On The Current Awkward Pubescence of Mobile Video

Last week, Steve Smith wrote a blog for Mobile Insider about the nascent emergence of mobile video that included this gem of a sentence:

“Like a teen, mobile video looks almost adult, until it opens its mouth. Then you realize it still has a long way to go and lots to figure out.”

Indeed.  Smith makes terrific points in his piece and raises some of the most critical issues that challenge widespread platform adoption.  Mobile advertising has made enormous strides as 3G coverage expands but the same challenge plagues this platform that once throttled desktop video: do the download demands merit the content?  With only the exception of that electro-springy noise that used to accompany our 14K baudrate modems, the video glitching as we download clips on our phone directly mirrors that experience from ten years ago.  We can safely assume that like the old desktop experience, these are the attributes of a platform in transition.  In a year or so, those delays will be increasingly rare.  Or non-existent.

But the true question remains–is the mobile content itself worth downloading?  And by extension, it it worth enduring interruptive commercial messages?  Smith takes advertisers to task for simply repurposing TV spots for mobile and his point is valid.  That said, the cost of video production, even lower end production, will keep this a common practice.  The solution here is to overshoot–to add alternative takes and content so that the basic strategic idea can be refreshed and customized for the mobile platform.  Right now, it must be anyway in certain situations, like if the camera moves too quickly and creates small screen strobing.  In fact, the biggest challenge of video production today is reconciling the divergent needs of low end platforms like mobile and high end HD.

The other true challenge for mobile video is determining where and when this interruptive placement will happen.  If someone wants to watch some clips and a mobile media buy forces them to watch (or worse, re-watch) short ads before each one, they will quickly lose interest in anything but the most compelling content.  And then whatever the equivalent of changing the channel is for mobile will become all too commonplace.

The future of mobile video certainly depends on technology to continue to optimize the platform.  But ultimately, it gets down to the same fundamental asset every other advertising platform relies on to truly work with the public–ideas and creativity.

By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79