Digital Essays 2014: Is mobile the new digital?

Serviceplan Authors Resized

Hassan Khatoun (left) and Florian Gmeinwieser contend that mobile has rendered all other digital formats mainstream.

Honey, we shrunk the world wide web, or did we? If the current race among marketers to win the new digital mobile consumer is at all an indication, we’ve reached a new era – where the new face of digital has shrunk into blocks that snuggly fit into our pockets. Gone are the days when digital was all about the world wide web, when the internet on our desktops virtually eradicated the boundaries of land and time. Today, our world without boundaries goes with us whenever and wherever.

Serviceplan Group’s international head of mobile Florian Gmeinwieser argues that mobile has in fact taken over our physical and virtual lives, while our regional client services director Hassan Khatoun, himself an epitome of the more experienced Arab digital generation, tries to reckon with this reality. In this exchange, they ruminate between the merits, and demerits if you may, of mobile redefining the new digital.

Florian Gmeinwieser (FG): Is mobile the new digital? Let´s make it short – yes it is! Well, that was really short, so let me explain.

I could sum up tons of figures and statistics, but I don´t want to bore you with that. Let´s take a different approach instead, let´s talk soft facts:

Number one: Sheer number of mobile devices vs. PC or notebooks. Mobile far outnumbers all other internet devices easily. I would guess that in your household, each one of you would have his or her own mobile device. On the contrary, you would either be sharing PCs and notebooks, including tablets, with your wife, kids, brother or sister. Easily, this is mobile vs. PC in a 3 (or 4):1 ratio.

Hassan Khatoun (HK): Hands down agreed, but then again, I think comparing mobile devices with PCs and notebooks only shows a shift in digital devices, not a complete paradigm shift in digital in and of itself! Mobile, I would argue, is just another medium of digital, in the same way we now have Smart TVs, for instance, illustrating the shift from normal TV to Plasma to LED and now 3D + Smart TV. There was a mere shift in devices but basically no change of habits, or was there?

FG: Oh yes, habits have changed. Here’s point number two: Constant and immediate consumption vs. pre-defined consumption. The private internet usage has gone totally mobile or – depending on a country’s economic conditions – tablet driven. Consider this. How many times a day do you use your mobile device to look up things on the internet? And I don’t mean an extensive search for a new car, a new insurance rate or a new flat for example. I’m referring to these short glimpses about the weather, the traffic situation, Facebook friends, soccer stats, breaking news on CNN, directions to the cinema etc. This list could go on forever to prove that digital consumption is no longer confined to classrooms, offices, or wifi-connected homes. Digital consumption has become highly personal with the advent of mobile handheld devices.

HK: So with this, I guess we can conclude that mobile has instituted a behavioural shift to a more personal digital consumption, which in turn has given birth to a simple phenomena called multiple screens. Subliminally, we now tend to use PCs and desktops for educational and corporate pursuits, in the same way we consume TV, and to some extent, the internet, for both erudite and entertainment pursuits. For more exigent individual needs in a world gone instant, we turn to mobile and glorify its untethered sovereignty.

FG: Now let’s talk point three: marketing and communications. PC and notebooks are related to things like work and study, because you can work in a lean forward position and you have necessary tools like a mouse and keyboard to interact with complex websites or a software like Excel.

But ask yourselves, is this a situation where you would be receptive to a brand trying to communicate with you? I don’t think so.

HK: Of course, as marketers, we want our audience to be receptive to our messages. We want to meet them where they are and connect with them in seamless, uninterrupted ways. Are mobile campaigns then less intrusive with their one-to-one approach?

FG: Yes, and let me close with point number four: Mobile internet is mobile vs. fixed line internet. It’s simple. Mobile internet ‘happens’ everywhere due to its ability to geo-locate content. This is a big mobile USP. Offers, services, and search results are now need and location-based. Others may argue that mobile still lags behind ad technology like cookies, but believe me, mobile is not about technology but about creativity. Good advertising is not about chasing and hunting customers through the world wide web, it’s about being creative, fascinating, entertaining, funny, relevant, personal. Mobile is personal and less intrusive in pushing great creative content so that people remember the novelty, never the technology.

Gmeinweiser and Khatoun both contend that mobile has rendered all other digital formats mainstream. It is the new omni-channel where new mobile ad formats are starting to render rich media and other superb and impressive creative online formats like takeovers and pushdowns totally passé.