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Mobile metrics dominate Weather Channel breakfast event

BOSTON -- A "Mobile in the Morning" event hosted yesterday by The Weather Channel Mobile was marked by fog outdoors -- an apt metaphor for the discussion on mobile metrics.

A team of experts from the Weather Channel, Dynamic Logic and iLoop Mobile as well as the Interactive Advertising Bureau and panel moderator Joe Lazlo sought to clear the air on what has become one of the key barriers to quicker mobile advertising adoption: How should the medium be measured?

"A lot of brand advertisers that we work with and their clients are comparing mobile with other traditional media -- brand awareness and intent to purchase," said Jennifer Okula, account director at Dynamic Logic, New York.

"They're looking to understand what is the ultimate ROI, the ultimate link to sales," she said. "These are hard things to measure in mobile."

Fellow panelist Cameron Clayton, vice president of mobile at The Weather Channel Interactive in Atlanta, likened mobile to the Internet in 1995. But he does see innovation in areas such as reach and frequency across several mobile channels including mobile Web, SMS and applications.

"Each channel has a lot of different metrics about that one channel, but it's hard to tie it across," Mr. Clayton said. "Yes, there's a problem here but it doesn't mean you don't do it. Again, it's putting the onus on us."

Indeed, that is the key point Mr. Clayton stressed at this breakfast meet to inform ad agency and advertiser-side clients in the audience. Advertisers should give mobile advertising a shot and let publishers such as the Weather Channel prove its effectiveness.

"The repeat rate from our mobile clients is almost 100 percent," Mr. Clayton said. "[However], a lot of brands don't want to share case studies because this market is new."

The Weather Channel is in the enviable position of being among the mobile popular destinations on the mobile Web as well as applications.

The media brand claims 12.5 million unique users for its mobile Web site, 80 percent of whom are unduplicated reach at home from the wired Web site at Another 6.1 million applications have been downloaded from the Apple App Store and another 1.1 million downloaded Android applicatons, again making the Weather Channel one of the most frequented mobile destinations.

However, it is the Weather Channel's approach to the Web that is worth noting.

"Mobile Web for us is really an extension of the Internet," Mr. Clayton said.

While mobile Web sites are easier to track and measure, applications present more of a challenge.

Ms. Okula pointed out that there are plenty of eyeballs on mobile sites, thus aiding the cause of ads. Even SMS campaigns are easily measured. But applications have tracking issues.

"It can't simply be measured, so we're trying several different ways of doing that," Ms. Okula said.

Michael Becker, vice president of mobile strategies at iLoop Mobile, San Mateo, and vice-chairman of the Mobile Marketing Association, made the case for reach on the issue of mobile applications.

"SMS can reach 95 percent of the market," Mr. Becker said. "Sixty to 90 percent of us are using SMS. Less than 2 percent of us have an iPhone."

An evangelist for mobile advertising and marketing, Mr. Becker stressed a key point to the audience: metrics change by particular channel. SMS has different yardsticks from mobile banner ads, for example.

And regardless of the metrics, given the growing adoption of consumer usage of mobile for home and work tasks, marketers should not make false choices about mobile.

"There's this ?and/or' distinction that we need to get rid of," Mr. Becker said. "Mobile is not only a branding channel, but it's also an enhancement channel."

The executive cited examples of magazines using SMS short codes and keywords to measure print advertising's efficacy in magazines, allowing for A/B testing. He also offered fast-food chain Hardee's mobile campaign to name its new biscuit holes product as evidence of mobile's enabling role.

Indeed, Mr. Becker called for conversational metrics.

"A significant number of mobile campaigns have an element of social media or networking to it," he said.

The Weather Channel's Mr. Clayton agreed.

Mr. Clayton held up Dockers' shakeable ad as an example of buzz around mobile advertising. The campaign was written up in 315 different articles, with $3.5 million in public relations value attributed to it.

Also, agencies were encouraged to incorporate mobile early into the advertising planning process.

"[Mobile] can be the fundamental thread that runs right through the campaign," Mr. Clayton said.

However, what came clear from this discussion was that mobile should not be treated as a single channel.

"There are mass-market reach channels in mobile and there are niche-market reach channels," Mr. Becker said.

In response to another question, the IAB's Mr. Lazlo said his organization was working with the Mobile Marketing Association and the Media Ratings Council to create common measurement guidelines.

One example would be designate "mobile delivery attempts for text message ads," he said.

Overall, it seemed obvious that publishers, agencies and mobile specialists understood evolving consumer behavior with mobile and the effect on advertising.

"I mean, the data's there," Mr. Becker said. "It's just a matter of digging through it."

Here are some pictures from the event: