December 12, 1996. An innocuous date for most, but a day that revolutionised online marketing when Macromedia released its Shockwave Flash software.
Until Flash arrived, the Web could provide consumers with an informative and even useful experience, like a store finder. But connection speeds were slow and that limited the rich media content.
The Web didn’t provide marketers with a strong brand experience and that was reflected in its share of marketing spend. Fast-forward to today and Flash has allowed marketers to create amazingly immersive brand experiences helped by widespread broadband.
This is a column on mobile so forgive me for having cited my online cousins, but there are very clear parallels. The evolution from slow second-generation (2G) phones, through 2.5G to 3G has enabled increasingly rich media.
SMS has been the weapon of choice for mobile marketers for five years. It is highly effective and will always have a role. However, mirroring early internet sites, it does not provide a rich brand experience. Cue the next phase of mobile marketing: Java, FlashLite and, dare I say it, WAP. WAP has had a renaissance since its bungled launch in 1999. Now you can integrate images and colour and it’s a slick experience, just ask Xbox, Coca-Cola and Peugeot, which have launched WAP sites recently.
The next phase is Java applications. Here a simple application resides on the phone and connects to the internet to download fresh data as appropriate. The drawback is that it has a long development cycle. Which leads me back to where I started, and the product I believe will transform mobile marketing: FlashLite – the mobile version of Flash.
It provides stunning animation and the “wow” factor that excites media owners. And it is cheaper in terms of data costs for the user. For marketers, the next step is a cohesive mobile advertising offering, perhaps streaming audio visual content, replicating online banner campaigns, and using click-to-call links to drive bookings into your call centre.
The first country to see FlashLite was Japan and now more Japanese consumers access the internet by their mobiles than via PCs when not at work. Since Japan is the most advanced market in the world, this is a sign of things to come. Any brands ignoring mobile marketing and the mobile internet do so at their peril.
Dan Rosen is head of AKQA Mobile