Today, that’s where they keep all the mobile ad tech – and it’s huge. An entire pavillion packed with vendors and bustling with brands and agency reps looking to get serious about mobile innovation.
“The first year I came here, it was very much about the infrastructure and about the products – Hall 8 didn’t even exist,” said Scott Curtis, mobile development director at Starcom MediaVest Group in the UK.
These days, Mobile World Congress is a place for agencies to bring their advertiser clients, who for their part are jonesing to get closer to the bleeding edge. As is the practice among several agencies, Starcom organized a series of curated tours of the showroom floor to introduce their brands to interesting new companies and fresh tech. (The agency declined to name which advertisers were in tow this year.)
But it’s not just about keeping tabs on the next big thing. It’s an agency’s job to find practical applications of new technologies that their clients can actually use.
“We don’t bring clients here for the sake of bringing them here,” Curtis said. “They’re here to have a purposeful experience that will ultimately drive value for them.”
AdExchanger caught up with Curtis at Mobile World Congress.
SCOTT CURTIS: When I come here, I get to see a lot of interesting technology, things I don’t get to see even in London, which is so globally connected. Mobile is reaching maturity and it’s extremely valuable for myself and for my team to take these concepts back to clients. Some of the technology we see is useful in and of itself and some is useful because it encourages brainstorming and, ultimately, better strategy work.
It’s also an opportunity to be with clients. When they come to events like this, it shows a certain interest. But the fact is, mobile is important to every client regardless of product. We understand it and they understand it.
Mobile has even progressed to the point where there are great use cases for industries like education and health care where we can engage people and start making their lives better.
Not to be cynical, but someone has to monetize that. Where does advertising fit in?
It all comes down to data and understanding that mobile has so much more data than any other device has ever had, location being at the fore. A phone is both a sensor and a processor. It’s taking in GPS location data and it’s tracking everything its owner is doing.
That data allows you to make more informed decisions in terms of advertising so you can deliver something of value rather than just creating noise and distractions for people as they go about their digital journey.
What would be a practical application of that?
Say someone goes to the same Starbucks every morning for a cup of coffee followed by a commute and a day at work, and then that person comes home in the evening and goes to a certain pub. Location data from mobile tells a story about that person throughout that day. And for us, maybe that means serving them snackable content on the train when they’re in one kind of mindset and then serving more long-form video when they’re back at home after work.
Data helps us be smart about the path and helps us consider what to deliver for the best result on whatever the desired action is. Mobile adds more power to the data.
What about creativity? Is there a divide between the technology side and the creative side?
There’s a huge disconnect between being creative and being tech-savvy and the agency has to play both parts. My team and I focus on bringing these pieces together. It has to be a marriage.
Mobile has adopted a lot of bad practices from digital, which in turn had previously adopted a lot of bad practices from print and other media streams.
Mobile programmatic: Are we there yet regarding ad formats or scale?
In terms of the creative formats available, there are some truly creative ones coming to the fore, especially around native, where we’re starting to see real results. Even a full-page interstitial can drive strong results if it’s done correctly with good targeting.
Things like that are available programmatically, but it’s not a natural fit. If you’re trying to do something big and intrusive at scale, you need sign-on from every site all the way up to the Financial Times. And they all really need to understand whether this is going to enhance the experience for their readers or be annoying. If they’re going to sign up for programmatic, they need to know exactly how it works.
What’s coming down the pike nativewise?
Native is not a case of plug-and-play. You need inventory and text files and a whole set of assets. The industry is solving for that programmatically, but it’s been happening slowly. That said, by the end of the year, there will probably be a robust programmatic native solution with more partners.
Native was a buzzword last year, but it’s going to continue to be interesting this year as the results live up the hype and more business development goes into it.
What do you think about the much discussed in-house programmatic trend?
We’re seeing our role in the agency expand massively outside of media, which is by self-design. We made a decision that media would not be our only remit. We help brands realize business problems and actualize potential solutions, and we don’t think that should stop at media.
The mobile team in London is set up in such a way that we’re the strategists. We don’t activate. Rather, we disseminate to activation teams so that they can get training, which also frees up the mobile team for more of a strategy and innovation role rather than a media activation role.
We also have in-house creative teams that like to understand mobile technology, beacons, NFC chips. It’s not always necessarily going to be an advertising play, but we’ve got to be able to understand mobile technology and articulately translate it for our clients so that it has value for them.