Mobile Conversation – The Present and Future of Mobile Advertising and Marketing in India

I had an opportunity to participate in a panel discussion on the mobile marketing scenario in India, organised by agencyfaqs (afaqs). The following are some of the takeaways from that discussion.
How is mobile positioned by media planners vis-à-vis other media?

UK Consumer Media Time Spend Vs UK Advertisers Media Ad Spend

From the above representation, it is interesting to note that despite the fact that consumers in the UK spend most of their time on the Internet and their mobile phones, advertisers allocate only about 10 percent of their ad spend to the Internet. What’s more surprising is the fact that the mobile medium commands a negligible portion of the ad spend. There is little doubt in my mind that these figures are reflective of the Indian scenario, bringing us to the question, are Indian advertisers waking up to the almost limitless possibilities of the mobile marketing medium?

Considering that there are close to 300 million mobile subscribers in India, the potential and possibilities are decidedly huge. Having said that, mobile marketing has thus far been limited to a loop back mechanism for offline print or TV campaigns using short code or IVR numbers. I was therefore encouraged to see some new mobile media channels during this conference including Bluetooth based Branded Content Downloads, Advertisements along with SMS Alerts, Bulk Voice Dial Outs, Advertising on WAP Sites, Mobile Communities, Branded Mobile Applications. Nothing caught my fancy more than the concept of Ad Ring Back Tones (AD RBT) and I foresee a host of operators and solutions providers working towards making this as a feasible media.
What is the role that mobile plays in a marketing campaign?
Most marketing campaigns today focus on messaging or response capture, using loop back short codes or voice portals, rather than branding and persuasion. There are also a lot of campaigns which make use of bulk SMS push and using various opt-in SMS alerts, ad providers push the advertising messages across. A lot of the time we confuse the Mobile value-added services (VAS) revenue numbers with mobile advertising and think the industry is big. In reality, the industry is very small and is crowded by a number of tech services companies providing mobile SMS gateway services, lots of database sellers and very few true mobile media vehicles or service providers.

How does the mobile complement other media in a campaign? Can it be used as a standalone medium?
While it can indeed be used as a standalone medium, almost a 100% of the campaign today use mobile as a complimentary rather than standalone channel. The primary reason for this is its present day capability and use as a messaging device rather than a device on which people consume digital media. Once mobiles graduate to media consuming devices we will see rich media creatives and campaigns getting delivered on a stand alone basis on mobile devices. Rest assured, once mobiles graduate to media consuming devices, we will see rich media creatives and campaigns getting delivered on a stand alone basis on mobile devices.

Standalone Branding options today on mobile:
• Branded Applications/Games/Content delivered through Blue tooth, MMS or GPRS
• Voice Portals with interactive features.
Some of the new trends which may become industries in themselves are:
• Mobile Ring Back Tones (RBT’s): These are ads which will play instead of the normal ringtones. What sets them apart is the fact that operators can earn additional revenue streams from advertisers and can choose to pass on the benefits to consumers.

• Video Ring Back Tones (RBT’s): This is again an interesting concept which can be used by operators to push video advertising content to users video enabled phones. The success of this video ring back tones is ultimately dependent on bandwidth availability on the last mile.

Having spent the last 1 year in the industry, I feel there are a few things missing before mobile marketing and advertising can really shape up as a big industry,

• We need to Break to walls: MSO operated WAP sites have little meaning in today’s context. The Internet and mobile browsing experience should become interchangeable and we need more aggressive internet pricing for mobile.

• Make it Simple: Industry needs to keep the jargon’s out of it and make it simple for advertisers and marketers to understand this space. We need to agree on some basic terms, terminology, metrics and ground rules.

• Develop an Eco-system: No industry can grow without its participants sharing issues, concerns, successes and failures. I have seen far too much of IP and confidential stuff in my interactions with different mobile marketing companies over the last one year.

Summing-up, I am glad there are increased efforts from various sides to bring industry people together. That said; let’s not make these opportunities mere selling opportunities, but rather forums where we share ideas and work together towards making it a multi billion dollar industry.

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