The mobile industry’s CTIA Wireless, a show covering wireless, broadband convergence and mobile computing, is just a few weeks away; and many companies will use the event to launch new ad products and partnerships.
Among those present will be Enpocket, one of the oldest surviving mobile firms. Enpocket enjoys a special relationship with Sprint, the carrier with arguably most vocal plans to sell and traffic mobile advertising. In the run up to the conference, ClickZ spoke with CEO Mike Baker about the trajectory of his company, that of the industry as a whole, and the state of budget allotments for advertising on handheld devices.
Q. Briefly, what’s the origin of Enpocket?
A. We started in 2001, and were active in Europe and Asia before being active in the U.S. Now the majority of our revenue and the majority of our company is based [in the U.S.], a reflection of market growth.
We focused on the brands that have the most to gain from mobile marketing, which are the mobile carriers themselves. Vodafone, Sprint, Virgin use our platforms to message their customers about buying services, ringtones, text messaging, and plans. First party promotional marketing that really shows up to a subscriber as receiving a text message or multimedia message.
Q. How has that carried over to the brand side?
A. We’ve done over a thousand campaigns for brands over the years. We started with a mechanism most people use, SMS; now we’re seeing greater adoption and doing brand campaigns that appear as display advertising within the browser.
What we’ve really learned is that the buyers, the brands and the agencies are confused by the fragmented niche players. Company one sells mobile media, company two delivers text messaging campaigns, company three builds mobile Web sites. [Marketers] want to work with a company that has experience executing the entire solution. Enpocket brings a total mobile solution, so marketers can deal with one company, soup to nuts. Plan, create, and optimize campaigns from a mobile device.
Q: Is that the advantage of offering a portfolio of services instead of a single service?
A. It’s a personal device. It can’t just be about banner ads. Marketers need more than just banner ads. We want to use the banner to draw people into highly engaging experiences, like a quasi-application that’s branded. For example, use the banner to let people know we’ve got a store finder on the mobile Web or that they can download a branded wallpaper or that they can sign up for text notifications of sales. We’re able to put all these things together to solve sales problems.
Mobile is complex enough without having to deal with a cadre of niche vendors. While focusing on a niche may be a nice differentiator, the market is too complex to expect advertisers to work with several companies to pull together a comprehensive mobile program. Our niche, if you will, is the complete solution.
Q. Do you see some sort of industry consolidation down the road?
A. I don’t worry about that. My view is that meshing together companies probably doesn’t create very integrated solutions. It needs to happen down on a platform level. We have a platform; the technology itself does all the things we need it to do. You can’t recreate it by cobbling Frankenstein’s monster of limbs.
My worry for the industry is that it’s not able to organize itself and show brands an effective place to spend money… I think the industry does need to come together to make it easier for brands and agencies to transact in the medium, making it simpler to buy or run campaigns, and syndicate the ad buying opportunities.
Q. What can be learned or carried over from Internet content and marketing?
A. It is a different medium… You can’t port Internet experiences to the small screen. Internet companies like Yahoo had to fundamentally rework the product offering on the channel. To succeed in mobile is not a given for Internet companies like Yahoo, Google, and MSN because it does require them to produce different assets, different experiences. They’re still in a very good position to leverage an adjacent opportunity in the mobile space.
In general I would say the display advertising market for mobile is very early. That said, I see a definite appetite among brands to engage in that sort of mobile advertising. This is a building year, a learning year, a testing year. The difference between this year and last year is that there are a lot more people testing. We’re really looking at later 2007 and 2008 for a pretty significant pick up for brands and advertisers moving from test mode to a recurring spend in mobile advertising.
Q. What is allowed by 3G and high-speed access?
A. We see a more actively engaged audience… Look at what broadband has done. It really led the interactive industry into the golden age. Without it, you’re back in the text messaging mode; with it, you’ve got the full palette.
The U.S. is very interested in rich media. The U.S. is different than Europe and Asia. Where I predict we’ll be ahead is in the use of the browser, and I think that will correlate directly with the roll-out of the 3G networks. The bandwidth allows an experience to click as often as you would on your desktop.
Q. Where does the industry stand on reporting and measurement?
A. We’ve spent a lot of time trying to create reporting like you would find on the Internet, like Internet advertising can do. Measuring on mobile is harder, because this medium doesn’t have cookies right now. The unique identifier, the numbers, are not always available unless somebody has consented to give it to the brand.
Q. What advice do you have for brands experimenting in the mobile channel?
A. Part of the value of spending money is learning, and if the reporting is not good then you’re not really learning. Learning what doesn’t work and why is as important as learning what does work and why.
Questions for Enpocket CEO Mike Baker
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