Agency Shifts Underscore Mobile Competition

Josh GordonFor another sign in a seemingly endless number of signs that mobile marketing is extremely important to the future of marketing and advertising read about what is happening in the ongoing advertising battle between the two largest wireless carriers in the U.S., AT&T and Verizon. AT&T spent $1.87 billion on media that used actor Luke Wilson to deliver counter-punches to Verizon’s $2.16 billion campaign that cleverly communicated “There’s a map for that.”

AT&T is, of course, claiming that they are jumping on to the high road first. The company, and ad agency BBDO (Omnicom), introduced a new campaign during last weekend’s Master’s entitled, “Rethink Possible.” Interestingly, rather than promoting solely wireless services AT&T is also grouping together its various services, from wireless capabilities to UVerse. Many believe Verizon will respond in kind by promoting their wireless capabilities alongside its FIOS – especially considering the news that Verizon has changed advertising agencies.

Beware the specter of a truce. The entertaining and aggressive Marco-Polo-style dueling campaigns may be retired, but the competitive spirit lies dormant only long enough to allow the public to recharge. Like political campaigns with plenty of negativity, consumers grow weary of too much negativity in their advertising. AT&T and Verizon are wise to put the brakes on for the upcoming handful of quarters. The Fall promises plenty of contentious political advertising as mid-term elections loom in November. The carriers are wise to grant the public a brief respite. However, I would not be surprised to see the re-emergence of more aggressive advertising from the carriers in one year’s time.

The constant carrier jousting signals two important developments for direct digital marketing. First, the importance of owning the most mind and market share in mobile marketing has never been higher. The more customers each has, the more power they have to control which mobile marketing campaigns are approved or not approved. The second important development is in how each company is promoting its multi-channel services at one time. Like the direct digital marketing software landscape, where the best software delivers multi-channel capabilities in one platform, the battle that once waged exclusively between wireless capabilities may begin to look more like a battle between large MSOs. Verizon is promoting FIOS, and AT&T is promoting UVerse, as part of an overall effort to dominate households, rather than individual bills within a household.

Consumers, like marketers, respond to efficiency. Pushing the efficiency message makes a lot of sense for these two huge companies. As consumers are thinking more about consolidation – bundling features and bills together with one provider – marketers must do the same. This advertising battle is a perfect representation of what is happening with direct digital marketing. Sure, mobile marketing is important as an individual communications channel. But combine its power and data in the same software platform that delivers email and dynamic Web content and true efficiency and consolidation is born, the type of improvements that consumers clearly respond to.

The question begs, marketers: What are you doing to be more efficient and respond better to consumers?

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