen at all in Mexico, where they have other sporting interests.

Obviously, AdMob can’t measure all the additional traffic around the event in terms of sms and voice calls, but I’m sure that this happened, based on previous announcements by various operators.

While it’s very early in the mobile advertising industry, I believe that this phenomena may come to be one of the defining characteristics of this emerging medium.

Smart advertisers would do well to ponder its implications, which range from the ability to encourage interaction via the phone when the consumer is engaged in other media channels, to thinking about how they can capitalise on what’s being consumed on that other channel while the person is clearly engaged simultaneously in interacting with their mobile.

Food for thought and one that I’m sure we’ll return to in the future.

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