Recognizable brands such as Air Canada, Doritos, MTV, and Coors Light are among those named for innovative mobile marketing efforts over the past year at the 2009 Canadian New Media Awards. Air Canada is the first North American airline with an iPhone app, and Coors Light thought of a cross-platform approach to its billboard campaign.

Air Canada iPhone app, Coors Light campaign nominated for Canadian New Media Awards

If there’s one fact that clearly emerges from this year’s Canadian New Media Awards (CNMA), it is that mobile device marketing is now seriously vying with traditional media sources for advertising dollars.

Phones may have tiny screens, but they’re definitely starting to grab the attention of big brands.

Air Canada, Coors Light, Doritos and MTV are just a few of the recognizable brand names that pop out of the finalists’ list in 19 different categories for the upcoming Dec. 1 Awards show in Toronto.

Behind those brands are the mobile developers designing iPhone applications, Web sites, and SMS campaigns that deliver interactive advertising.

Related: SMS success – Toronto fast-food chain sends burger lovers a message

Hosted by Nextmedia Toronto, this year’s nominees represent a breakthrough moment for the mobile industry, says CNMA chair and founder Adam Froman

“The brands have finally embraced the reality that this is a legitimate medium garnering the budgets and investment required to really retail to an audience,” he says. “A lot of marketers have realized you have to focus on the habits and behaviour of your customer.”

Since its first year in 1999, the awards show has evolved from a showcase for a few Canadians innovating interactive media, Froman adds. Now it is more about how new media is applied in new and interesting ways.

“The technology, in itself, is irrelevant,” he says.

Toronto-based MyThum Interactive Inc. garnered two of three nominations in the Best in Mobile Marketing category. One for its Coors Light “Colder Than” iPhone application, and another for its mobile integration of the Rogers MTV Leak Live Tour.

There has been a significant shift in market attitude towards mobile over the last year, says Michael Carter, CEO at MyThum. Most brands are at least thinking about mobile marketing if they haven’t already tried it.

“You’re starting to see some very significant brands really look at mobile as one of the core pillars of their marketing and communications strategy,” he says.

Toronto residents may recall the Coors Light campaign mostly for being insulted in August. A Vancouver-based billboard advertised the beer as “Colder than most people in Toronto.” It provoked some media attention and some strong reactions from Torontonians who took exception.

But Coors Light ran with the publicity. MyThum was tasked with creating an iPhone application and SMS campaign that invited consumers to submit their own “colder than” insults.

“It was just all in good fun,” Carter says. “Obviously it raised some publicity and awareness.”

Air Canada tapped IBM Canada Ltd.’s Global Business Services department for a mobile application. It was the first airline in North America to release an iPhone application earlier this year, and soon followed it up with a BlackBerry application.

A native application has some advantages over a mobile Web site, says Abrar Siddiqui, project manager at IBM.

It lets you access some of the capabilities of your phone, he says. “On the iPhone you can just shake your phone to refresh the application.”

The app allows Air Canada travelers a paperless check-in — they can purchase tickets, then track their flight status, and use their phone to board the plane. Automatic alerts can be set up to notify the user if a flight is cancelled or delayed. There’s also information about Maple Leaf lounges at airports and contact details.

Perhaps not usually thought of as a mobile developer, Big Blue is responding to customer demand, Siddiqui says.

“Mobile applications are becoming more popular and a lot of our customers are coming to us for help with application development,” he says.

The awards are funded in part by the Government of Canada.

In tough economic times when the government is supporting traditional industries that have provided jobs for many years, it should also be looking to support the interactive industry, Froman says.

“You really need to support the industries that represent the future for Canada,” he says. “This is really just a catalyst for us to recognize there are great companies here.”

Other big brands named in the nominees include:

  • CanWest for it’s Food Network Mobile Application
  • Scotiabank’s Nuit Blanche Night Navigator developed by POIFriend/Simply Good
  • Montreal Candiens for its Historical Web site developed by Bluesponge
  • Polar Ice Vodka and BStreet for Best in Interactive Marketing

Read the entire list of nominees here.

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