Don't Touch My Phone!
Why marketers need to be more sensitive, with Paps Shaikh, Commercial Director, Say Media UK.
This difficult situation brought to mind the intensely personal relationship we have with our mobiles. Our phones our like small handheld versions of ourselves, full of our memories, secrets, and plans for the future. Your phone knows what you did last summer, who you’re meeting tonight and that playlist full of guilty pleasures you like to listen to in the privacy of your own headphones. The mobile is a sneaky device, which has managed to surreptitiously position itself as an all-knowing confidante. It’s no wonder that feel a bit precious about them. I’m not suggesting for a moment that we’re in Blade Runner territory, and that our mobile phones are little electronic duplicates of ourselves. It would be more accurate to suggest that they’re the silent perfect servant. Helen Mirren fans might recall the ’perfect servant’ speech from Gosford Park: "I’m a good servant, I’m better then that I’m the perfect servant… They’re hungry and the meal is already prepared, they’re tired and the bed is turned down: I know what they want before they want it themselves.”
Of course the opposite side to this symbiotic relationship is the attachment we feel to our phones. A recent article in the London Evening Standard revealed that we check our phones 150 times a day, which means about once every six minutes. This is an average figure, which means that a sizeable proportion of use have an even closer relationship. This proximity is a key factor in the man-mobile relationship. These findings are reinforced by Say Media’s mobile research that explains our dependency on our mobile devices and the unique roles they fill in our lives.
The way we act around these small devices, and considering the level of attachment we have with them, how can the media industry respond to this effectively? When other people touch our handsets, it makes us tense - it’s an intensely personal relationship. As advertisers, we have to intrude on that relationship. Televisions are static, as are computer screens - but with mobile handsets we have the closer relationship. As the gateway to our social media activity, we are never alone with our phone. This means that marketers need to be aware of that intimate relationship and not infringe on it like an unwelcome third wheel.
As marketers, how can we navigate that special relationship between the consumer and their mobile?
In marketing, as in most things, timing is everything. TV advertisers for years enjoyed audience-driven schedules that remained largely unchanged for 50 years - and then time-shift viewing and self-scheduling services came along and the old models started to fall apart. With mobile devices it feels like marketers are looking for usage models that don’t exist – and frankly as people start to use separate devices for work and play, marketers have to guess where the consumer is, and if they’re in the right frame of mind to receive advertising messages.
This brings us back to the man-mobile relationship and if it’s about intruding on the relationship - it becomes a question of context. We need to get sensitive: Sensitive to screen sizes, and mindful to the idea that this is someone’s best friend. It may even make sense to start scratching/scuffing/dropping our phones deliberately to reduce our general anxiety around these shiny objects; it’s certainly worked for my wife!