Nonchalantly I mixed and lumped together "mobile marketing" and "mobile advertising", until I did some research recently - actually specifically for the current issue that is dealing with both terms.

And what I found out could be of interest to you, as I now know that I am not the only one lost in confusion and erroneously believing that it stands for the same.

Who explains the differences?

Or who really dares to agree on a definition chart before going into business discussions? Instead of a clear understanding, technical terms are aimlessly thrown about, and the question is whether advertisers and agencies speak the same language, or even know what they should brief from each other at all?

Indeed, there are various definitions going around and which one will be commonly accepted is still written in the stars. Is it possible to come up with the one and only, true and valid(,) definition to set a baseline standard?

Well, I did some research and came across all kinds of interesting definitions for "Mobile Marketing" and "Mobile Advertising", whereas a few of the most interesting ones I am listing here:

  1. Troy Norcross of found in 2006 the following definitions:

    Mobile Marketing: The systematic planning, implementing and control of a mix of business activities intended to bring together buyers and sellers for the mutually advantageous exchange or transfer of products where the primary point of contact with the consumer is via their mobile device.

    Mobile Advertising: The paid, public, non-personal announcement of a persuasive message by an identified sponsor; the non-personal presentation or promotion by a firm of its products to its existing and potential customers where such communication is delivered to a mobile phone or other mobile device. Examples of mobile advertising would include: WAP Banner ads, mobile search advertising, mobile video bumpers, interstitial ads in on device portals.

  2. Wikipedia makes it quite clear that there is no commonly accepted definition for Mobile Marketing, as it rather presents various definitions for the concept of mobile marketing than anything else.

    However, it defines Mobile Marketing broadly as “the use of the mobile medium as a means of marketing communication” or “distribution of any kind of promotional or advertising messages to customer through wireless networks”, offering  even a more specific definition, by saying: Mobile Marketing is using interactive wireless media to provide customers with time and location sensitive, personalized information that promotes goods, services and ideas, thereby generating value for all stakeholders”. Not providing any specific definition, only descriptions for technical use, illustrates the difficult classification of the notion.

    Mobile Advertising is defined as a form of advertising via mobile (wireless) phones or other mobile devices. It is a subset of mobile marketing.

  3. In November 2009, the Mobile Marketing Association updated its definition of Mobile Marketing, saying: “Mobile Marketing is a set of practices that enables organizations to communicate and engage with their audience in an interactive and relevant manner through any mobile device or network.” In its Glossary from 2008 ( it is defined as: “The use of wireless media as an integrated content delivery and direct response vehicle within a cross-media or stand-alone marketing communications program.” Indeed, Mobile marketing is commonly known as wireless marketing, however please consider that wireless is not necessarily mobile. For instance, a consumer’s communications with a Web site from a desktop computer at home, with signals carried over a wireless local area network (WLAN) or over a satellite network, would qualify as wireless but not mobile communications.

    Mobile Advertising is described as: “A form of advertising that is communicated to the consumer/target via a handset. This type of advertising is most commonly seen as a Mobile Web Banner (top of page), Mobile Web Poster (bottom of page), and full screen interstitial, which appears while a requested mobile web page is “loading”. Other forma of this type of advertising are SMS and MMS ads, mobile gaming ads, and mobile video ads (pre, mid, and post roll).”

  4. Only a few months ago Bryce Marshall, director of strategic services at Knotice wrote about the issue as well, saying: “The myriad meanings are justified because the term “mobile marketing” generically describes marketing interactions with an individual consumer through the technologies found on a mobile device. The more technologies that are found, the more ways there are to describe “mobile marketing tactics.”Mobile Advertising is described by him as one of the four mobile marketing tactics, SMS/MMS, Mobile Web, and Applications, that are currently more widely adopted by marketers and consumers alike. He explicates further: “While mobile advertising is one of the more complex mobile tactics, mobile ads fall into a couple of primary categories: mobile banners and mobile search. Each is a spinoff of the established online ad channels with virtually the same roster of ad partners creating alternatives for consumers browsing and searching the Internet through a mobile browser.”
  5. As we dare to believe that the science finds by all means good definitions, let’s take a look at Möhlenbruch and Schmieder’s explanation of Mobile Marketing (2002). According to them Mobile Marketing is “the design, realization and control of marketing activities by use of wireless data transfer technologies on mobile terminal devices in line with a market-orientated business administration.” And Wohlfahrt (2002) understands Mobile Advertising as campaign-oriented support of marketing and communication policy on mobile devices through the use of mobile data services - that go beyond the mere voice.
Mobile advertising is often used as a synonym for mobile marketing, but is in a strict sense limited to activities making the customers aware of a product. It is a subset of mobile marketing: Activities like vouchers, which attract also existing customers, or campaigns to tighten existing customer relationships, are not part in advertising in a strict sense.

Based on the definitions of the advertising industry, it is perhaps convenient to use the following meaning for mobile marketing and advertising:

Mobile marketing are both push-and pull-based advertising tactics, which in the context of mobile messaging services are addressed to the recipients.

Mobile advertising is only pull-based advertising on mobile Internet.

Whether these short explanations will be suffice for the by now fairly well developed and hotly sought-after mobile marketing industry some may doubt. But it may give them something to talk about. So let’s wait now and hope that some experts soon provide us with exact terminologies, which can be incorporated into everyday language and allows everybody communication at eye level.

By Daniela La Marca