Mobile marketers optimistic at ad:tech New York

NEW YORK -- The air of excitement and energy at ad:tech New York's GoMobile! Zone and also among attending mobile marketers belies a weakening economy.

Not only were there more mobile marketing firms exhibiting at this ad:tech -- 17, way more than the ad:tech shows this year in San Francisco, Miami and Chicago -- but there was more traffic yesterday in the pavilion. More foot traffic is expected today as the conference opens. The GoMobile! Zone is directly across from the keynote hall, thus benefiting from passing traffic.

When asked, the overwhelming majority of marketers expressed optimism that mobile marketing would hold its own in a contracting economy where all expenditure is scrutinized. Marketers have to be where the consumers are, and the consumers are on mobile, per the consensus of the mobile marketers at the show. Here's what select exhibitors and attendees had to say:

Matthew Valleskey, senior marketing manager at NeuStar, the Sterling, VA-based short code registry
We still see excitement about mobile. There's still new customers coming and reserving common short codes.

If you look at events like this, the DMA, the buzz is still there.

My feeling is that all companies are going to be revising their advertising and marketing budgets to cope with the downturn in the economy and they're going to be looking for vehicles that are going to give them the best ROI and the best response rates.

If you look at mobile marketing, it has one of the highest response rates with the largest reach potential of any medium out there today.

So I think we're going to see a continued investment in mobile and possibly even a higher growth rate than what's estimated.

Lindsay Woodworth, marketing director of 2ergo, Arlington, VA
We haven't had any of our existing clients say that we have to scale back. We haven't heard that.

We run fox.mobi. They think of their flagship [mobile] site http://foxnews.mobi as core to their strategy to reach consumers. To them it's not experimental.

For those new to mobile, a lot of the times we can talk of how it can be cost-effective. Mobile can be less expensive than, say, print and it can have higher response rates than, say, online.

So, for us, we're finding that it's a good time to get into mobile because we are at the tipping point. It's not the experimenters, it's not the early adopters. We've passed that point.

Hung Tran, president and chief technology officer of Infinian
What I'm hearing is that year 2009 is the year of the pilot program for smart mobile coupons. Unilever, Procter & Gamble, Kraft Foods, Pepsi, Coca-Cola, through their agencies, have expressed an interest in doing smart mobile coupons in 2009.

Rob Lawson, president of Limbo, a Burlington, CA-based mobile community
The only change I've seen so far is that people are looking for performance. So clients are more focused on customer leads, customer acquisition and less CPMs.

Typically during recessions, marketers switch budgets to direct response. So direct marketing increases, online search increases. The question is, does mobile fall into the same category? Is it considered direct marketing or a branding channel? It depends on whether it increases or accelerates or decelerates through the next economic cycle.

All the evidence that we have is that people are looking for extra value and innovation. I think mobile has both of these.

Tim Miller, president of Sumotext, a Little Rock, AR-based mobile marketing services firm
SMS strategies and budgets are just now landing on the white boards of leaders with true P&L responsibility.

Though the economy remains a great excuse to delay, we're just happy to finally see budgets forming outside of the typical short-term, agency-driven campaign cycle.

There are just so many long-term, practical and core applications for SMS over short codes. Consumers should expect to see much more than just fun and games in 2009.

Andy Bovingdon, vice president of product marketing at Cambridge, England-based mobile analytics firm Bango
Bango, as a company, we're not reacting any differently. We're already a lean, mean company. We're already efficient in the way we work. There isn't a lot of wastage or fat to trim out.

The company is not a startup -- we're going on nine years. It's a new market, we're innovating. But you certainly can't be complacent.

On the business side, it's even more important for our customers in this market to accurately measure all of their mobile marketing activities.

So if they're spending money on their ad campaigns in simply delivering mobile Web sites, measurement is critical. It is one of the last things you should cut back on.

