Wednesday, September 12, 2007

On Personalization of Mobile Advertising

 Personalization of Mobile Advertising Image attribute: Fickr, phirschybarAccording to Sydney Morning Herald, The mobile advertising market is expected to be worth $11B by 2011. But its down to creating the right channels and formats, getting to the right consumer, the right way.

In recent years the efficiency and optimization of web assets has become a huge industry: from learning how to reach the desired audience, to maximizing the opportunity once you have that audience at your page. Efficient advertising makes a world of difference in the outcome of lead generation and sales.
From the eyes of a non-web guru, two key factors stand out when trying to optimize web content and advertising:
  • Awareness to the viewer's context: content can be made relevant to samples from the viewers context. for example, Location-aware advertising, based on the user's IP address can suggest local culinary options for the tourist. Geography and Time-aware advertising can display relevant entertainment events. These parameters and others are typically available in the HTTP header of every PC browser request.

  • Personalization: highly efficient advertising could be trying predict what might YOU want to buy next. Keeping track of ones web purchasing history, visited web content etc. could help in that. There are obvious "big brother" implications but when there's enough value presented, users may opt-in. Amazon, for example, tracks the user's recent interest and purchasing history to generate 'you may like this too' offerings, not to mention the one-click checkout
Take the leap back to the mobile world, where players today are trying to figure out today how to introduce mobile content, advertising, coupons, loyalty etc.
Quick comment: In a MIT conference perhaps two years ago, T-Mobile CTO, Hamid Akhavan commented that the initiatives that will succeed in mobile had better learn from their "non-mobile" parallels (where applicable) and get better. (He's not use that exact language, so excuse the interpretation).

Introducing relevant mobile web content is quite challenging: the physical dimensions, data plans, usability are all factors playing against this initiative. But keeping optimistic and hoping that all users one day will have data plans and usable web accessible devices, let's take another look at the two factors we mentioned:
  • Mobile context awareness: Interestingly enough, beyond just optimizing the ad to the content served, "mobile" encapsulates more interesting dimensions to the 'viewer context'. for the most part, since the user is on the move, they will be out of their familiar home and their search could become much more effective. For example, local culinary web advertising might be far more effective out of home than at home: you already know the restaurants you like close to home. On the other hand, getting the user's location (from their IP address) is not as trivial on mobile as it would be on the web. Here's an interesting snapshot of mobile search: (from MobHappy:) m-spatial provide white label local search for the likes of Orange, O2 and Vodafone, as well as personal navigation devices. They’ve just announced a list of the terms users are most frequently searching for on their mobiles.

  • Personalization: I believe that personalizing ads on mobile is far more important than on PC, because the users would be less tolerant of irrelevant spam. However, awareness of the mobile user's identity is more difficult. Identity tokens on PC browsing (For example, when you launch GMail, you get right into your inbox and not being asked to login again) is generally managed by cookies and Javascript. Technologies that are just being introduced to mobile browsers. Another ad-hoc way to identify the 'static' consumer is their IP address. You would be surprised how much information can be extracted and monitored over time by just using your IP address. That's all good, but when you think mobile, mobile IP addresses are dynamically allocated: every time you connect to the mobile web your phone is allocated a new IP address by the wireless service provider. So, assuming no cookies and Javascript, being unable to track activity by IP address...what can be done to identify mobile users and personalize content for them?

    • Add the user identity to the HTTP headers on the mobile browser: Phone vendors could have identifiers (IMEI, IMSI, ESN,...) added to the mobile browser, but they would risk a consumer "big brother" backlash. Mobile application developers (especially community builders) could have their subscribers pre-register and link their phone to their account, then transmit identifiers to the web. This approach would definitely require user opt-in

    • IPV6: I'm no expert on this one, but I understand that in the days of IPV6 there will be no shortage of IP addresses so mobile users could have 'static' IP addresses, which would make them similar to the non-mobile users: an IP address could identify a user over time. I also understand that deployment of IPV6 technology across wireless infrastructure and phones will take some time.

    • Looking at the Operators' WAP Gateway: when users launch their web browser they get through a series of components in the wireless operators' architecture that, amongst other things, authenticate the subscriber, make sure that are allowed to access the web (they have a data plan etc.) and monitor their activity (mainly for billing purposes. for convenience, let me call this set of components 'WAP Gateway'. The point is, when the subscriber hits the web on their phone, the operator knows exactly who they are and what are they looking at. Bang!. But- hold your horses: operators can't, and won't expose this information: there are privacy issues, and also, this database, used in the right hands, is worth piles of money. So what's the alternative? become the "inside man". Operators are well aware of this potential, but have different opinions on the effort they are willing to make to create sufficient infrastructure for advertising. Teaming up with the likes of Comverse, who provide the infrastructure and have a hand at all the components, would mean that operators can enable advertising, and advertisers can become mobile.

Optimizing mobile advertising to the context and identity is required. Not only would it increase its effectiveness on advertising, without it users would become very unhappy. Creating the alliances with the players in the ecosystem is critical to unleash a very profitable future for mobile.

Thanks for reading!

1 comment:

Bharad said...

Hello Amir,

your views on the subject are very relevant and informative. Keep flowing creative juices.