Things Are Getting Personal

Earlier this month I had the privilege of attending the Interactive Advertising Bureau’s annual Mobile Marketplace conference. Some of the largest brands, sharpest agencies, and most respected publishers trekked to the ballroom of the Crowne Plaza in Times Square to talk about the latest trends in the mobile arena.

I have heard a million times that any campaign launched from this day forward should be “mobile first.” As cliché and overplayed as the “mobile first” phrase has become, it is accurate. According to one oft-cited survey, in 2014 the average American consumed more media on their mobile devices than any other medium – yes, more than TV.

However, the shift in consumption habits towards mobile devices presents marketers with a new challenge. We are now confronted with the task of communicating with voters on the most personal of devices - smartphones. We’re talking about a device that we own and carry on our person all day, everyday. Marketers and agencies are now delivering content on the exact same four inch screen consumers use to share photos of their newborn nieces, text loved ones, and use to wake up in the morning. Consumers can ignore the TV playing in the restaurant, put down the magazine at the checkout line, and change the radio station in their vehicle, but, for better or worse, they can’t ignore the screen on their lifeline .…err, smartphone. Now, more than ever, what we say and how we say it really matters.

While the conference agenda allocated a considerable amount of time discussing highly technical aspects of the digital space such as cross-channel distribution, multi-level attribution, and the challenges of measuring in app ROI, one speaker really stood out: David Sable, Global Chief Executive Officer at Young & Rubicam. He closed the event by talking about the biggest challenge mobile marketers faced in the up coming year: avoiding “Digibabble.”

Digibabble, as defined by Sable, is ascribing magical marketing powers to digital channels. In other words, he argues, digital is everything, but not everything is digital. According to Sable, simply utilizing the newest digital platforms and the latest sexy technology does not make one an effective digital marketer. We can’t lose perspective that we’re communicating with real, live, human beings. And the fickle thing about talking to humans is they have a wide array of unique and powerful emotions that aren’t always captured in KPI’s. Sable maintains that a failure to connect with consumers on a very fundamental level makes all the other stuff meaningless.

“Human connection trumps any algorithim,” Sable offered in his closing remarks to the crowd of technocrats. While some in the crowd probably scoffed at David and whispered that he just doesn’t get it – which he confided in me afterwards happens all the time - I found his point very profound and topical at a mobile conference.

The takeaway: creative and story telling count.

Even the best run mobile campaigns can’t make it an impact if you are using stock photos, gaudy text, and a shoddy video full of b-roll. In fact, I would argue the consumer would penalize you more for invading their “intimate” smartphone space with content they deem irrelevant or inferior.

As we turn the corner and find ourselves communicating with voters on the most personal technology device they own, we would all be wise to heed Sable’s word of wisdom.

John Porter is a strategist for The Prosper Group. Follow him on Twitter @_JohnPorter

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