SYDNEY: Australian publishers are embracing the shift to mobile but are struggling to persuade brands and advertisers to fully exploit the possibilities it offers, according to leading industry figures.

"Mobile ads are growing exponentially but it's still in a very desktop manner," said Nicole Sheffield, CEO at NewsLifeMedia, which publishes such titles as Vogue and GQ.

She explained to AdNews that there were opportunities brands could explore around functionality and service. "[Brands] have a level of trial and error, but often we get a brief and the ambition is huge but at the last minute they lose the courage and go back to a more traditional approach," she said.

Sheffield felt that advertisers needed to go beyond content and add value by offering functional services and utilising location-based tools. A minority were starting to do so and she gave the example of the GQ 15th birthday iPad edition, which had ads featuring video, click to purchase and other enhancements.

"It's when advertising isn't just an ad, it's content the reader wants to use," she said. "That's where the opportunities are but it's still a watching brief and no one's landed on it yet."

At Bauer Media, which publishes more than 80 magazines, head of mobile Marcelo Silva was in agreement. "If we're serious about being closer to the consumer and being more relevant, it's silly not to take advantage of the behaviour patterns of mobile and tablet and cater to that," he said.

Like Sheffield, he saw location-based tools playing a vital role. "The most exciting part is when you combine an immersive brand experience with geo-fencing. Then [mobile marketing] becomes really powerful," he enthused.

An example? "If advertisers can target a customer who is at a sports stadium and offer them a free drink or advice for parking, it's really utilising the core benefits of being mobile."

This reticence among advertisers is not restricted to Australia. A recent Warc report, State of the Industry: Mobile marketing in Asia-Pacific, found that while most marketers in the region understood the significance of mobile marketing, few had a formal strategy in place and three quarters allocated 10% or less of their budgets to this channel.

Edward Pank, Managing Director at Warc Asia Pacific, observed that "there is still a long way to go before brands and agencies in Asia Pacific understand the full potential of mobile for reaching consumers".

Data sourced from AdNews; additional content by Warc staff