Mobile Theory’s Scott Swanson: Mobile is the Freedom Medium

Scott Swanson is the CEO of Mobile Theory, a premium mobile ad network. Scott previously founded 47 Media Inc and has held roles at some of the major ad networks, including Glam Media and Tribal Fusion. Recently we spoke with Scott about his role and the mobile advertising landscape.

The Makegood:  You have been working on the ad network side of the online advertising business for quite some time. What would you say is the biggest change you have seen come about from your days at Tribal Fusion, in 2001, to now?

SS:  I’d say the biggest change has occurred in the way that people engage with and consume with online media. Back in 2001, it was really still an early-adopter medium. Usage of the internet was highly early-adopter, highly-male and highly reference-based. Video bandwidth was really still quite expensive and so ad-supported entertainment on the web as we know it now was just not affordable. I remember meeting with Pandora’s founder and CEO Joe Kennedy shortly after they launched, when they were called ‘The Music Genome Project’ and he asked me to help advise him on their ad model. We white-boarded in his office the bandwidth expenses, and their overhead, and I said ‘Joe, I just can’t see an ad-supported model working…it’s just too expensive and you can’t make enough from advertising.’ Look at them now! Today, we see people doing things online that they were only starting to do 10 years ago: socializing, gaming, and most importantly, finding and consuming the majority of their entertainment. We’re seeing the growth curve for this in mobile occurring at an even more dramatic rate.

The Makegood: What is your priority as CEO of Mobile Theory?

SS: My #1 job is to inspire my team to do the near-miraculous. Mobile Theory has no outside funding or Venture Capital, so we run entirely on the revenue we produce. That means every member of our team has to be laser-focused on producing, selling and supporting great mobile advertising products. We’re particularly proud of “Overpass” a tech solution that serves mobile ads, onto non-mobile websites. It has the potential to monetize the millions of website properties who attract users on mobile devices, but aren’t properly monetizing that traffic. Right now I’m focusing a lot of my time on evangelizing the Overpass product and bringing it to market through major online media partners. Publishers are psyched about it because it allows them to monetize previously unused mobile traffic to their regular sites, advertisers like it because it’s new inventory and reach, exclusive only to Mobile Theory.

The Makegood:  What would you say are the emerging trends that marketers can expect to see coming from mobile in the next year or so?

SS: Marketers will do the best if they think about Mobile as a distinctly new medium. Primarily because it’s a medium that is engaged in dramatically different psychological states and locations! You might be reaching a user at the bus stop, in the doctor’s waiting room, at home at night sitting next to their spouse in bed, on the job, or during leisure time. As a result, it’s critical that we provide users with choice. And that translates to multiple calls to action in every banner creative. They might be in the mood to make a call and make a reservation, but if they’re not, and still want to engage, we should give them the option to join a mailing list, watch a video, or have information e-mailed for consumption later. Mobile is the freedom medium, and thus mobile advertising has to give users choice for how they want to engage.

The Makegood: Can you tell us about a recent successful campaign from Mobile Theory?

SS: We recently ran a campaign for one of the nation’s largest credit card companies. This particular initiative was for a campaign targeting small business owners. On our kick-off call, they really wanted to know what worked in mobile and were really open to our ideas around ‘choice’ in the calls to action. The campaign showed stellar results not only from a CTR perspective but from a backend performance point of view as well with new card members signed up. I think two things led to the campaign’s success: the first is that we used our overpass product, which has an ad display time 4x longer than traditional standard mobile banners, as a result, the click thru rates are very high. So we got plenty of people to the landing page. But once they were there, we gave them 3 large call-to-action ‘buttons’ which again, gave them choice. “Email me more info”, “Watch Video” (which played their :30 TV spot in the native player of the phone) and “call now” which launches the phone’s telephone dialer. So again, to get the results on the backend, we really encouraged this client to provide choice to match the different states and locations the users might be in when they end up on that landing page.

The Makegood: Thanks, Scott.