Claire Beale On Advertising: Coming soon to a very small screen near you

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The Independent Online

If you're feeling a little lonely right now, if your life is an empty husk, why not hack into someone else's for the next six weeks. I can offer you Anna, wannabe model just landed in London. She's gorgeous, blonde, Portuguese. Or Jade, who's just started a new job in Shanghai. Maybe LA pretty boy Luca Marques, who's got girlfriend trouble. Three hip young things, they live through their mobile phones, and you can, too, by logging on to somebodyelsesphone.com. Go on, eavesdrop on their chat, rifle through their texts, look at their photos, watch their videos. Live their lives.

I should tell you that they're not real. They're digireal: an advertising fiction spun into a plausible drama in which you can interact with the main characters. And they're the stars of a new global, six-week, 24/7, multi-media ad campaign employing over 3,750 pieces of mobile content in 10 different languages across three time zones for Nokia.

The campaign is called Supernova, and it's all the work of Nokia's agency Wieden & Kennedy, to promote Nokia handsets, but it's also a totem for the mobile as the bedrock of modern communications, the portal of life. Because let's be clear: mobile phones will become the most important commercial channel of the next generation. Of course, the very semantics of that sentence are misleading. We will soon enough no longer think of mobiles as phones. Text, email, internet, photographs, film all reside on our mobile handsets already. Everything that you might use your computer for is already possible on your mobile, and it's more portable, more intimate than even the slimmest laptop.

The real seismic shift, though, is a content one, transforming the mobile into an entertainment medium and providing the new battleground for mobile market share. Books, movies, music are all increasingly available in mobile format, and last week Nokia launched its "Comes with Music" contract. For the £130 cost of a Nokia handset, you get unlimited music downloads. The major record labels and indies have signed up to offer content to the package, and the handsets can store around 6,000 songs. So users can ditch their MP3s. It's only a matter of time before the mobile is all we'll need to carry: in some markets, phones are already replacing credit cards.

Advertisers, though, are slow to crack the opportunity. The technology already exists for some pretty smart mobile/internet commercial interactivity. In Japan and Korea, you'll find special codes (semacodes, shortcodes, QR codes) printed on to everything from press campaigns and business cards to escort ads. Take a photo of the codes on your mobile, and you'll be connected to a website or digital application with more information or etailing.

The technology is starting to arrive here, too. Take a camshot of the QR code on the new England football shirt, and you'll be connected to an online game. A small initiative, but a sign of the possibilities.

But is the mobile screen really potent enough for big-brand messages? Ad agencies need to find a way to make it so, if they're to monetise advertiser interest in the medium. According to recent independent (honest, guv) research commissioned by O2, 60 per cent of marketing directors favour mobile marketing because of the opportunities for closer targeting, and expect to increase their spend on the medium by 150 per cent in the next five years.

The mobile-phone operators are marshalling themselves to drive that potential. Last month, the Internet Advertising Bureau signed up O2, T-Mobile, Vodafone and 3 as members in a bid to become the trade body for the mobile ad industry. The networks have now formed a Mobile Steering Group to advise on the IAB's mobile ad strategy, and how best the medium can be marketed to the communications industry.

The best advertising distils a powerful message into a simple image with impact. Perhaps translating that on to a mobile screen will prove one of advertising's purest challenges.

Best in Show: Sony (Fallon)

*Watch the new Bond movie 'Quantum of Solace', and you'll spy rather a lot of Sony products in there. The Bond franchise has product placement down to a fine art, so expect to see plenty of advertising from Bond's "brand partners" (Ford, Smirnoff, Omega, Virgin Atlantic and Heineken among them) to amplify the tie-up.

Sony is using the association to push its high-definition televisions, and its agency, Fallon, has unveiled a campaign showing Bond assailed by a series of explosions, which presumably all look stunning in HDTV. On my very ordinary TV, it was still arresting, even if it didn't get my pulse racing like other Fallon Sony ads (or Daniel Craig, come to that).

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