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Mobile response rates blow away online: Mobile Ad Summit panelist

NEW YORK - A Bank of America executive said that mobile ad campaigns have in some cases doubled the response rates achieved by online campaigns during a panel at Mobile Ad Summit.

Also during the panel, a film studio executive from Lionsgate said that mobile is integral to the marketing mix for any new movie and Sprint?s Boost Mobile discussed its dual role as a publisher and advertiser. Bank of America has a robust mobile banking platform and was an early adopter of mobile advertising used to promote its mobile banking services (see story).

?We?re able to target leveraging contextual search and using display ads to drive people to our mobile site, and we?re seeing numbers that blow online response and click-through rates away,? said Phil Armstrong, senior vice president of digital media at Bank of America, Charlotte, NC. ?We learned by trial advertising within other mobile applications.

?In certain applications we?re seeing double the response rates we see from online,? he said. ?For us, our mobile ad campaigns are very targeted.

?It?s very dramatic who?s using mobile banking right now?18-34-year-olds drive 65 percent of mobile traffic, while the 35-45 segment drives about 20 percent.?

Mobile has been the primary driver of the growth of Bank of America?s online banking platform, which has increased from 1 million users in 2007 to 2 million customers last year to 2.5 million in the first six months of this year.

?We built our WAP site and iPhone application around providing ease of access to our consumers, not only account management and transaction capability, but enhanced security capability,? Mr. Armstrong said.

While it does have an SMS program, Bank of America?s mobile banking platform is primarily targeting smartphone users.

Mr. Armstrong cited projections that the number of smartphones is expected to double next year.

?By adopting mobile, we ask ?Did that change consumer behavior, did it bring us more customers and bring us more deposits?? and the answer is yes,? Mr. Armstrong said.

?We?ve seen that customers who use mobile banking have contact with the bank in more ways than they ever have before, and we want to move people to self-service channels via mobile,? he said.

Mr. Armstrong announced that Bank of America will add mobile components to its Add It Up loyalty program that includes mobile coupons.

?We?re going to grow the Add It Up service by letting retail stores deliver coupons consumers are searching for when they?re ready to buy, which we are able to deliver those to their phone,? Mr. Armstrong said. ?Mobile loyalty programs have a bright future for us.
 
?The next step is figuring how the mobile payments model will work and who?s going to pay for it,? he said. ?The carriers and Visa and MasterCard and banks are all interested, so there?s no doubt that we?ll start seeing that next year.?

The recession caused consumers to want real-time access and control of assets, resulting in greater demand for mobile banking programs, according to TowerGroup (see story).

However, mobile banking still has room to grow.

?Mobile is a core strategy for our customers? experience, but if you take a survey on the sidewalk consumers are still asking ?What?s the relevance in my daily life??" Mr. Armstrong said. ?I think back to launch of ATMs, which took 10 years to get adopted widely in U.S.

?The next big bump in the industry will happen in the next couple of years when mobile payments becomes the next big thing,? he said.

Mobile a must for movie studios
Mobile has become a go-to channel for film and television studios looking to build buzz for a new movie or show.

To promote Frank Miller's film "The Spirit," Lionsgate launched an iPhone application letting consumers project themselves photo-realistically into the digital realm (see story).

?Mobile is always part of 360-degree marketing strategy for any new-release film that comes out, and increasing for new TV shows as well,? said Curt Marvis, president of digital media at Lionsgate, Santa Monica, CA.

?Our mobile strategy involves providing new, original content based on existing brands such as 'Mad Men' or 'Weeds' and figure out how to extend that through mobile channels,? he said. ?We introduce new content via Web or via mobile or both, which encourages consumers to come back to traditional programming such as a theater or their TV.

?Mobile video is still in the early days, but we see a lot of potential.?

In addition to iPhone applications, Lionsgate has run SMS initiatives, mobile advertising campaigns, mobile sweepstakes, free mobile content and mobile video.

The studio is also working on releasing several gaming-based applications for the iPhone.

Overseas, Lionsgate has launched shows that were financed exclusively through revenues generated from mobile, and Mr. Marvis believes that in two-to-three years the mobile commerce ecosystem may be mature enough in the U.S. to generate massive mobile content sales.

?Definitely we?re huge believers in the mobile channel as a video channel, and the bandwidth will have a lot to do with that, but the concerns about the small screen-size are bullshit,? Mr. Marvis said.

As evidence he cited the ?incredible? number of TV episodes consumers have bought via iTunes to watch on their iPhone.

Mr. Marvis also believes that mobile payments using one?s handset will be a game changer. He was excited about ARL/VRL audio-based location technology that integrates voice recognition and mobile coupons.

?You?ll be able to say a brand name or movie title, find where the closest retailer is or the closest theatres that are showing that movie, also giving you a $1 off coupon,? Mr. Marvis said. ?There are some of the things we see going forward becoming really valuable for us.?

Also, better devices and better networks will mean more opportunities for brands to reach consumers via mobile and provide better content and a better experience.

?Once bandwidth starts to expand, five years from now the mobile channel will be a massively important contributor to our revenue,? Mr. Marvis said. ?It will probably revolve around the forward-going notion among consumers that everything?s free, and the entire entertainment business is faced with different models to cope with that.

?There will be subscription services such as TV anywhere, where cable is also available on subscribers? cell phone wherever they are, and it will be much more ad driven than it will be transactionally driven?brought  to you by brand X, Y and Z,? he said.

Boost Mobile's dual role
Boost Mobile, the prepaid division of Sprint, teamed with Barnes & Noble to target college students, letting them add money to their account at the same time they buy textbooks (see story).

Boost and Motorola Inc. sponsor Danica Patrick's No. 7 Indy racecar (see story).

Boost Mobile has partnered with media content provider Local Solutions Network to give mobile customers access to ad-supported local news, weather and sports (see story).

In addition to serving as a publisher that sells mobile ad inventory, Boost also buys inventory from competing carriers and MVNOs to attract new customers.

?Mobile advertising is all about finding the right customer in the right place at the right time, and we have a very targeted audience by income, geography and ethnicity, often prepaid consumers, so our challenge is how exactly to use mobile to acquire customers,? said Neil Lindsay, chief marketing officer at Boost Mobile, Irvine, CA.

?From a brand-building perspective, it?s more about engagement and interactivity,? he said. ?The barrier is making it truly relevant and having an interaction with consumers.?

Mr. Lindsay agreed with Mr. Armstrong that making it easy for consumers to make purchases via their handset would accelerate the growth of the mobile ecosystem and make it a lucrative opportunity for brands and carriers.

?The closer to being able to make a transaction, the more effective mobile can be, so the challenge is, at the moment when consumers are close to making a transaction, let them actually do it with their phone via the mobile Web,? Mr. Lindsay said.