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Gung-ho Michael Becker dishes on MMA’s North America progress

June 4, 2012

MMA's Michael Becker at the June 2010 Mobile Marketing Forum in New York

Next week is the Mobile Marketing Association’s annual New York forum involving brands, agencies, publishers and vendors with mobile hopes, aspirations and offerings. MMA North America chief Michael Becker offers an insight into what is in the organization’s hopper.

In this wide-ranging interview, MMA North America managing director Mr. Becker discusses the progress made by the association and industry under current leadership, plans for the MMA Forum New York June 11-13, the number of MMA conferences sprouting each year, and how mobile has changed marketers and vice versa.

“Smarter marketers are learning how to engage their customer in contextually relevant ways through and with mobile,” Mr. Becker said. “The MMA is here to make this engagement process easier: easier to create, easier to buy, and use and easier to sell.”

Here is the dialogue with Mr. Becker.

There seems to be an air of resurgence around the Mobile Marketing Association. Is this by design?
Very much so.

With Greg Stuart taking the helm as global CEO in late 2010, we began a period of accelerated growth.

Over the last year we’ve added exciting new global, regional and local events – for example, Cannes Lions, CEO/CMO Summit, Advertising Week – and new programs such as MMA SmartBrief, Mobile Marketing Supplier Directory, educational program, publications, Mobile Smart dinners and research that the industry has asked us for.

We’re also taking the lead with new industry initiatives that touch on important trends—privacy; apps development, monetization, promotion; measurement and so much more.

Moreover, we’ve revamped our forum series and are truly representing the entire ecosystem.

Brands, agencies, media and advertising, and innovators are all in attendance at our forums. They connect, share experiences and expertise and capabilities.

The next event, the MMA Forum New York, June 11-13, is a perfect example of how different our forum events are.

What milestones has the MMA accomplished since the last year’s Mobile Marketing Forum in New York?
So much has been accomplished.

We’ve created new standards, launched new channels of communication and events, organized research and reinvigorated membership.

For example, our industry initiatives committees have been leading on privacy issues including MUIDs and establishing privacy guidelines for apps, and setting standards for the industry with the creation of the Universal Mobile Ad Package – and compliant companies will be receiving an MMA compliance seal shortly.

We have added a membership marketing manager for North America, and an educational program and webinars that are customized to teach companies about specific aspects of mobile marketing.

We’ve also seen the establishment of the annual MMA CEO/CMO summit, the launch of mobile by the MMA at the upcoming Cannes Lions at October’s Advertising Week.

We’ve also launched new local councils in China, Japan, Dubai, Kenya, South Africa, Argentina and Mexico.

We’ve launched the premium member program which brings on leading industry players to create new assets for the industry.

For example The Coca-Cola Co. has supported the build-out of our educational program.

Finally, we have a number of new research initiatives underway.

This year, there seems to be a studied emphasis on smart campaigns and smartness. Is that because marketers have become smarter?
Marketers are becoming smarter. They’re recognizing the immense potential inherent in mobile marketing and the indispensable nature of mobile to the marketing mix.

We’re here to help stimulate industry growth and reduce industry friction – two key goals for the MMA.

We do this by creating smarter standards, educational programs, research and engagement vehicles like publications, our Web site, webinars, local dinners and more.

Smart marketers understand that mobile isn’t just an add-on to their plans or something that would be “good to have.” They realize that mobile is media, a channel, a platform that is relevant to consumers within all aspect of their lives.

Smarter marketers are learning how to engage their customer in contextually relevant ways through and with mobile.

The MMA is here to make this engagement process easier: easier to create, easier to buy, and use and easier to sell.

So what’s the deal with this show next month – what’s the central theme?
In this year’s forum, industry leaders are going to share their insights around consumer-centric engagement, strategies and tactics.

You’ll see a ton of new agency, brand, seller and enabler faces as well as leaders that have been with us for years.

Attendees will be able to connect, share experiences amongst themselves and the speakers and source countless new capabilities that they’ll be able to bring back to their firms and customers in order to make a smarter tomorrow.

Key content themes include the strategy and tactics for the buying and selling of mobile media; how social and hyper-local engagement are changing the face of marketing; how mobile has changed the face of video and TV forever; mobile’s role in the path to purchase and at the point of the transaction; how mobile plays a role across all channels and verticals and across all screens.

