4G will add little to the mobile advertising market

Ofcom has finally allocated 4G spectrum to the UK’s operators heralding a new dawn of super-fast mobile internet speeds but greater innovation is needed before it makes waves in the marketing world.

Ronan Shields

There has already been a limited roll out of 4G in the UK from EE and if market observers are to be believed, it’s had a less than astounding impact with less than 10 per cent of the operator’s new sign-ups subscribing to its premium service.

To put things in perspective, EE has only been trading for little more than three and a half months and with the eventual arrival of O2, Vodafone and Three’s 4G services the powers of marketing forces and competition are likely to spur take-up and more widespread consumer interest.

Undoubtedly, these launches will spur an orgy of marketing from each of the operators but I personally doubt much of this will take place on a mobile phone screen. Plus I’d argue brands from other verticals are likely to be as conservative until some real sea changes occur within the mobile advertising industry.

Yes, 4G mobile internet speeds will bring a more ‘desktop-like internet experience’ in terms of speed and I’ve asked with industry experts who’ve said the improved networks will reduce latency in campaign reporting.

In a data-led age of marketing, this is likely to yield a little more spend but it’s likely to fall short of the “revolution” many are heralding.

The reason being that mobile advertising is a tough nut to crack in terms of creativity and valuation, therefore unlikely to attract the big advertising dollars until these two problems can be cracked.

Earlier today, I spoke with an agency proposing new mobile campaign metrics with clients as they, along with most other brands, were witnessing a surge in the number of mobile web users accessing their sites.

The conversation was interesting and the idea makes sense but such ideas require the weight of industry behind them to achieve real change and I don’t hear of many pan-industry efforts to introduce such metrics.

Secondly, I’m really struggling to think of an advertising campaign that truly has mobile at the centre of its thinking. When you think that mobiles are consumers’ primary media consumption tool this is a failure of the industry.

True there are many campaigns out there with impressive mobile executions but much of these are bolt-ons with the centre of the brand’s efforts lying elsewhere.
If any readers out there can think of one, then please feel free to write in an share with us.

Until the thorny issues of evaluating the media and achieving genuine creativity on mobile are truly mastered, it will remain the poor relation in terms of clients’ budgets.

Readers' comments (2)

  • I disagree. You have to think about mobile ads long-term. In the future, mobile ads (from the innovative ad networks like Airpush, Millennial Media, and Tapjoy) are going to be a lot more intricate than they are today. We're talking everything from video to new forms of interactive content. 4G power and speed - while maybe not essential - will still help a great deal.

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  • I agree with Ronan that with many brands, mobile advertising is a bolt-on strategy rather than a stand alone campaign designed with mobile at the centre of its thinking. However, I would go one step further - brands need to think more holistically than separating their brand engagement into advertising on different mediums. At Platform we work with numerous clients such as Vodafone, Rolls-Royce and TAG Heuer to help their brands resonate with their potential audiences. Creating more personalised approaches encompassing digital, screen-to-screen, experiential and other touchpoints is the key to get to the heart of the customer instead of taking the lead from the technology used to promote it

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