Marketers yet to be convinced by mobile’s engagement opportunity

Advertising Week Europe 2014: Brand marketers are yet to be convinced of the engagement opportunities in mobile marketing and are still using the channel for direct response and performance marketing despite the growing mobile audience.

William Hill iPad app
William Hill’s CMO Kristof Fahy says it will be at least three years before mobile ad budgets overtake TV.

Speaking on a panel discussion this afternoon (31 March), Johan Svanstrom, president at Hotels.com, said most of its mobile budget goes into getting downloads for its app, with the rest going into digital marketing channels that are becoming “more mobile”, such as search and affiliate. He said this is partly because Hotels.com is a transactional business that needs to get people “down the funnel” and making bookings, but also because the mobile format doesn’t lend itself to content and brand engagement.

“We see mobile as a performance channel, not brand. Some of it has to do with the format, it’s hard to envision how you would get as much out of the smaller screen,” he added.

Kristof Fahy, William Hill’s chief marketing officer agreed, saying mobile is very important for digital conversion, particularly around people second screening while watching sport on TV, but says what brands are doing in the space is still “very basic”.

“[Digital conversion] works very well but it’s just a direct response piece… There is a lot of talk about the mobile industry and how important it is, but actually when you come down to what people are doing it’s based on location stuff and those very basic [things]. But people are spending hundreds of hours [on mobile] in a week. There has got to be something more interesting we can do,” he said.

Fahy said he would take money out of press or TV spend if he could access the same audiences he can via a football match on Sky Sports, particularly as TV advertising becomes more expensive. However, he doesn’t believe that innovation is there yet, saying it will be at least three years before mobile ad budgets overtake TV.

That is despite the fact that the latest predictions from eMarketer show that the average UK adult will spend more than 3 hours 41 minutes per day on non-voice mobile and tablet activities this year, compared with the 3 hours 15 minutes they spend watching TV.

Svanstrom warned there is unlikely to be a “silver bullet” and that brands will need to constantly innovate to take advantage of the mobile opportunity.

“In mobile I don’t foresee a next big leap or some kind of silver bullet that us or someone else can invent. It’s about constant innovation and taking opportunities,” he said.

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