All Hands Off-Deck!

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I attended my second mobile marketing consumer best practices conference Tuesday. It was a similar cast of characters from last year and the meeting followed much of the same flow.

After reviewing the changes to the standards document, MMA members from various parts of the industry spoke about their respective areas of expertise. The first to speak was Nick Macilveen from the aggregator OpenMarket. Nick spoke to the difficulties of getting a mobile marketing campaign launched. The difficulty is around getting all of the carriers to agree to the nature of the campaign. Each carrier (AT&T, T-Mobile, etc) has their own playbook that outlines the rules that must be adhered to, to launch a campaign. These playbooks have very little in common and it was discussed later in the day that marketers wish the carriers would get together and agree to the same uniform standard.

This sounds great and would make the mobile marketing industry in the states a far less brain-damaging experience. The real issue is that there is no real financial motivation for the carrier to make it easier for the marketer. They are the only way to to get to the user in an on-deck world. (High-level description of on-deck model here.)

After this, Dana Willis of Verizon spoke about word of mouth marketing. This was a very preliminary collection of goals for definitions (pg. 18 of the standards document) and there is a lot of work to be done to help define what this means (again) for the on-deck world.

From there we talked about Privacy, which is a huge issue in the mobile marketing world as evidenced by the newly named president pointing out the fact that there had just been a lawsuit announced. I have posted about marketers needing to partner (not just allow them to opt in) with the customer and this is needed in the mobile world as it is in online. With the new administration coming in, the MMA needs to help guide the Obama camp to do what is right. I spoke with Alan Chapell of Chapell and Associates and I asked if he thought this type of partnership was possible. He was unsure the government would consider a”framework of empowerment” as opposed to a set of rules.  He mentioned that someone had started a service called Digital Concierge (which I can’t currently find). My suggestion really was to give the incoming administration a framework based on the user that enables people to dictate how much access they want to provide marketers. Time will tell.

The other topic of note for me was the user generated content presentation by Andrew Osmak of Lavalife. (For some reason this is not included in the consumer best practices document.) When I spoke with Andrew he indicated they had a lot of work to do and was going to focus on LBS next, which is an opportunity I’m very excited about. (When he brought up the slide that indicated user generated content will generate $13 billion in revenue by 2011, there was a collective gasp.)

After the presentations were over there was an open forum. Now you have to remember that the room is filled with all types of businesses that need the cooperation from the carrier to run a successful business and yet it is an adversarial relationship in a very subtle way. Helen (last name unknown) of AT&T was a very popular guest this year (I believe because of the iPhone) and she was asked if their strategy was more focused on on-deck or off-deck strategies. Her answer was someone less than committal as she indicated that they were both important. The real answer is that short-term they will pay attention to on-deck needs and long-term they need to work to utilize off-deck strategies. (BTW, Helen had a Samsung and not an iPhone.)

The iPhone was not mentioned once during this conference (and only once last year).

Again,  you have to remember that the room was full of people who had developed a tremendous amount of expertise around a model that will most likely die within the next 5 – 10 years. The mobile Internet has only recently been born (WAP is an abysmal experience) and as an online marketer, it is important to pay attention to this form of the Internet. The skills of those in the room are hopefully transferable and in many ways I do believe their lives will get easier without the carriers hindering them. It’s still puzzling that there was no off-deck conversation during the forum. No acknowledgement of the impending paradigm shift. Instead of preparing for the inevitable, they were discussing the lack of progress made over the last four years within a dying business model.

The icing on the cake for me came during the conference when I attempted to pull up the MMA website on my Blackberry. After entering the URL, the MMA logo came up with a message below that read ‘WAP Site Coming Soon!’.

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I'm an Associate Teaching Professor of Digital Marketing at the Daniels College of Business, University of Denver. I also consult with startups and established brands. I'm currently focused on artificial intelligence, cognitive neuroscience and culture. I am married to an amazing woman and have two incredible children. I was raised in Colorado and spend my free time with family, biking, snowboarding and going to the Pacific Ocean to SCUBA dive and/or surf. I'm passionate about architecture, design, street art, photography and the art that tattooing has evolved into.

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