ThinkLA Delves Into Mobile Content, Ad & Marketing Implications
Benny Thomas
Experts share insights, differing views on a landscape which includes AI, UI, the power of voice
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Divergent views and varied insights marked ThinkLA’s Mobile Breakfast on Wednesday (3/20) at the Beverly Hilton. A nonprofit collaborative that ties together local media, marketing, entertainment and advertising communities in Los Angeles, ThinkLA hosted the annual event, which included panel discussions as well as opening and closing keynote sessions.

Regarding the alluded to distinctly different takes on the mobile arena, Benny Thomas, chief strategy officer/managing partner of Barrie D’Rozario DiLorenzo, advised attendees to “stop looking at this (mobile) as an advertising medium--at least not a Don Draper advertising medium.” Rather he sees a customer service orientation as more apropos for mobile, meaning that your efforts to get a message across require behaving like “you’re a guest at someone’s house.” When invited into a person’s home, being intrusive with marketing and advertising is counterproductive.

As a panelist in the ThinkLA Panel Connect discussion, Thomas noted that mobile content represents a delicate balancing act, part of what he described as a “privacy paradox” where you have to “personalize as far as the user asks and no further,” navigating that gray area between “where user interest ends and your self-interest begins.”

However in a subsequent Panel Create session, moderator Joao Machado, SVP, product marketing, Sabio Mobile, took issue with Thomas’ suggestion not to regard mobile as an ad medium. Machado affirmed that mobile has the capacity to connect with communities of prospective consumers who can benefit from tailormade marketing messages, finding value in thoughtful content.

While they seemed on opposite ends in terms of their informed opinions, Thomas in a sense concurred with Machado’s observation on thoughtful mobile content, citing examples in Far East Asian markets such as a soap opera on What’s App that does an effective soft sell on insurance products, and Unilever’s instant alerts on disease epidemics, tagged with the importance of hand washing with soap. This content is useful and meaningful, assessed Thomas. Still, marketers have to be careful in terms of how they disrupt via mobile.

Mobile power, window to AI
Mobile Breakfast’s opening keynote speaker Cory Treffiletti, chief marketing officer of Voicea, a company focused on voice collaboration technology leveraging the power of AI, described the mobile phone as becoming increasingly essential on different fronts, including as:

  • The remote control for your life
  • Head of operations for your staff of AI assistants
  • The cornerstone to your connected home
  • The digital representation of you
  • The only constant companion you have every day

Furthermore, voice commands are becoming the final user interface (UI), said Treffiletti, an entry point for activating AI, for example, to help “get things done.”  He added that the marketplace is reaching a crossroads where “humans can stop learning how to understand machines, and machines can finally understand humans.” 

Underscoring that AI is fast becoming more mainstream, Treffiletti observed that this year’s Super Bowl included seven commercials that featured voice-activated AI or a robot. Among those Big Game advertisers were Amazon, Mercedes-Benz, Michelob Ultra and SimpliSafe.

Assorted observations
Other observations during ThinkLA’s Mobile Breakfast included:

Panel Create panelist Straith Schreder, creative director, VICE, described mobile as “ubiquitous,” noting that the typical Gen Z’er checks his or her phone 30 times an hour. That alone shows that mobile isn’t just part of the creative landscape. Rather, affirmed Eccles, “It is the landscape.”

Another Create panelist, Melissa Eccles, group creative director, Amazon Studios, asserted that “every brand should have a portion of their budget in R&D” so as to determine how to best tap into the potential of mobile, AI and the like. At the very least, she said that “an insight is usually gained” from the R&D process. Only good things can result, she contended, when “giving people the space to explore.”

Mirum Agency business director Greg Crockart, also a Create panelist, concurred that “test and learn” can prove invaluable. By funding and encouraging R&D, company leaders, said Crockart, are sending a clear message that they will cover their team’s back, investing in their right “to learn” in order to better engage consumers through mobile and AI.

In her closing keynote presentation, Heidi Browning, EVP, chief marketing officer for the National Hockey League (NHL), said that mobile, AI and VR are contributing to a fast evolving next generation fan experience for hockey lovers. She noted that “mobile first” sports arenas are starting to emerge, including in Detroit as well as a planned San Francisco facility for the NBA champion Golden State Warriors.  These venues are designed to better facilitate and enhance mobile deployment enabling fans to enjoy games on different levels. 

Eventually, continued Browning, mobile may also come into more serious play for legalized gambling as a recent Supreme Court ruling left it to individual states to decide if they want to engage in sport wagering. She envisioned bets being made via mobile apps becoming more prominent, a modern version of the conventional physical betting windows in place at horse racing tracks. This represents a new major revenue source for the sports industry.


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