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Mobile is a must-have for agencies in 2012

Many agencies failed to integrate mobile in a meaningful way in 2011, missing an important opportunity to organically build mobile practices. As a result, this year many will be scrambling to react to the growing demand for mobile services from brands which have seen a significant increase in mobile traffic.

The growth in mobile penetration and use means agencies and brands can reach more consumers than ever before via mobile and use mobile to marketer an ever-growing array of products and services. As mobile continues to become more pervasive in consumers? lives, it is imperative that agencies jump in or risk losing relevancy.

?There are both agencies and brands that sit in very different places across the mobile and multi-channel maturity curve,? said David Hewitt, vice president and global mobile practice lead for SapientNitro, Boston.

?Those that don't have good tooth in the [mobile] space this coming year, will really start to show their wear and declining relevancy to today's consumer that is eagerly waiting for a fully integrated and next generation mobile experience,? he said.

Keeping pace
Part of the problem is that agencies and brands have not kept pace with consumers, who are embracing mobile devices for a growing array of activities.

Brands and agencies have often been the ones pushing new ways of doing things that have not caught on in the marketplace, but that is not the case with mobile in many instances.

?With mobile and multi-channel, it is more often the brand and their incumbent agencies that need to catch up with the emerging role that mobile is playing ? especially with retailers and CPG companies,? Mr. Hewitt said.

?Many agencies struggle when mobile becomes an opportunity to bring connected experiences to bear, and extend beyond the mobile channel and display ad mindset,? he said.

Another issue is that, as agencies look to bring mobile to more consumers and products, they will need to master a wide array of new capabilities and issues including compatibility, mcommerce, messaging, location-based services, tablet optimized experiences, being adept at integrating mobile with CRM programs and creating experiences for in-store, at home and on-the-go consumers. 

?Daunting for most traditional agencies, these multi-channel initiatives involve deep commerce, complex system integration, and specialty creative chops that make things like a shared shopping experience across multiple devices come to life for the consumer and marketer,? Mr. Hewitt said.

Despite the hurdles involved in mobile, agencies need to jump in, making sure store operations and information technology departments are involved with strategy development as mobile becomes more integrated with other touch points, per Mr. Hewitt.

It is also important that agencies not focus so hard on serving every device because this can lead to a mobile experience that does not engage anyone effectively.

Mobile commitment
In a sign of its commitment to integrating mobile into everything the agency does, Omnicom digital shop Organic, San Francisco, recently hired former iCrossing executive Rachel Pasqua as the executive director of its mobile marketing practice

While mobile has been a part of Organic?s strategy for 10 years, Ms. Pasqua will focus on producing more mobile-specific campaigns around augmented reality, near-field communications and other mobile technology as well as increasingly making mobile an integral part of holistic campaigns.

This means integrating mobile into search marketing, search engine optimization and how it creates the digital strategy for clients.

Putting a senior strategic mobile lead in place is important for agencies to help insure forward-looking employees are hired and internal staff is educated about mobile. 

?The role of the mobile lead is increasingly common and in demand,? Ms. Pasqua said.

?Clients are increasingly interested in how do they plan effectively for mobile as part of an overall digital strategy while last year the focus was more on a mobile strategy alone,? she said.

A fundamental shift
Unlike Organic, many agencies are taking a reactive approach to mobile instead of having a strategy for how to build it organically, per Ms. Pasqua. They also struggle with figuring out what to focus on first in the fragmented mobile space.

?Some agencies are scrambling, trying to figure out how to integrate mobile into what they do,? Ms. Pasqua said.

?They are realizing that this is not a trend but a fundamental shift in how we consume media,? she said. ?There is a mobile component to everything your audience does and you need to plan accordingly.?

Many of the initial steps into mobile taken by agencies in 2011 will be built on this year.

Those agencies with a deep understanding of mobile and how it can be used to drive brand awareness and sales will could see significant growth this year while those who do not have the right mobile capabilities will continue to miss out on important business.

?I think many agencies integrated mobile last year," said Paran Johar, chief marketing officer at mobile ad network Jumptap, Cambridge, MA

"For example, every agency holding company had or created a mobile division,? he said.

?The first goal of these divisions was to teach best practices to the rest of the agency. We?ve also seen the integration through the diversity of our client RFP?s and verticals across the board."

?We?ll continue to see astronomical growth in 2012, as agencies run multiple mobile campaigns and understand the unique offerings of mobile. Agencies will also continue to use data to drive relevancy and consumer engagement.?