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Today I moderated a panel at MediaPost’s annual OMMA Social show in San Francisco.  A designated mobile session symbolized the topic’s rising prominence relative to last year, when it was discussed (but not as much).

Interest in mobile is clearly growing among brand advertisers and agencies: That much could be felt in the air, not to mention references to mobile in nearly every session throughout the day.

Mobile agencies represented on the panel expressed as much, including AKQA‘s Mobile Director Tina Unterlaender, and R/GA Technology Director Peter Cole. Their firms are admittedly ahead of the curve with dedicated mobile resources.

One of their biggest expressed challenges continues to be client education. This includes evangelizing mobile’s unique targeting and measurement abilities, while reigning in some clients who overzealously jump at mobile for ill-defined reasons.

This isn’t the first time we’ve heard of this client education issue from an agency perspective. But what made today’s discussion a bit different was the looming context of an overall social media theme.

“Mobile/social is an emerging field inside of an emerging field,” said 360i Senior Director David Berkowitz. In other words, just as digital marketers are learning the dynamics of online social media, it migrates to mobile where it assumes all new rules of engagement.

This comes in a few flavors: Existing social networks migrate online such as Facebook with 65 million mobile users (out of a total of about 350 million). Twitter mobile clients meanwhile pop up everywhere and the service generally has natural ties to mobility.

But we also see entirely new mobile social tools bubble up, which are unique to the mobile device. Specifically, the growing crop of social apps that use location as a central component, such as Foursquare, Loopt and Brightkite.

The latter two sat on the mobile panel and had much to say about evolving features and ad formats available to marketers. Brightkite CMO and Cofounder Rob Lawson explained how these continue to move away from mobile banners and increasingly include action-oriented features to drive users into stores.

Brightkite and Loopt are working with national brands and retailers to localize ads and promotions, including Best Buy and Jack in the Box. Working directly with more advertisers interested in local foot traffic is a major objective for both.

These formats will continue to evolve, as will advertiser interest and education. The panel agreed that advertisers more and more are asking for the right things and are beginning to “speak the language.”

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