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Hey, media barons: The noughties called, they want their mobile tech back

Media types with mobes bore Reg hack to tears

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The last major keynote of Mobile World Congress saw speakers from ratings giant Nielsen, advertising agency Tribal DDB Worldwide, CNN International and developing world mobile firm Jana take the crowd through how the media - that is to say advertising - relates to mobile.

If listening to the speakers from NTT DoCoMo is like listening to someone from the future, then listening to people from the advertising industry talk about mobile is like listening to people from the past. They think that because using posters and radio is a century-old technology it’s somehow modern to use ideas that have been floating around the mobile industry for over a decade.

I remember talking to an advertising agency about the value of sending adverts directly into people’s pockets. He worked for Nike’s agency so I mocked up a Swoosh using my Psion to create a Nokia picture message on my shiny new Nokia 3310... That was in 2000.

So when Paul Gunning, chief exec at mega advertising agency Tribal DDB Worldwide starts telling us that mobile is great because you can sell to people who are sitting in their cars, it’s hard to stifle a yawn. He showed some novel ways of doing posters – but that’s what advertising creatives are paid to do – be creative. He also talked about location-based advertising in a way that you would have heard at any one of a number of Mobile Monday meetings when Tony Blair was prime minister. There was none of the cool stuff, no use of mobile social media, no augmented reality, and – surprisingly for Mobile World Congress – no NFC loyalty.

He even said: “We have to be in mobile because that’s what our clients want.” An agency is supposed to lead in reaching the consumers, not follow. This is a shame because one of Tribal's clients is McDonalds, which was an early entrant into the game of promotional SMS. But Gunning's way of persuading the audience in the pre-lunchtime presentation slot to eat at the Golden Arches was to show them ... a picture of a burger. What a missed opportunity! He could have bluetoothed a voucher to an audience which had more smartphones per head than Silicon roundabout. The picture didn’t even have a QR code with it.

There were no metrics of usage, either. But that's what could have come from Susan Whiting, the vice chair of ratings company Nielsen. Unfortunately Whiting is very senior, perhaps too senior to have real contact with the company’s mobile division. So we didn't get any of the stats and mobile metrics you would have hoped for from a, er, ratings agency... Whiting proceeded to trot out stuff the mobile industry has been saying for years. Did you know that apps are important and that the top applications people use are Facebook, YouTube and Google? Did you know that a torch is an important feature for people with no access to electricity in the emerging market? Hello, this is 2007 calling: I want my Nokia 1200 back.

Whiting might have gotten the gig because she is a big cheese, but really they could have found someone, such as ComScore’s Jeremy Copp, who understands more about mobile.

They did find two people who understood mobile in the next two speakers. Peter Bale from CNN had gauged the mood of the conference accurately enough to apologise for using iPhone screen shots, he echoed the understanding of the speakers in early keynotes that the emerging world is where we need to look for the growth in the mobile web, and added that 43 per cent of African traffic to the CNN website comes from mobile, despite very low African smartphone penetration.

Usually the later presentations - this was the sixth of seven - at MWC are the more interesting ones, but this year it was not the case. What was missing? A bit of controversy, a few speakers from the handset manufacturers – Nokia’s Stephen Elop was the only one this year – and it oh so badly needs questions from the audience. Perhaps next year. ®

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