After years of hype, mobile marketing is finally poised to take off in 2011 as major brands like Buick, Disney and Diageo dial it up

While skeptics are quick to point out that every year for the past five years has been dubbed the "year of mobile", I'm confident to say that in 2011 after all the hype, mobile marketing will finally take off.

We are entering the Era of Mobile: a time when no self-respecting marketing message will be lacking elements designed to reach consumers via our cellphones.

Almost every message in traditional media will effectively become a portal to the mobile channel. Actually, it is not so much the era of mobile as it is the era of mobile integration.

Marketer confidence in the medium is high. In North America research by Advertiser Perceptions revealed that marketer optimism in mobile was higher than for online marketing in general.

MediaCom's projections show the number of global mobile Internet users will reach 1billion by the end of 2011, up from 0.9 billion in 2010.

The explosion in app-enabled devices will shift key activities such as shopping, email and banking from the PC to the tablet or mobile.

Even the big social networks are affected. In markets such as Scandinavia and Japan, online computer-based usage is dropping as fans start to access social media sites such as Facebook via their mobile phones. Figures from Gartner for Mixi in Japan show that just 16% of monthly page views were via static PCs in 2010.

The roll-out of 4G technology around the world will speed up services but frankly a decent 3G connection already lets you watch video – hence the massive growth in data traffic, increasing from 180-200K terabytes globally in 2010 to over 500K terabytes in 2011.

For advertisers, success will depend significantly on the ability to integrate mobile with other channels, be it traditional media or even point-of-sale.

To this end, much attention will be focused on the current tests being run by Buick, Disney, Diageo, T-Mobile and Delta Airlines in the U.S. with Google Goggles.

In this scenario, picture and text recognition ability will enable ads to be photographed and recognized, thus taking the consumer to a corresponding Web site for the product or company.

Integration can also take the form of couponing, which has become massive in the mobile space. The mobile channel can be linked to other media via SMS response codes or 2D barcodes.

Traditional media also gains from integration with video triggered by 2D barcodes from print ads. Since March 2011, Home Depot in the U.S. has been using such codes in newspaper ads, direct mail and in-store to drive consumers to a range of content that includes videos and special offers.

Location-based services also make it possible to turn mobile into a point- of-sale channel with offers via Foursquare or Gowalla for early adopters and via Facebook Places or Google Latitude – just launched globally – for the mass market.

In Denmark, MediaCom has just created Seat Chase, an augmented reality app integration with Facebook Places. By taking three animated characters from the TV commercial and enabling consumers to see them via their mobile screens we were able to get people to follow them right across the country. (Watch the video clip)

One aspect that got particularly good feedback was the fact that the Chase took our target audience to dealerships, giving them the chance to see the "real" car as well as play the game.

Such opportunities will inspire marketers to increasingly integrate mobile into more and more advertising campaigns. Conversations about digital will automatically include mobile.

Driven by mobile's ability to deliver more personal, more interactive and more local information instantly, we predict mobile investment will account for roughly 5-10% of total global digital spend by the end of the year compared to the 1.0-1.5% estimate for 2010. If this happens, mobile marketing will finally have a seat at the adult table of marketing.

Steffen Krabbenhøft is Mobile Director at MediaCom in Denmark and can be reached at steffen.krabbenhoft@mediacom.dk.