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Mobile Marketing Association needs better funding

In this age of social media and digital gatherings, the irony is that associations are in the fight of their lives to gain sufficient member funding to support advocacy and education efforts. The Mobile Marketing Association faces that dilemma and needs members to stand up and be counted.

After a successful Mobile Marketing Forum last week in Beverly Hills, CA, members and delegates will gather that mobile marketing is gaining more respectability among corners that count. The show attracted more than 425 delegates, a major increase from the 320 or so that attended last year?s event in downtown Los Angeles.

But the one thing that has not changed between this year and last is the level of financial support that mobile marketers extend to their premier organization. An association is only as strong as its members? commitment ? and now is not the time to dither, squabble or question the MMA?s role in mobile marketing.

Man up
For every industry to survive and prosper, it needs an organization that speaks up with a common voice. The MMA was created to that purpose to lobby for the interests of mobile marketing and has made tremendous strides with its self-regulation guidelines and education efforts.

Yet that is not enough. The MMA has gone through two chief executives in the past couple of years ? Laura Marriott departed in 2008 and Mike Wehrs in 2009.

In Greg Stuart the association has a president/CEO who shepherded the Interactive Advertising Bureau through the Internet doldrums in 2001 all the way to a smart recovery in 2007 where online is now leading every media channel in influence.

Mr. Stuart needs the industry?s support if he has to implement the bold plans he has placed before the MMA board of directors. And that support, for the lack of a better, more finessed word, has to be financial.

The mobile marketing industry has several opportunities ahead: consumer behavior evolving toward a mobile lifestyle for communication, content consumption and commerce purposes, along with increased advertiser understanding of the medium?s role in multichannel marketing.

That said, the industry also has many challenges: anemic budgets, inadequate measurement, lack of ad agency support, multiple platforms, bewildering walled gardens from online players who have taken their fight mobile and privacy concerns that might prompt harsh regulatory intervention.

Where?s the beef?
To tackle both these opportunities and threats requires strong leadership at the MMA that is willing to stand up to some of its members ? be it the wireless carriers, SMS service providers, agencies or brands themselves ? and take measures that ensure the survival and future of viable mobile marketing.

In other words, the MMA must carry the same heft with its members, brands, public and Washington as, say, the National Retail Federation, National Rifle Association, Sierra Club or CTIA: The Wireless Association do.

For that to happen, the MMA must beef up its secretariat, boost its membership drive and retain existing members, spend more on lobbying Washington and educating privacy advocates, and sponsor consumer-focused efforts that tout industry best practice and self-disciplinary action.

Some inside the MMA?s member ranks wonder what benefits they get by virtue of their annual dues. Getting to sit on committees and attend the MMA?s trade shows is simply not enough for some on the inside or the outside. That case has to be made cogently.

If the MMA wants to be a club, then it is set. But if it has to act as an association that sets the agenda, then it needs to run like it.

Final Take

Mickey Alam Khan is Editor in Chief of Mobile Marketer, New York