Top 5 marketing takeaways from Mobile World Congress 2014

Mobile World Congress 2014: Marketing Week rounds up the five key marketing trends from the annual Barcelona mobile extravaganza.

Unilever Go Global

Marketers doing mobile for themselves

The sheer volume of marketers attending Mobile World Congress from outside the industry this year underlined the increasing influence mobile has on our industry. Coca-Cola brought 15 marketers out to Barcelona, Unilever had a strong marketing contingent and there was even a whole separate fringe show at MWC’s old venue, featuring speakers from the likes of Twitter, the BBC and Walmart.

Announcements made from such brands at the show demonstrated how mobile is shifting from becoming a minor part of the media plan to a major part of the business process.

Unilever spent the show moving its Go Global digital marketing incubator initiative to the next stage, selecting seven marketing technology start-ups to invest in as the FMCG company looks to create “new marketing platforms” in-house rather than just relying on agency partners.

Shaun Gregory, managing director of the just axed Telefonica Digital’s global advertising business, told Marketing Week there will be a trend in the next 10 years for the emergence of more units like Unilever Ventures within brands to invest in mobile as the discipline moves up the agenda and becomes central in the marketing mix. Earlier this week Telefonica announced it is to axe its Telefonica Digital division as part of a restructure of its global business aimed at cutting costs.

Handset makers squeeze the middle

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Samsung’s Galaxy S5 dominated MWC 2014 conversation with 200 tweets per minute at the peak,according to Manning Gottlieb OMD.

For the most part, smartphone brands exhibiting at MWC showed signs they were leaving the battle in the high-end device sector to Apple (which does not attend MWC beyond a smattering of sales executives and an unofficial party) and Samsung (which launched the Samsung Galaxy S5 flagship at the event) to focus on mid-tier ranges.

Motorola did not announce any new devices at the show but presented at an evening event to outline the company’s strategic direction following its $2.9bn acquisition by Chinese PC maker Lenovo as a maker of “great value for money” handsets. Motorola’s senior vice president of product management Rick Osterloh added that he sees the days of the $650 smartphone coming to an end.

Elsewhere, Nokia turned to Android to unveil the new mid-tier range of Nokia X phones as it looks to emerging markets to turnaround its recent stuttering performance. HTC  launched two mid-priced smartphones – the Desire 816 and Desire 610 – at MWC, which its CEO would unlock the “huge opportunity in the middle of the market”. Sony and LG also announced mid-tier Androids at the show.

Advertisers shift mobile advertising native

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Marketers from across sectors at Mobile World Congress’ Mobile Media Summit (another event held at the old venue) explained how their mobile ad strategy is shifting from pop-ups and banners to more native and immersive forms of marketing.

Rebecca Brown, Intel global director of media, said the chip maker was moving to native advertising on mobile because its content is “better” than small banners. She said while she liked the idea of programmatic and real time marketing, it is difficult on mobile and currently the inventory is not there but native is the “perfect place” for Intel to connect with consumers.

Peter Blackshaw, Nestle global chief of digital, chimed with Brown’s view. He said he did not think of having a digital or mobile budget, but a “brand building budget” with mobile acting as the “perfect point of entry”.

Native advertising is “misunderstood on mobile”, according to the former Yahoo CMO and current vice president of global sales and operations at mobile ad network Millennial Media Mollie Spilman , who advised marketers to think about context as well as content when it comes to mobile native ads.

She told Marketing Week: “CMOs still say the screen is so small for great creative, whereas TVs are getting bigger and bigger and I like being able to watch my ad on this big plasma screen. I think that philosophy is going to change as marketers get more experience in this and see what can be done on mobile devices.”

Facebook reveals agenda beyond social networking – but operators unlikely to ‘Like’.

Facebook’s founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg gave his first ever keynote (although it was more in the form of a fireside chat) at MWC this year. He used his time on stage to outline Facebook’s Internet.org initiative which aims to get everybody in the world online by reducing infrastructure costs, removing inefficiencies in networks and offering cheap or free mobile internet subscriptions in emerging markets.

Zuckerberg said he wanted to create services where people in developing countries can get free access to basic information such as food prices, social networks, messaging, weather and Wikipedia – with a one-touch upsell button for users to purchase data plans in order for the service to generate revenue. He described it as being akin to the 911 emergency telephone number in the US and his vision for Internet.org to become the “dial tone of the internet”.

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He was attending MWC to gain the support of operators needed to make this possible and said Internet.org needs “three to five” additional partners to work with over the coming year. It is also likely that Facebook will try to impose on operators free mobile data access to WhatsApp, which the social network recently purchased for $19bn, in some of these markets.

But with WhatsApp revealing in Barcelona it is to introduce voice messaging to the app, operators may be wary of jumping straight into bed with Internet.org considering its potential to cut into their already squeezed revenues as consumers shift to free over the top services rather than making traditional phone calls and sending texts.

Wearables everywhere in 2014

The growing appetite for wearable technology was highlighted by Samsung’s Galaxy Gear Fit smart band being awarded the coveted “Best Mobile Device” award by MWC event organiser the GSMA.

Almost every mobile handset brand stand at MWC displayed some form of wearable technology, both at a live and concept stage. Sony showed off its life-logging SmartBand, Huawei unveiled the TalkBandB1 and both Motorola and HTC pledged their allegiances to the wearable sector in the coming year.

O2-owner Telefonica announced at MWC it had signed agreements with Samsung, Sony and LG to integrate its services such as its TuGo app into their wearable hardware and said it is open to reach agreements with other market players, content providers and companies in the fashion industry to ensure these devices are commercially successful.

Mobile advertising network Millennial Media predicts that ad impressions served to wearable devices on its network will grow by 947 per cent by 2017. The wearable sector may not have reached mainstream yet, but with big brands looking to spend heavily to support their new wearable devices in 2014, it is only set to grow – if from a low base. And a certain Apple iWatch might help that growth along the way too.

See all of our coverage from Mobile World Congress 2014 here

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