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Mobile marketing budgets growing at 26 percent annually: MMF panel

NEW YORK -- Despite the overall decline in marketing budgets nationwide, companies are allocating their marketing dollars to mobile.

This was the topic of conversation at the Mobile Marketing Association's Mobile Marketing Forum in the Grand Hyatt Hotel where Peter Johnson, vice president of market intelligence and strategy, MMA, led a panel discussion titled "Marketing Industry Research: 2009."

"Our main purpose is to create a model of who we are as an industry so when we make decisions we can tell clients, ?if you do this or that, I know what will make a difference for you and consumers," Mr. Johnson said.

"The ability to understand ourselves, predict and version what happens is critical to the association," he said.

The discussion was meant to review statistics on 2009's mobile marketing and Mr. Johnson opened with some of the key findings.

When polled in the MMA's 2009 mobile marketing survey, respondents claim that they dedicate an average of 1.8 percent of marketing budgets to mobile marketing.

While marketing budgets are down 70 percent in the last year, the average mobile marketing budget is growing at a rate of 26 percent every year.

The survey also found that advertisers are spending approximately $1.7 billion on mobile marketing in 2009. That number is set to increase by over 100 percent by 2010 as the MMA estimates advertiser mobile spending to reach $2.16 billion by then.

Mr. Johnson noted that two of every three (69 percent) respondents said they would consider mobile marketing over more traditional mediums.

It is commonly heard at mobile marketing conferences that "this is the year of mobile." Yet, with these statistics, marketers haven't even touched the surface of potential in this channel.

Half of the respondents from the 2009 survey said they ran at least one campaign involving mobile in the last year.

The survey found that the top three components of mobile campaigns are SMS/mobile Web at a staggering 66 percent, with mobile email and mobile Web ads lingering nearby.

Respondents who found mobile to be an enhancement and an integral component of their campaign were equal to or exceeded the number of respondents who found mobile to be experimental.

Mr. Johnson then polled the panel on what leaps out at them in terms of integration of mobile into marketing as a whole.

"The attractiveness of internet marketing, particularly mobile, is the measurability of it," said Becky Wu, vice president of research at Luth Research, San Diego, CA.

However, she asked an important question: With that kind of importance on metrics, what else can marketers do to understand the audience, channel, and effectiveness of campaigns?

"One thing that jumped out at me was the notion of how many people still consider mobile an experimental activity versus people who bake it in from the start," said Brian Quinton, Executive Editor, Chief Marketer, Boston, MA.

He believes that many people are still in a learning process with mobile and that marketers are trying to get an education early because their sense that mobile will be important gives them the motivation to not get left behind.

He also says that a key differentiator for those who find mobile experimental and those who find it integral is demographic. Especially with younger crowds, Mr. Quinton finds it crucial to integrate mobile into campaigns.

"Engagement marketing is very important, it must be informative, but it can't just be business to business," said Gloria Wood, vice president and editorial director, Advertising Database Inc., New York.

She followed by saying that many people are open to partnering with companies and communicators who can bring their message to the forefront.

However, Mr. Quinton countered by saying that there are many alternatives to mobile in the marketing world and many of them are most understandable to clients than the complex mobile system.

He commented that nowadays everyone is working online and with social networks because it doesn't involve the same kind of steep learning curve that mobile is perceived to have.

In essence, there are certain setbacks in mobile marketing concerning technological complexity and the broad range of devices that must be made compatible for each individual campaign. But at the end of the day, clients are still spending more and more money in mobile marketing.

"Basically on average, we're doing about average," Mr. Johnson said.