Interactive advertising: are we ready for the next screen?

3 min read Networks & Network Services
The mobile web has begun to move beyond the domain of ringtone downloads and messaging to a platform where consumers are finding valuable content and marketers are delivering messages in measurable and effective ways. Pam Horan highlights the latest research conducted by the Online Publishers Association …

“I always hear about the cellphone as being the third screen, but I think about it as the first one. It’s with me all the time.”

Speaking recently in London at the Online Publishers Association (OPA) Forum for the Future, R/GA Chairman Bob Greenberg expressed why the mobile web piques the imagination of consumers and marketers everywhere – no matter where we are, our mobile handset is sure to be nearby. While it is no substitute for the web experience on our PC, it can extend that experience in powerful ways.

The OPA’s Going Mobile study, which was conducted with TNS Media and Entertainment, involved over 6,000 interviews in the US, the UK, France, Italy, Spain and Germany, found that mobile content consumption is high and growing, and England is leading the way. In fact, 54% of British consumers with mobile web access on their device have used it, and 20% of those say they plan to increase their usage in the year ahead.

“Consumers clearly want ‘anytime, anywhere’ access to the content they access with their home or work computer …”

Internationally, more than three-quarters of all consumers have access to the web on their mobile device, and one-third say they have used it at least once.

The study, which is available online at www.opa-europe.org, found that a broad range of mobile content – from health information, to sports scores, to local news – is being devoured by these consumers. And they’re getting this content from the same sources they use on their personal computer. Across all content categories, more than 50% of mobile web consumers use the same brands they use when surfing on their PC, showing that content brands being used on the PC internet are transferring their equity to the mobile web.

It also demonstrates that consumers clearly want ‘anytime, anywhere’ access to the content they access with their home or work computer. When away from the office, the political junkie is using a mobile handset to get breaking news from the International Herald Tribune, the money manager is reading latest updates from the Financial Times, and the tech wiz is looking at new gadgets on CNET.

This strong growth in use and content consumption is paving the way for the transition of the mobile web to an effective marketing platform. Going Mobile found that consumers in the US and Europe are widely receptive to mobile marketing. In fact, more than one-third of mobile web users internationally say they will watch advertisements in exchange for free mobile content.

Importantly, the ads they watch are driving significant numbers of consumers to take specific actions, both online and offline. Nearly one in ten consumers actually made a purchase based on a mobile web ad. About a quarter were driven to check out a website, and 13% requested more information about a product or service.

In addition to the promise of advertising revenue, the research also revealed that consumers are interested and willing to pay for content on their mobile devices. The OPA’s 2005 Paid Online Content Market Spending Report, revealed that over $2bn is being spent on content in the US, and the Going Mobile shows that this extends to the mobile web. More than one in ten mobile Internet users internationally has paid for content across categories. One in six Europeans have paid for sports information, followed closely by technology news and business news.

The reality right now, of course, is that the screen we carry in our purse or coat pocket isn’t about to replace the one that sits on our desk or lap. While about one-third of mobile web users internationally, and more than 40% in the UK, are satisfied with the experience, the OPA found that many consumers still want improvements in download times, navigation and overall user-friendliness.

But the ubiquity of mobile devices, the growth in mobile web usage, and the willingness of consumers to watch mobile ads in exchange for content (and even pay for it) are demanding the attention of publishers and marketers.

The mobile handset may not be ready to assume the role of a ‘first screen’. However it’s also clear that it can no longer be considered a distant third.

Pam Horan is president of the Online Publishers Association, a US-based organisation that represents online content providers before advertisers, the press, the government and the public.