Conference Notebook: As Brands Warm to Mobile, Conversations Turn to Cross-Device

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It seems that just about every year for a while now has been declared “the year of mobile” by one pundit or another — as though there is a specific tipping point to be reached where mobile would finally take the prime place in brands’ marketing budgets. The idea assumes that mobile (with its implicit ability to identify and locate users) will eventually become the dominant medium for getting messages to consumers.

But a panel of brand marketers at the M1 Summit in New York on Tuesday seemed a little more circumspect, touting omni-channel and cross-device tracking as the real goalposts.

“As a marketer, we want to hit people at the right time at the right place,” said Ajay Kapoor, head of brand function at Procter & Gamble (the world’s largest advertiser, which spends over $3 billion per year on TV advertising in the U.S.). “But when I think of active versus passive understanding … mobile is great, but you have to be engaged.”

Kapoor said that getting a better understanding of how mobile could online-to-offline sales would be key to keep moving the medium forward for marketers. “Mobile is really good for reminders,” he said. “Persuading is a bit different.”

Vungle’s VP of sales, Ben Baer, said that things were changing now because the industry was  “starting to not just take desktop experiences and port them over to mobile.”

Drawbridge’s VP of sales, Polly Lieberman, said that both the industry and marketers are thinking about mobile very differently than they did five years ago. These days, she said, mobile is “very much alive , creating this massive fragmentation” but the larger conundrum is really about cross-device.

“Fundamentally cross-device is about targeting and attribution,” she said. “The uber-question is ‘how to solve for identity?’ … This is the year when cross-device has become the forefront of the conversation.”

Lieberman said that”everyone has to talk about cross-device” these days, but that conversation comes in a lot of forms — both in terms of “solving” for identity, as well as in terms of how one then impactfully reaches people across devices. “I think that multi-touch attribution will lead so much of the conversation when you talk about cross-device. … Cross-device identity will lead the charge as a data set.”

AdBrain co-founder Gareth Davies agreed that the conversation had shifted, both on the buy and the sell side to a focus on measurement and identity.

The panelists also spoke about mobile video, suggesting that we were near a point where brands would start to spend at scale on that medium.

P&G’s Kapoor also said that brands would likely still rely on agencies and partners for their mobile campaigns going forward, rather than bringing mobile marketing in-house.

“Our core competancy is putting goop in a bottle,” said Kapoor. “When it comes to ad purchasing, we have great partnerships with great agencies around the world to help us do that. … That’s not something that will live in house right away.”


In another session, Fortune’s Erin Griffith interviewed First Round Capital partner Howard Morgan about crowdfunding, and some of the issues faced by founders looking to raise capital in the current environment.

Morgan, who has investments in companies like Homejoy, HotelTonight, TaskRabbit and Reserve, talked broadly about the investment landscape, saying that for new companies “raising money from a VC is mostly about storytelling.” He noted that it was important for companies to ultimately have sustainable business models, but that “you don’t always know what it is from the beginning.”

He worried about how new models for crowdfunding might ultimately affect the investment landscape, bringing large losses to unsophisticated investors who can least afford them. He also suggested that if too much money got into the system, startup valuations would become even more inflated, and investors would need their potential returns to go up correspondingly.

David Hirschman is a co-founder at Street Fight.