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Business Comment

Claire Beale on Advertising: The smart money is on smartphones


As the nation's favourite brands count their booty from the Christmas sales bonanza, they will be hoping that success in 2013 is defined by more than a bargain rush in the final weeks.

Working out how to keep us spending through a year lacking such obvious economic levers as the Olympics and Jubilee, and against a still uncertain fiscal backdrop, will be crucial. So as 2013 communications budgets are settled and advertising strategies finessed, what will be preoccupying marketers in the year ahead?

In 2013 big brands will spend a lot of time plotting new ways to target our pockets – not for our wallets but for our smartphones. More than half of all mobile devices now bought are smartphones, and we're not using them to make calls; we spend twice as much time using phones to access the internet as we do telephoning, and in the US in 2013 internet access via mobile devices is expected to overtake surfing via computers for the first time. Whether browsing, tweeting, taking pictures or playing games and music, the phone has become the centrepiece of our connected lives.

As mobile becomes the gateway to the web, mobile-first web designs and digital communications strategies will dominate. But even smart phones don't easily lend themselves to big brand advertising. Grabbing our attention on the go and in distracting environments is a real creative challenge for marketers. Brands are now exploring ways to deliver more entertaining content, useful branded apps, and location-based services and offers to phones and tablets.

Turning our smartphones into mobile wallets will be the next major leap forward for brands and consumers, and while 2013 is expected to see real progress, it's unlikely we'll end the year throwing out our credit cards. The trouble is that there are too many conflicting players in the m-wallet sector, with no consensus on the technology. No wonder that for the moment confused consumers and retailers are wondering what advantage mobile phone payment really offers over the simple plastic card.

The rise of mobile marketing has a long way to go before it really eats into budgets for TV or press advertising. But 2013 will be the year brands really begin to work out how to unlock the selling power in our pockets.

Claire Beale is editor of 'Campaign'