the point of view of most advertisers, any medium or platform with a base of roughly 300 million individuals ought to translate into serious mon ey being channeled into it in one form of advertising or the other.
Yet, mobile marketing in India is still treated as arcanum , continues to attract but a fraction of the advertiser’s interest — and an even tinier sliver of his ad budget — and, at best, is growing in fits and starts. If anything, advertiser interest entirely belies the fact that the country has a cell phone base of 300-odd million subscribers.
It comes as no surprise then that Sam Balsara, chairman, Madison World, confesses disappointment at the pace of growth of mobile advertising in the country. “From a media professional’s perspective , the mobile meets most of the dream parameters — it has reach, it’s in-the-face and it’s accountable. But the way mobile advertising has panned out over the last two years is below expectations,” he said, speaking at the ET Mobile Marketing Summit 2008.
Marketers too, it’s evident, are nowhere close to allocating fixed budgets for mobile marketing. Cadbury India is one of the largest advertisers on the mobile phone, but the company’s executive director – marketing & international business, Sanjay Purohit, said it would be an unlikely scenario where a marketer will put down 5% of his ad budget on mobile — at least for now. “What we are looking for is engaging ideas on the mobile; when we find them we’ll advertise .” That, however, does imply that for some time to come, a lot of mobile advertising will be one-offs and idea-dependent , as Balsara points out.
Romancing The Phone
One of the fundamental issues with mobile marketing is the multiplicity of measurement methods and models the world over. Add to this the absence of even a proper definition of what mobile marketing constitutes and the lack of the right standards, and advertiser apathy is natural. “Big brands will advertise only if we have a universally accepted measurement model,” said Patrick Parodi, CMO, Amobee, and global board director , Mobile Entertainment Forum, adding that both marketers and media professionals will pay for performance in real time.
While Purohit revealed that Cadbury India has still not used the mobile for actually driving sales — for now the company is using mobile advertising more from a branding perspective — Harit Nagpal , marketing & new business director , Vodafone Essar, pointed out that as a service provider, his incentive would be to get paid for performance .
“I don’t want to be paid for ‘impressions’ delivered. If the objective of a mobile campaign is to get consumers to test drive a car, rather than getting paid 8 or 10 paise per impression , I’d rather get paid Rs 500 for every test drive I deliver,” he said, making a case for a performancelinked model. “I would want to see the bulk of mobile advertising as being conversion-centric ,” he said, adding in the absence of conversion mechanisms, the industry has to fall back on impression-based revenue models, which are less than optimal.The bigger issue that Parodi raised was that the mobile is still to emerge as a ‘medium’ , and that to achieve ‘media status’ the active involvement
of service providers is crucial. “Operators have access to everything that the consumer does, so they can take control of all levels of user activity ,” he said.
However, Balsara drew attention to the fact that advertising is a low priority for operators as ad-based revenues have a small impact on their overall business . “The total advertising market in India is worth Rs 20,000 crore. The cellular operators’ business is worth Rs 100,000 crore. How much can mobile advertising add to their business? Yes, the operator is critical, till he looks at it seriously, mobile advertising will be a slow burn,” said Balsara.
Nagpal, who admitted that operators have usage behaviour mapped to the T, insisted that there needs to be a system in place that can analyse consumers in a manner that allows for targeted communication . He added that in its absence, it’s in everyone’s best interest to go slow on mobile marketing.
“I am happy we have not spammed consumers with unsolicited advertising — my fear is that conferences like this will get people to see the revenue in it and spam blindly,” he said, adding that for operators, advertising revenue, as a percentage of the overall revenue, will only be in “low single digits”.
Manu Kumar, CEO – Maharashtra & Goa, Bharti Airtel, added that service is the most important aspect of the business to operators, and everything else naturally takes a back seat.
Relevancy and intrusion are clearly issues that the industry is grappling with everywhere. “Only 12% of European consumers trust mobile advertising, and a bulk of them are averse to unsolicited ads. So there is a strong need for a permission-led approach ,” said Parodi, adding, however, that the response rate for mobile advertising is higher than for internet advertising. Cadbury’s Purohit was also clear that intrusive advertising is not something that mobile consumer will take kindly to.
“While we have to look at mobiles, it’ll be a mistake looking at the mobile screen as a TV screen or a PC monitor . The mobile phone is a very personal thing,” he said. Nagpal added that while a 10% response rate can be seen as something positive by marketers , everyone has to keep in mind the fact that the 90% that didn’t respond is likely to have cursed the marketer and the operator.
What adds a spin to the entire mobile marketing debate is the fact that advertising on the mobile does not follow the traditional model found in other media. “The mobile is wholly user-paid , unlike other media where ads were inherent from beginning.
So how to get ads into mobiles needs thinking,” remarked Parodi. One argument that’s usually put forward is that all advertising helps subsidise the cost of the product to consumers. While this is a riveting argument, Nagpal said it doesn’t make sense taking money from advertisers to give consumers a discount. “I won’t rob Peter to pay Paul. Let consumers pay for the services he uses and let marketers pay for the value they derive,” he said. In the final analyses, it’s the consumer who serves as the best pointer to the way forward, observed Anuj Khanna, CEO & chairman of mobile media
innovation company, affle. “The consumer sees mobile as communication device, so it’s the consumer who’ll tell what to do,” he said. Khanna added that the mobile can serve as an access point for content.
His prescription : “Create a parallel drive that gets customers to start consuming content and build the ad business model around that.” In conclusion, Khanna also pointed out that the mobile is not merely a tactical or transactional device. “Top brands we work with are not just executing brand strategies but making the mobile central to their strategy. Things like which brand ambassador will become the brand’s next endorser are being decided through mobile marketing,” he said.
AN AFFLE A DAY
MOST consumers use mobile phones to call and send messages. However, unless they use the device to discover and engage with content, advertising on the mobile phone will not take off in a big way,” feels Anuj Khanna, chairman & CEO, Affle, a mobile marketing and advertising solutions provider.
Khanna might have a point. Consumers detest commercial SMSes at odd hours or the telemarketers’ avoidable calls. So there needs to be a trick that serves content to consumers without interfering in his primary tasks. But first, there needs to be enough content. Khanna is sure that there is. But the mobile content scene is like the internet without a Google.
“If we can give users in the big cities a tool to discover content on the mobile phone easily, then mobiles will not just become a content consumption device but also the primary device to access internet content,” he says. That naturally will create a mobile advertising opportunity . SMS 2.0 (an upgrade of the conventional SMS) is an example of tempting users to access content when they look at the mobile screen when typing out an SMS.
The content banner appears at the bottom of the screen while you start typing messages from the top. “We can push content on the screen without interrupting the user’s message,” he says. Khanna says that early feelers of the SMS 2.0 launch in India have been positive. An average cell phone user sends around 50 messages per month in India, but on SMS 2.0 they consume about 200 impressions per month. That could be the honeymoon phase, one could argue. But a good start might take you the distance.
6 months ago