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Google’s Mobile Stars Fall on Alabama
By STUART ELLIOTT
Published: November 14, 2011

The song “Blues in the Night” includes a lyric that begins, “From Natchez to Mobile, from Memphis to St. Joe.” Now, marketers will be watching the results of a campaign that extends from Mountain View to Mobile.

Where? Why, Mountain View, Calif., of course, the home of Google, which is sponsoring an effort to encourage businesses to make sure they offer Web sites that work well for mobile devices.

Mobile-friendly sites are typically simpler than regular sites, making them easier to read when consumers on the go use gadgets like smartphones and tablets.

Because of the play on words between “mobile” and “Mobile,” Google has selected Mobile, Ala., as a focus for the campaign. The city of Mobile has a population of almost 200,000 and the metropolitan area, depending on which counties are included, has a population of more than 400,000 or almost 600,000.

The campaign carries the theme GoMo, as in “Go mobile” — mobile being pronounced “MO-bull,” as in mobile devices, rather than “mo-BEEL,” as in the city.

The campaign includes a microsite, or special Web site, at howtogomo.com; videos that can be watched on the microsite and on YouTube, which is owned by Google; a blog, at googlemobileads.blogspot.com; and even a “GoMoMeter,” also available on the microsite, to demonstrate what an existing Web site looks like on a smartphone.

“The future is in your hand,” the campaign exhorts. “Mobilize your site and move your business forward.”

Also part of the campaign is the Mobile-centric initiative, called Mobilizing Mobile, which is scheduled to start in full force this week. Google is sending more than 15 employees to Mobile to meet with owners of and executives from Gulf Coast area businesses and organizations and give them free mobile-friendly Web sites.

Joining the Google folks at the Mobilizing Mobile Expo, to be held in a storefront in downtown Mobile, will be more than 20 employees of DudaMobile, a company, also based in Mountain View, that converts Web sites to mobile sites, and five employees of Mullen, the Boston advertising agency that is creating the GoMo campaign for Google.

Edward Boches, chief innovation officer at Mullen, recently noted on his Twitter feed that a Google executive said to him, “I will see you in Mobile, Alabama.” He added: “(I have never said that before either.)”

Google offered a preview of Mobilizing Mobile to some Mobilians a couple of weeks ago, including Jon Serda, the owner of a local business, Serda’s Coffee. Google also gave a sneak peek at the campaign to attendees of the 2011 annual conference of the Association of National Advertisers, which was in Phoenix.

The company sponsored a breakfast on Oct. 21, before the first general session of the conference, where Bonita C. Stewart, vice president for United States sales at Google, described the benefits of having “a mobile-optimized site.”

The campaign is indicative of efforts by Madison Avenue to keep up with the fast-changing behavior of consumers in the realms of local, mobile and social media. Consumers are embracing new technology with an ardor that few forecast.

According to data from Google and the market research company Ipsos OTX, almost a third of all mobile phones are now smartphones and 89 percent of those who own smartphones say they use them throughout the day in place like stores and restaurants, while traveling, or while waiting in line or in doctors’ offices.

And eMarketer predicts that marketers will spend $4.4 billion on mobile advertising by 2015, compared with $1.2 billion projected for this year.

Google has a goal to increase its mobile ad business to about $2.5 billion this year, compared with $1 billion last year.

There is “enormous growth, explosive growth” in the use of mobile devices, says Jason Spero, head of mobile ads for the Americas at Google in Mountain View, who is among the Googlers planning to be in Mobile this week.

For example, Mr. Spero says, this year “We’re expecting 15 percent of all searches for ‘Black Friday’ to happen on mobile devices,” compared with less than 10 percent last year.

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