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By Will Price

 

The numbers continue to impress: smartphones, once found only in the holsters of business people emailing on the go, made up 27 percent of the mobile phones in the United States in December 2010 – up from just 16.8 percent the year before.

 

That rapid shift has also led to a drastic change in the way we communicate and consume information. More than one-third of all mobile users use their devices to tap into the Web.

 

It is quite breathtaking to see how quickly consumers have embraced the capabilities and experience of mobile devices, from applications to Web browsing to video chat.

 

Equally surprising to me, however, has been the snail’s pace at which the advertising industry has delivered innovation and new ideas for how to best reach this burgeoning audience.

 

Put some muscle in
The status quo for mobile ads remains remarkably humdrum.

 

There is no longer any excuse for static, standalone marketing content delivered via text message, or via static ad images that link to a company homepage.

 

Once a month, 58 million people use their phones to tap into social networks, and location-based offerings such as Foursquare, SCVNGR and Yelp are enabling consumers to connect with the companies they patronize.

 

We, as consumers, deserve better.

 

The good news is that this offers mobile developers a significant opportunity to deliver engaging new advertising experiences for consumers.

 

Done right, new mobile marketing campaigns have the potential to become just as much a part of the conversation as great mobile apps.

 

What might these new programs look like and what should they be able to do?

 

Here are a few core elements of mobile campaigns that mobile marketers should be focusing on:

 

1. Get ahead of the story: The ability to quickly tweak content in response to breaking news helps mobile advertisers in ways they cannot afford to ignore.

 

Imagine an ad for a car recently went live, followed by an announcement that the same automobile just won a prestigious award.

 

Instead of creating a whole new ad to trumpet this achievement – which could take days, if not weeks – enhance the existing one with simple, but compelling modifications.

 

Do not fall victim to the idea that ads are static, finished products. Let the immediacy of the mobile space and the flexibility of new cloud ad platforms work for you.

 

2. Let an API do the heavy lifting: Add utility for the customer. Do not list a company’s address, link to it on Google Maps or use Yelp’s API to find products and reviews in a specific location.

 

A recent ad for the new Fox Show Bob’s Burgers integrated Yelp so that consumers could search for burgers in their ZIP code – an innovative tie-in to their real lives in an ad that worked simultaneously across desktop, mobile and tablet devices.

 

3. Allow customers to tell the story: Advertisers can work smarter by allowing users to market products for them, including ads that include travel tips from Facebook users.

 

Ads that make it easiest to integrate the social networks people are already using have the best chance of earning credibility or even going viral, and these ads are easy to create because the customers create the content for you.

 

IGNORING THE ongoing innovation in mobile advertising is easy to do, but you risk losing out on a coveted audience.

 

Thirty-four percent of all smartphone users make $100,000-plus annually, including 40 percent of iPhone users.

 

Also, 49 percent of consumers who use the Web on their phones at least once a week have made a purchase on their mobile device in the past six months.

 

While there is no one-size-fits-all approach for creating engaging and useful mobile ad experiences, harnessing the power of APIs, incorporating social elements and hosting in the cloud will set you on the path to mobile ad success.

 

Will Price is CEO of Flite, San Francisco. Reach him at wprice@flite.com.