James Dobbs, vice president of business development at OTAir, a Richmond, VA-based mobile marketing agency
I think the economy puts marketing in the hands of the users. So as a mobile marketing agency, we try to be adaptive to the needs of the new consumer.

Kerry Smith, OTAir
Certainly, with the pressures of the economic situation, all traditional media is being scrutinized.

The low-cost nature of mobile marketing integrated into those traditional channels which under heightened level of scrutiny provide the media measurement and defensible marketing buying that today's marketers face.

Certainly, mobile affords people to take opportunity to take a risk. We've seen bad economies before and I think the brands that survive this don't suddenly become averse to all risk.

We're excited and we've seen our business grow significantly due to the fact that we can price based on performance and we can deliver consistently based on the expectations of our customers.

There's value not just in the marketing. There's value in establishing yourself as a risk-taker in a burgeoning economy.

Rob Friedlander, Pluant Mobile, a New York-based rich mobile advertising firm
We haven't seen any wavering in interest. People still seem fairly interested. People remain committed.

David Raphael, managing director of Phluant Mobile
We're offering a revenue opportunity, not just an infrastructure investment. We're creating premium mobile inventory which is in demand from the advertiser.

Advertisers need to reach consumers wherever they may be and more consumers are on mobile than sitting on the couch watching TV.

Ken Gary, vice president of corporate development at O'Halloran Advertising, a Westport, CT-based advertising agency
We're here to represent our customers. And we understand that mobile marketing for advertisers will be vital in the coming years. We see that shift today.

As an agency, to be a strategic resource for our clients, we're obligated to understand the mobile marketing space so that we can provide informed direction to our customers.

Joe Leahy, CEO of New York-based mobile marketing services firm Augme Mobile
Everyone that I've spoken to is concerned about the economy, in general. But I haven't heard that promotion, in general, will be cut dramatically. And their interest in mobile is significant because of its cost-effectiveness -- easily measured and implemented.

Jerome Ferrara, senior sales manager at Netbiscuits, a Reston,VA-based mobile marketing services firm
[The economic slowdown] somewhat stifles the buying process. It doesn't necessarily mean that our clients are affected by the economy, but it raises their levels of concerns in terms of spending money.

But mobile marketing is actually growing. Ad dollars associated with it are actually high. And they're finding value in mobile advertising.

Mark Caron, CEO of New York-based Snac
I think [mobile marketing] has crossed the threshold of no longer being experimental and therefore it's not as subject to immediate cutbacks. There's been real-world experience. People understand the unique value of it.

Frederic Guarino, head of key accounts and strategic partnerships at Hemisphere No Brainer, a New York-based marketing firm
Right now, no change. We're a bit different in the sense we're more than a traditional agency in mobile. We're more business builders than straight marketers.

We're working on pretty large-scale projects. So when we spend time on that, people are not going to stop. There will be a decrease on regular, lower-hanging fruit-type mobile banners, which clients understand they need to buy but are not necessarily seeing ROI for. That's the classic way.

Our positioning is to go deep into business and use mobile as a trigger.

Michael L. Lombardi, vice president of sales and marketing at New York-based WeatherBug
Most clients are saying budgets are flat to down overall. But most are saying their clients budgets will be less next year. But we want more budgets online. Most of them aren't as gloomy as I thought.

Overall, the feedback I've got is they're going to look into [mobile], but as far as committing dollars â?¦

And those people who don't have mobile sites or WAP sites, we don't know if they're going to do it next year.

But I think we'll find new ways to integrate mobile with online next year.

Jon Jackson, CEO of Mobile Posse, a McLean, VA-based idle screen content and ad delivery firm
I think there's cautious optimism. People are wanting to see if this is a sustained downturn or whether it's relatively temporary. I haven't sensed any pullback.

How are we treating [the economic slowdown]? We have to remain true to our mission, which is to provide people targetability and metrics. As long as we do that, customers are going to come to us.

At the end of the day, we're still better than the newspaper, radio, television. There is more measurability and targetability in what we do than traditional media.