Jump to

DT:TV Case Studies

Mobile comes of age for the cultural sector

In this article, I take a look at some of the latest online advertising and mobile phone usage statistics, and contemplates what they might mean for the cultural sector.

As well as effective models for online advertising emerging; the much reported teething problems of delivering mobile content (around data costs, device restraints and slow networks) are eventually being straightened out. These changes in the online advertising and mobile landscapes mean that the arts sector needs to strategise for how we can use online and mobile platforms as an additional channel for our adverts, content, information and sales.

Richard Wray and Katie Allen writing for The Guardian headlined ” ‘Money follows eyeballs’ and all eyes are glued to the web” – and reported Credit Suisse’s research showing that advertising spend is fast making its way to the internet over TV and newspaper spend, with online advertising now accounting for 11.4% of all ad spend in the UK.

With the exception of a few of the cultural sector’s national companies, organisations have been reticent to advertise either brand or specific productions via banner ads in the online versions of newspaper publications. This is likely to be because the online publications of the traditional media players have not provided advertisers with a breakdown of basic information: such as how many people visit their site, and who they are. However, the good news is that the Audit Bureau of Circulations Electronic announced plans to publish the online equivalent of the newspaper standard circulation figures on a monthly basis, with the first set of figures coming out on April 26. This month also sees the first quarterly online population report from the Joint Industry Committee for Internet Measurement Systems – both of these tools should allow marketing teams to assess whether investment in online banner advertising on other websites is worth the spend.
The consumption and creation of content via the internet has now become so commonplace in developed and developing markets, that the attention of IP holders and media companies is turning to mobile. 84% of the people in the age group 18-24 own a mobile in Europe . In the US, there are more eyeballs on mobile screens than there are on TV and PC screens combined. Predicted global sales of mobile phones will reach 1.23 billion units annually by 2011. 15.2% of the UK’s mobile subscribers own a 3G handset (the mobile equivalent of broadband, facilitating faster downloads of digital data). Joint research from Netsize and Informa forecasts that the global mobile entertainment market will be $23.1 billion in 2007.

Although pay-per-download for video, music and game content is currently the business model for mobile content, the mobile industry is consolidating around the idea that digital mobile content will eventually be ad-supported, and free to the user. Last year in the US, companies spent $421 million, or 2.6% of total online ad spending, on mobile campaigns according to eMarketer Inc. It says the figure could grow by 2011 to $4.8 billion. This is good news for us users – it means more content is available for free. Yes there will be ads, but they should not be irrelevant and therefore annoying.

The rise of the ad-funding of mobile content has been rapid, and – as with current online advertising – is finally successful because the latest technologies deliver relevant and contextual ads to the consumer. This means that the advertiser is experiencing positive campaigns (and any advertiser will spend more money if a target market can be guaranteed!). Therefore, it is making more sense for mobile phone operators to offer content free at point of sale to the end user, but recoup the money on providing that content free via advertising. A US mobile operator recently reported using the latest advert targeting techniques to provide personalised content recommendations. A control group received random recommendations with poor results. A target group received intelligent recommendations with great results: a 400% increase in purchase rates and a 25% increase in click through rates . Intelligent mobile marketing means that advertisers have the opportunity to communicate with specific consumer targets; in turn, the users receive what feels like one-to-one recommendations. For example, a national opera company with digital video clips and music downloads available could advertise to contract users with high-end handsets and unlimited data plans (read: good income professional who uses mobile phone to organise work and social life); whilst a small touring youth theatre could send out text coupons for cheaper tickets to live performances to reach pay-as-you-go purchasers between 18-24 in certain postcodes (read: young people near your venue with some spending money spare for small luxuries such as mobile phones and leisure activities).

Wray and Allen’s article also highlighted the move towards “user-solicited” advertising online, where users on search engine sites (such as Google or Yahoo!) are presented with relevant advertisements, according to what they are searching for. This model works on the advertiser making micro payments to the search provider each time a click through to their own website occurs from a search page. This model should work well for cultural organisations with little publicity budgets, although recouping the initial spend on setting up the advert, and the micro-payments, would need to be covered by your website then in turn achieving sales (either by direct online ticketing; merchandise sales or by driving people to telephone or in-person box offices).

A blend of the two methods of advertising described above is finding success on social networking sites. Communities of interest who build themselves on social networking websites like Myspace are in effect highly niche markets. The communities chose who advertise on their group websites – pulling their trusted content and brands. If you ran an art house cinema, with some good online content/merchandise, then you could do worse than to propose an advert to a Myspace “we love art house film” group. The groups grow by peer invitation and recommendation, meaning that your advert is being eyeballed by more and more of your target audience.

Producing content still costs the originator, but mobile operators will buy content for their platforms if they consider it attractive to the eyeballs of some of their subscribing demographic.

The cultural sector needs to be innovative in developing mobile content and product. We need to know who we are innovating for – the user’s habits have to be observed, and users have to be listened to. Although the mobile phone has an inherent convenience, better screens (i.e. TV or computer) and easier to navigate formats (i.e. web pages) will be the option the user prefers when offered a choice. Vodaphone’s Sky mobile TV service in the UK was heavily used in the afternoons, but lightly used in the evenings . This suggests that mobile TV is perhaps an antidote to boring afternoons in the office or the commute home (it’s discreet), but consumers want a higher quality experience once they’re home and choosing their evening entertainment. The story proves that identifying a target audience for mobile content is imperative; that understanding their needs, wants and context will provide a significant advantage to any content developed. We should also be realistic about the usage of mobile internet and applications: people will turn to mobile content when:
a. there is no alternative (higher quality) medium available
b. bored (to kill time)
c. information is required immediately
so mobile phone content production should be just one aspect of a broader digital strategy. However, online and mobile advertising opportunities have now come of age, with effective personalised models that work for both the advertiser and the target audience. Even the brand message is evolving from mass broadcast to one-to-one relevance.

Mobile Entertainment March 2007
Forrester Research March 2007
M:Metrics March 2007
Enpocket provided the technology and techniques for personalised recommendations, as reported in Mobile Entertainment March 2007.

This article was first published in Arts Professional and appeared on Hannah Rudman’s blog 27 April 2007.