Mobile Marketing Live ( #MMLiveGlobal ) was a two-day conference aimed mainly at corporate brands, TelCos and agencies in the mobile marketing space. The event covered a huge range of topics from augmented reality, NFC, QR codes, geofencing, metrics, etc. It was mobile-centric, rather than exclusively mobile, with a strong focus on tablets specifically, and on cross-platform marketing in general. Much of the content was good, solid marketing education which was up to the minute and could be widely applied to a range of fields.

The best-attended session I went to was hosted by Google. This was of benefit to me personally, as it gave an update on their social/PPC integration. They also covered some interesting overseas innovations, such as the South Korean focus on mobile shopping on the underground. This is doubtless something which will hit London soon, and this session was a great heads-up on the trend.

Tom Grinsted of The Guardian ( @TomGrinsted ) had a simple presentation which concentrated on the basics of differences in engagement across different platforms. Use of Guardian content throws into sharp relief the time differences between various formats. The Guardian has a mobile spike in the morning, a desktop hump in the day, and a tablet hill in the evening. This can help the brand drive engagement, by predicting when to promote content, advertise to consumers and also allows promotion of specific advertising packages to clients. Furthermore, the Guardian explained how different media formats drive different levels of engagement. What’s clear is the deep lock-in that an app gives a media owner – with 10x more engagement as compared to the website. My personal experience with the BBC News app is testimony to this. I’m on it ten times a day, and share near-compulsively, so I’m sure the Guardian has similar engagement style. Monetizing news content is a challenge, but the evidence of the Guardian’s rigorous ‘Big Data’ approach is a showpiece of analytics in a changing media landscape. Still, they’re having trouble making money, and there is currently much media talk of a subsidy for online journalism. Personally, I can see some big benefits to this, and I’d be happy to pay such a levy to support open access reporting.

Nick Marsh from Mojiva explained how the growth of mobile advertising was mirroring the growth of desktop web advertising a decade or so ago. Spend is rapidly ramping up, almost exactly repeating history. Nick’s thesis was that ad targeting was the key change driving the shift in efficacy as the mobile platform comes to dominate. Targeting by geo-location, operating system, context, device features, etc. are all possible, allowing every more appropriate ads. So if you fancy hitting Android users passing through Lincoln on a train, you’re now able to seriously consider campaigns this clever. It’s the way mobile advertising is moving, and comparable targeting just isn’t achievable on the desktop.

Sandy Shanman from Appsnack ( @TheAppsnack ) demonstrated how ads can offer much more interaction than we’re used to from traditional banners and the like. Sandy demonstrated a Mercedes campaign which allowed users to ‘paint’ a car within the ad. He also detailed how the targetting for such a campaign can be tightly mapped to the buying demographic – reducing wastage on the budget.

Ravi Kamran from Trademob ( @Trademob ) covered the use of parameter grouping to determine target demographics. For example you may analyse your data and find that you have an even buyer split between men and women, and also between iPhone and Android. However, it’s possible that all your sales to men are on Android and all of your sales to women are on iPhone. OK, so that’s a ridiculously clear-cut example, but you get the point. Just considering individual variables in isolation is not enough to target campaigns reliably, when a richer data mix is available. Ravi also dealt with click fraud, which is apparently rampant. Botnet click fraud can be responsible for 30-50pc of clicks on a campaign, he argued, and it’s apparently very hard to track because it doesn’t come from a single, identifiable source. The following panel discussion considered the need to monitor unusual metrics for click errors, such as an abnormally high bounce rate from a single game which is running an in-game banner ad. A high bounce rate could indicate that the screen layout was responsible for mistaken clicks (I know from personal experience that I often misclick ads in error). The panel argued that a good campaign manager will review source applications directly to make sure that the design isn’t accidentally (or even deliberately) encouraging bad clicks.

One of the more interesting stands at the show was by a firm called Easy2 ( @easy2tech ). They provide mini ads for manufacturers to embed in retailers’ websites, which give additional product info when clicked. For example, you might be looking at a Canon camera on PC World’s website, and Easy2 would give you much more info than would otherwise be available. Handy, and likely to drive higher conversions from lazy retailers, who can’t be bothered to upload this info directly.

Mark Challinor ( @challinor ) from the Daily Telegraph showed how to engage the grey pound with new-fangled technology. Despite the young, hip appearance, iPads are apparently very popular among older Telegraph readers. Their target demographic are affluent enough not to care about the cost of an iPad, and benefit from the technophobe-friendly approach of Apple products. Even as a determined Apple-hater, I’ve been trying to wean my own mother onto iThings, albeit with no success to date. She’s still happy with the Telegraph printed on a squashed tree and stuffed through her door each morning. The iPad app is designed for people like her, with a paginated, flip-board type layout, and full-sized, traditional format adverts. Additionally, it boasts a daily update cycle straight out of the age of steam, for people who like their news to be matured slightly before reading. Seemingly commercially successful, this to me seems rather like Borat’s horse-drawn car, but for my ageing parents, it’s probably ideal. I was, however, rather impressed by the Augmented Reality ad formats the telegraph offers, which includes a rather natty showpiece ad which allows you to ‘wear’ a watch, to see how it would look on your wrist. Blippar ( @blippar ) also presented, and they power a wide range of AR technology adverts and solutions.

