Five-minute interview: Paran Johar, Mobile Media Summit

With a background at mobile ad network Jumptap and digital agencies MRM and Tribal DDB, Paran Johar has always had to keep his eye on mobile and digital marketing innovation, but never more so than as the CEO and founder of the Mobile Media Summit.
• mobiThinking readers can claim a 10 percent discount for Mobile Media Summit London (July 1, 2014) and Mobile Media Summit Chicago (July 29, 2014) using the code “MOBI10”. • Brand marketers may qualify for a free pass.

Q1. What is the one thing that gets you most excited about mobile Web, mobile services and/or mobile marketing?

I love how personal mobile marketing is. When done right, it’s the best way to reach a consumer wherever they are and offer them the very thing they may need at that moment. Despite the limitations of the smaller screen, there’s an incredible amount of creativity involved in mobile efforts, and it’s been very exciting to watch brands evolve their marketing to target people in such an intimate way.

Q2. What are your favorite (and least favorite) a) mobile Websites, b) mobile services, and/or c) mobile campaigns? What can the rest of us learn from these?

Mondelez is doing amazing work in mobile. Its Mobile Futures program paired-up nine of its snack brands, including Oreo, Trident and Halls, with mobile startups. Then there’s the mobile-only deal with Google to ramp up the mobile Web, search and display advertising investments behind its brands. What’s more, Mondelez mobile campaigns connect with consumers, as proved by the popularity of the Oreo Twist, Lick, Dunk campaign, which won Best in Show at the first Mobile Mafia Awards ceremony back in 2013. Mondelez has shown the rest of the industry that it pays to take risks and push hard in mobile.

As for mobile services, despite some recent controversies, I still think Uber is one of the top ones out there. It has just made it so much easier to get around in cities where cabs aren’t readily available, including my hometown of LA. Uber’s creative efforts have really gone above and beyond, too, from delivering kittens and Christmas trees to an on-demand ice-cream truck. Uber shows us it’s important to have fun and keep surprising consumers.

Video: introduction to the Mondelez Mobile Futures program.

Q3. Who is the new kid on the block – the mobile site/business to watch for the future?

It’s not so new any more, but I think the mobile wallet Venmo is going to take off a lot more than it has already. It’s succeeded where many other banking-type apps have failed by turning the exchange of money into a social experience. It’s super-simple to use, but doesn’t charge its users for that convenience.

Q4. What (vertical) sector would you say is furthest ahead in mobile?

The automotive sector is probably doing the best in mobile marketing, especially based on what we saw at CES this year. The car is really becoming the new connected device. BMW is using Bluetooth to connect/control its i3 electric car with the Samsung Galaxy Gear smartwatch; General Motors/Chevrolet is offering all sorts of weather, health and music apps; including letting you book hotels and flights behind the wheel with Priceline. And many manufacturers are now promising 4G in the car. Going back to the idea of connecting with consumers on a personal level, they’ve really captured that with the in-car experience.

Video: talking to the BMW i3 with the Samsung Galaxy Gear smartwatch.

Q5. What’s the most exciting/inspirational country/part of the world for mobile Internet/mobile marketing? What can the rest of us learn from there?

Australia is actually way ahead of the US and UK when it comes to mobile banking. According to a study by Fico (January 2014), Australians are keener to use their phones to check statements, get credit-limit warnings and make mobile payments. I think in the US, there’s been a lot of concern around security and that’s hindered the adoption of mobile banking, somewhat.

Q6. What technology or initiative is most likely to revolutionize mobile Web/marketing? What sites/brands use this to maximum effect?

There’s a lot of buzz about iBeacons (low-powered Bluetooth devices that can communicate with iOS apps/devices), and how they will impact location-based marketing. It’s still early days for the technology, but Shopkick is trialing its own-brand beacons into selected Macy’s and American Eagle retail stores, which allows it to track/reward customers as they enter the store and notify them of deals and product suggestions right at the door. Major League Baseball (MLB) plans to roll out iBeacons to baseball grounds, using its indoor mapping technology to personalize and customize its At the Ballpark app.

Video: Shopkick iBeacon trial in Maceys.

Q7. If you could wave your magic wand and change one thing in the industry, what would it be?

I would make marketers less afraid to open up their budgets to mobile. There is real ROI out there, but, so far, expenditure doesn’t match demand.

Q8. What’s the biggest mistake in mobile Web/marketing?

Treating mobile like a mini version of the PC – that just doesn’t work.

Q9. What are the most useful resources – sites, must-read books, associations etc – for mobile marketers?

A shameless plug for Mobile Media Summit’s own MadAveMobile. Stay tuned for exciting changes coming to the site soon.

Q10. Which mobile-marketing guru would you like to do our five-minute interview next?

Sir Martin Sorrell, chief executive officer, WPP.

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