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Mobile advertising effective at driving commerce: Microsoft MMF keynote

June 9, 2010

Charles Johnson is general manager of mobile advertising at Microsoft

Charles Johnson is general manager of mobile advertising at Microsoft

NEW YORK – Citing case studies from clients such as Ace Hardware, Ford, Amtrak and Fox’s Avatar, Microsoft’s top mobile advertising executive showed how mobile can close the loop from advertising to transactions.

From shifting brand perception to driving in-store traffic, advertisers across all verticals are recognizing the shift in mobile consumer behaviors and adapting their strategy accordingly. The keynote offered five considerations related to the mobile consumer behavior purchase funnel: multi-screen engagement, reach through multiple devices, relevancy is king, task completion and deal seeking.

“At Microsoft, we are challenging ourselves to think broader and have come to realize that mobile commerce is so much more than waving your phone at point of purchase,” said Charles Johnson, general manager of mobile advertising at Microsoft, Redmond, WA. “We believe that anytime a mobile device plays a significant role in a purchase transaction, that’s mobile commerce.

“Would that transaction have happened without that mobile device? If the answer is no, well, then that’s mobile commerce,” he said. “For instance, using mobile to drive awareness of a promotional offer, connecting consumers to a retail location via mobile through to a store locator, and having them download a mobile coupon—that’s also mobile commerce.

“Relevancy in mobile is not just about who the user is but also about what tasks they are looking to complete with their device—mobile campaign leading consumers directly to a physical location, and a physical cash register.”

Ace Hardware ran a mobile advertising campaign during the holiday season to drive increased store traffic and keep up with the demand of loyal customers.

Ace came to Microsoft Mobile Advertising to develop a targeted and comprehensive strategy to reach primarily homeowners with four distinct offerings.

Over the course of the month-long campaign, Ace’s goal was to engage its loyal users on the go and use new media to reinforce Ace’s neighborhood appeal to drive in-store traffic (see story).

Ford Motor Co. tapped Microsoft Advertising to build awareness for the Ford Sync product via branded experiences for MSN, XBox Live and mobile (see story).

Top Five list
As per Mr. Johnson, the top five considerations that he and his team at Microsoft believe are key to driving business results with mobile advertising are:

1. Consumers are consuming more media on more screens, which leaves us with the obvious challenge of not only reaching them effectively but to do so by leaving an impactful brand message.

2. The idea of a “hero device” is misplaced hero worship. In Microsoft’s view, devices are not the heroes, consumers are … and reaching a critical mass of consumers means leveraging multiple devices in a retailer’s mobile media mix.

3. Reaching the right consumer is a good first step, but what is crucial is closing the loop and landing a message that is relevant to that user.

4. Often that relevant message is helping a user complete a task, as mobile users are uniquely looking to take an action, seeking to complete tasks, often in real time.

5. Increasingly these tasks are related to consumers seeking deals via mobile.

Best practices include reaching audiences in new ways with a consistent messaging across multiple screens, as well as staying focused on the consumer—not just the device—and leveraging targeting to segment and hone in on a brand’s target audience with relevant messaging.

“Marketers in nearly every industry can take any one of these five considerations, apply them to their current strategy and see how mobile advertising can drive increased business results for their brand,” Mr. Johnson said.

Fox uses mobile to sell Avatar tickets
One example of a brand successfully landing a consistent message across multiple screens is what Fox did for the premiere of the movie Avatar.

Twentieth Century Fox partnered with Microsoft to deliver a global, multiscreen campaign that ran in 16 markets across Europe and Asia.

Fox had two goals with this campaign: reach a mass audience and expose that audience to the brand in an immersive way.

The multiscreen campaign ever features roadblocks, video, rich media and other custom interactive ad elements deployed across Microsoft’s global advertising network, including the PC Web, XBox Live, Windows 7 Themes and the mobile Web.

“But what was truly fascinating was the fact that the more screens consumers saw the campaign on, the more they wanted to see, and did see, Avatar…and not just by a little bit, either…but by very large margins,” Mr. Johnson said.

“The more screens they saw ads on, the more they liked the ads and the brand—and the more likely they were to take actions to engage with the brand—things like viewing the trailer or visiting the Web site,” he said.

Nearly 60 percent of consumers who saw ads on all three screens were “much more excited” about seeing Avatar, versus 23 percent who were exposed to ads on two screens and 17 percent of consumers who saw only one screen.

“And most importantly, those who were exposed to the campaign on more screens were progressively more likely to actually go and see the movie,” Mr. Johnson said.

Forty-four percent of those who were exposed to the campaign on three screens actually went to see the movie, compared with 23 percent who saw the campaign on two screens, and 15 percent who only saw it on one.

“It’s what we call ‘the multiscreen multiplier,” Mr. Johnson said. “This really emphasizes that the more screens consumers encounter brands on, the more effective the campaign.”

Acela taps mobile to drive ticket sales
Mobile allows for a lot of the same targeting as online and some features such as device, carrier and location targeting that are specific to mobile.

But in mobile, some parameters such as location and time of day are even more relevant than they are in other mediums, according to Microsoft.

“At Microsoft, one way we have focused on increasing ad relevancy is through behavioral targeting,” Mr. Johnson said.

An example of an advertiser who found success with mobile ad relevancy is Amtrak with their Acela campaign.

The Aclea is Amtrak’s high-speed, premiere-service train that runs up and down the Northeastern seaboard between Washington and Boston, with stops in Philadelphia and New York.

Amtrak’s goal was purely about reaching a specific audience to drive a high CTR that would lead to increased mobile bookings.

“The only way they could actually accomplish this goal was to make sure that both their messaging and their targeting were relevant to business travelers in the Northeast Corridor,” Mr. Johnson said.

In order to attract these consumers, Amtrak focused on geo-targeted media to major Northeastern metropolitan areas, as well as targeting afflent business travelers.

Amtrak chose to focus on mobile weather content, which is highly relevant to the “commuting mindset,” as it reaches those during their ritual, often while their getting ready for work or deciding on whether to take the train or not.

Weather content on Verizon Wireless saw a click-through rate exceeding 3 percent, directly leading to an uptake of Acela reservations, according to Microsoft.

“Amtrak’s media proved that geographic, demographic and contextual mobile media works and were highly engaging and relevant to business travelers,” Mr. Johnson said. “In addition to these preliminary insights, this campaign was so successful that Amtrak Acela will be running additional campaigns with Microsoft Mobile later in the year—the ultimate testament of the campaign’s success.

“Mobile is all about task completion, and mobile commerce helps us all to be successful, innovating and delivering against the vision many people have had,” he said. “Task completion is paramount, and the lynch pin is mobile commerce.”

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Dan Butcher is associate editor on Mobile Commerce Daily and Mobile Marketer. Reach him at

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