Also, we’re bringing a special treat this year: Chester Santos, The International Man of Memory, will share with the audience insights and tools for improving your memory—tools that will come in handy as we collectively focus on industry growth, connections and innovation.

In addition to incredible content we’re hosting engaging networking and cocktail receptions throughout the entire event.

Have you added new exhibitors this year versus last?
Yes – we have 30 exhibits and over 20 additional companies that have invested in the forum in order to bring thought-leadership, innovation and the opportunity to learn and meet new people to the industry.

We are grateful to the sponsors and since they help make the forum a special occasion that is difficult to find anywhere else. This year will be truly amazing.

And what about attendance this year – how are the registration numbers looking?
We had more than 900 attendees in 2011 – and we are expecting to get close to, if not surpass, 1,000 this year.

What’s extremely encouraging is that we’re getting a significant increase in brands and agencies this this year, including People magazine, Coca-Cola, CNN, Pfizer, Scottrade, AT&T AdWorks, Energizer Personal Care, Alcatel-Lucent, Omaha Steaks, GE Corporate, Universal McCann, Microsoft, MediaVest, Time Warner Cable, Adobe Systems, Tribune Company, Interaction MEC, JNJ Vision Care, Amway, American Express, The Marketing Arm, / Eastbay, Gannett, M&C Saatchi Mobile, Team Detroit, TD Ameritrade, Citi and the Association of National Advertisers.

This kind of response from leading brands is a great confirmation that marketers are recognizing that new investments and innovations in the field are forever changing the landscape of consumer engagement, and that they see mobile as an indispensable part of their marketing mix.

The MMA is launching new councils and new events, as well as new partnerships such as that with the Cannes Lions advertising festival. What’s the end-goal here?
The MMA is the only global, big-tent mobile marketing association, which puts us in a unique position to interpret the global reach and local relevance of mobile.

We’re seeing incredible growth in mobile marketing all over the world, and there’s a great demand to educate marketers and to provide case studies and thought leadership opportunities for buyers, sellers and those that make it all happen—leading media and innovator players.

We just added our 20th local council in LATAM and there are more on the way in APAC and EMEA regions that are growing out of that demand.

Events like Cannes, where the event organizers are working with the MMA to roll out the debut of the mobile channel at Europe’s biggest advertising and marketing event, are part of the realization that marketers are coming to worldwide that they must include mobile in their plans.

What accomplishments can you cite this year for the MMA in North America that you think will move the needle for mobile marketing?
This year we’ve launched the new educational programs and publications, kicked off new initiative and standards, revamped the forums and created a series of local network events – the Mobile Smart dinner series and local members’ meetings.

With significant member support we’ve launched the Universal Mobile Ad Package, rolled out apps privacy framework, started organizing the industry around new audience and campaign measurement efforts, and made significant strides toward establishing a policy and framework for unique users’ detection across devices.

In addition to these accomplishments, we’re kicking off cross-media effectiveness and spend research and so much more.

You moved the MMA Forum in Los Angeles from November to San Francisco in January. Why?
We’ve needed to move the events around to accommodate the demand of the market and to make space for the ever increasing and rapidly changing mobile conversation.

We’ve moved our Latin America forum from Sao Paulo to Miami, which will happen in November this year. This move helps us bridge the natural connections between the Latin American and multicultural communities across the Americas.

With this move we simply could not host two forums in one month, so we moved the West Coast forum to late January/early February and since we were moving it, we decided, by popular demand, to host it in San Francisco.

However, keep your eyes peeled for more changes—this is simply not a change of venue.

We’re not ready to let our plans out yet, but the West Coast event will be a mobile extravaganza unlike anything you’ve seen from the MMA or its membership. I’m very excited, it is going to be awesome.

What next have you in mind for MMA North America members?
This is a great question, but the better one is what do North American members have in mind for the industry and the MMA.

The MMA is a vehicle for industry growth and change. The MMA membership, with support and guidance from the MMA staff, organize the mobile discussion, establish standards, come together to create ground-breaking research, educate the marketplace, grow the mobile pie.

The MMA is global, it is local and truly representative of all players in the mobile discussion.

I’m so excited to be representing the MMA’s members and the industry, and can’t wait to serve them in order to change the face of marketing through and with mobile.

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Mickey Alam Khan is editor in chief of Mobile Commerce Daily, Mobile Marketer and Luxury Daily. Reach him at

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