I try to maintain a healthy distance from pop culture. I know nothing about the X factor or the Premiership. Usually I get away with this, but occasionally I get caught out. Shazam is, apparently, now more important than the British Empire used to be. In the US, most TV shows have Shazam ( @Shazam ) linked content, which works a little like an audio QR code – giving a direct link to two-screen experiences. I barely use my TV, but if I did, Shazam would allow me to do awesome things such as view a snowboarder’s helmet cam on my iPad whilst watching a conventional view on my TV.

Two firms which are making advances in geofencing are Placecast and O2. Placecast ( @Placecast ) demonstrated MMS marketing for sunscreen, which can be tied to local weather conditions and till systems. So as you pass Boots on a sunny day, you culd get a picture of a bottle of Ambre Solaire and a reminder that the weather is fine and you should stock up to avoid getting burned. I hate SMS marketing, but I have to admit that’s quite clever. Andreas Nicolaou ( @AndreasNicolaou ) from O2 explained a similar approach, which was aimed at getting Pizza Hut customers in, particularly at off-peak times. This has been running successfully for some time, showing good ROI. However, as such services scale, it will be difficult to maintain customers’ interest. All new ad formats eventually tend to suffer from clutter and tune-out.

Another text marketing play is the push from Orange to build engagement in their ‘Orange Wednesdays’ product. Apparently, pay-as-you-go users who use Orange Wednesdays twice or more are much less likely to leave Orange. Whether this justifies the firm’s infernal and unstoppable text spam is beyond me. I questioned the speaker as to whether they’d factored in the costs of everyone that grows to hate Orange, but I’m still not sure they’re addressing the issue properly.

For a real taste of the future, Ford showed off their Applink API, which allows the phone to be used without being touched. The car’s own switches and buttons, together with voice commands, control functionality on apps you might wish to use when driving – such as Pandora. The idea is that this gives the best future-proofing possible, as cars are rarely upgraded and have a long life. Let’s see what the developers and hackers manage to achieve on that.

Sarah Baillie from Debenhams gave what I thought was one of the best presentations. I don’t think I’ve set foot in their stores since about 1990, but they are clearly leading edge in online retail. They’ve got a really good understanding of the need to keep development Agile, and to avoid waterfalling projects in an inflexible manner. They also know their onions when it comes to blending online and offline: Physical stores are allocated sales from online, to stop business units competing, when of course they should be cooperating. They recognise that engagement and sales can’t necessarily be linked, based on limited data, so they’re happy to endure low conversions on mobile if the platform fits into a wider strategy. Obviously, tying it all together to prove an individual consumer bought such-and-such a dress after a specific customer journey is ideal, but unless consumers are signed in on everything they ever use, you really can’t track the entire journey (yet). Sometimes you just have to trust that consumers buy after untraceable engagements. To back this philosophy up, the firm explained that they’re looking to build a consistent experience across all platforms, which allows a seamless flow for user journeys across all platforms. Not only that, but they’re building engagement in-store with a free wi-fi rollout. Just like the Guardian, they presented clear graphs of activity by device over time, showing how they’re honing their focus on the evening peak on fashion retail. This was a seriously useful talk, and for me was probably one of my top two favourites, alongside Google.

Thomas Ableman from Chiltern Railways ( @chilternrailway ) had a great presentation, particularly for a regular traveller and slight train geek like me. He delivered his talk with the dry humour which is the only alternative to misery when working under the heavy cultural burden of Sir Humphrey. Quite why train tickets are needed these days, in a world of geolocation and instant billing, is beyond me. However, a small and welcome leap into the 21st century will soon be made by Chiltern, as they turn to apps to serve growing passenger numbers without buying more ticket machines or employing more staff.

The venue was the Business Design Centre in Islington. Passes were £495 for two days, but the second track was (somewhat bizarrely) free of charge. This side room was pretty good , and well worth attending – although it lacked some of the keynote-style talks and centred instead on service providers pitching their wares. I found both tracks useful, but overall, the auditorium was more broad-based in its education – and that explains the charging. The ‘show’ part was pretty small, with a couple of dozen stands and a small drop-in theatre. The free element was worth coming for, but I found the paid content pretty outstanding. I felt that I’d really got up to date with some of the latest information from big players in the mobile and tablet space.

The venue was easily accessible by rail, and tolerable by road – with onsite parking for cars and bikes. Lunch was not provided, which was a little disappointing for an event at that price. Whilst the content was excellent, it would have been good to have much more involvement from techies. There were lots of suits and high heels, but very few Star Wars t-shirtsand Converse. This audience mix was reflected in the distinctly ‘tech-lite’ presentations, which left me craving more detail at times. For me, techies as both speakers and audience would have added significant additional value, and I hope the organisers find a way to bring more of them in next year. A further area which could have been fleshed out was the startups, which weren’t much in evidence. A bit more effort to issue tickets to impoverished entrepreneurs would have made the event more exciting, and would also have given these young Turks the opportunity to get their new tech into the hands of the big corporates, agencies and TelCos attending. Having said all that, the event was very good – and the organisers say that they’re looking to fill the gaps I’d identified for next year.

A £495 ticket isn’t cheap, but I’d say that it represented fair value for a 2-day event with some quality speakers. I attended both days, despite clashing commitments, which shows how much I got out of it personally. It’s definitely an event I’ll be looking to attend next year – and I’d recommend that anyone even loosely connected to mobile marketing considers attending, too.