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 / Spring 2012 / Issue 66(originally published by Booz & Company)


The Thought Leader Interview: Bob Carrigan

Designing for “SoLoMo”

S+B: What will be the impact of the mobile Web — the migration of more and more Internet activity to mobile devices — on marketing and media?
This is probably the biggest area of focus for most of IAB’s members right now. In the fourth quarter of 2010, smartphone shipments exceeded those of PCs, and they’ve been higher ever since. Mobile media is only going to become more prevalent, more useful, and more dominant. How do you design for it in a way that serves both marketer and consumer? We’re all trying to figure that out.

There’s a temptation to treat mobile media like conventional Web browsers, especially when designing for tablets. As HTML5 [the next-generation website specification language] rolls out, it will reinforce that temptation, bringing people back from apps to the Web. The current system, with lots of apps in little kernels that don’t talk to one another, is unsustainable.

But it’s not that simple. Smaller devices will foster a Web environment with very different forms of interactivity and interdependence. I spend a lot more time using Twitter, for instance, from my mobile than I do from my laptop. [Venture capitalist and Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers partner] John Doerr coined the term SoLoMo to describe this new world: It is “social, local, and mobile.” Smartphones will recognize where people are located, who they’re connected with, and what’s near them. Advertisers will soon develop compelling ads that run across multiple platforms; people will start to follow an ad on their mobile device, and then pick it up on a retail display or their office computer. There will be a lot of targeting and gathering of data based on where people are located.

Every mobile device also requires technical customization. It’s going to be challenging for publishers to figure out where to invest their resources. The IAB has not moved too rapidly to freeze advertising standards for mobile devices, because it’s still early days. We want to let things percolate.

S+B: What’s the current state of thinking on privacy?
There is no more important issue in our industry. For the industry to grow, consumers have to feel confident that information collected about them is being used the right way.

In current practices, there’s a lot of confusion. The primary issue is the tracking of online behavior — targeting advertising to people based on data about where they visit and what they purchase. This is a big practice in the online industry, particularly around ad networks, and although most of the data is not identifiable with a personal user, it still raises concern.

The IAB has had an ongoing campaign on this called “Privacy Matters.” We have a code of conduct we require members to sign. The IAB was also one of the founders of the Digital Advertising Alliance, which developed a forthcoming “forward eye” icon — displayable by sites that guarantee transparency and control to visitors. You can see the list of participating companies; it includes Google, GM, Adobe, American Express, Gannett, Hearst, Procter & Gamble, and many others — including several dozen ad networks — so far. When consumers click on the eye, they should see what information about them is being captured by that site and how it has been used. They should also be able to opt out. The Council of Better Business Bureaus manages complaints and enforcement. I credit Randall Rothenberg for pushing this agenda and getting a coalition of publishers and other groups (including the Association of National Advertisers and the American Association of Advertising Agencies) to come up with the initiative.

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