Mobile Conversations 2008: Three signposts for the way ahead

By Surina Sayal , afaqs!, Bengaluru | In Digital | September 29, 2008
Regional languages, video and interactivity are the way ahead for mobile advertising

At & #BANNER1 & # the Bengaluru edition of Mobile Conversations held on September 26 at the ITC Windsor Sheraton, an interesting discussion transpired between the panellists on creativity in mobile advertising and the way ahead.

Saurabh Gupta

Vijay Parthasarathy

Julian Philips

Tarana Khan
The panellists included Julian Philips, vice-president, marketing and product management, July Systems; Saurabh Gupta, chief executive officer and founder, Phonethics Mobile Media; and Vijay Parthasarathy, president, Mast Mobile Media. The session was moderated by Tarana Khan, principal correspondent, afaqs!

Julian Philips started his presentation by quoting TRAI's March 2008 figures, which show that in India, 67 million people have access to the Internet, but only one-third of this number constitutes the active user base. The Internet saw 43 per cent growth between September 2007 and March 2008.

"The potential is huge. Mobile Internet is going to see a much larger subscriber base than PC Internet. In India, mobile is going to be Internet," he said confidently. "But for this, people are not going to type urls and search for brands. The marketers are going to have to engage and interact with consumers."

Philips pointed out that marketers are finally taking notice of the mobile as a medium because it can touch users 24 hours of the day.

He said users love to see images on their mobiles, so July Systems has devised flipbooks and product flipbooks, with a mix of information and pictures. He explained that the reach in mobile will be sufficient only when it goes beyond metros, which is why you need regional languages in mobile advertising.

Philips said he was positive that 3G would add to the power of the mobile with videos. For example, a user could get a link to a video alert, which was sponsored by Nike. When he clicked the url and the site opened, the banner advertisement would be that of Nike. And as the video played, it could have an overlay of the Nike logo in the top or bottom corners.

Vijay Parthasarathy of Mast Mobile Media shared that the mobile ad market in India is pegged at Rs 40 crore per annum and poised to grow to Rs 500 crore by 2010. "Mobiles have positives like exceptional reach, interactivity and instant effect," he said. But the USP of mobile advertising, he said, was the fact that reach was 100 per cent OTS (opportunity to see) or OTH (opportunity to hear).

"An advertiser has to know for sure why he is creating a mobile campaign - it could be for awareness, trial, recall, promotion, footfall enhancement or lead generation," said Parthasarathy. He also shared that one could generate many activities, such as free offers, market research, get user profiles and need assessment.

Saurabh Gupta of Phonethics Mobile Media talked of how the company has created around 14 characters for different brand campaigns for people to interact with. For example, for Tata Indica Vista, Phonethics created Andy and Leela, who were also present on the brand's website, which was seamlessly integrated with the mobile campaign. People could interact with them, create and share content with them, receive free content via WAP and SMS and even book test drives by messaging Andy or Leela.

Other cool characters created by Phonethics are IndYeah Singh, Miya Phainkoo, Farmao Jaan, Bai Malaai, Mr Madhuri, Bhakt Harvakt, each of who addresses a different topic like religious beliefs and Bollywood.

The panel agreed that mobile advertising had to be about short story telling and ideally multilingual. Brand stories, said the panellists, are best told using both images and text.

Gupta said he thought that regional languages would aid mobile advertising because they put the advertising in context. "Otherwise, it is like ordering from a menu that's in French, when you don't speak it," he said pithily.

Philips added that while regional languages will boost advertising on the mobile, the question was what kind of content was being created for the consumer to access, "Because even if it is free, it has to be compelling. Consumers will seek and find brands that are compelling," he said.

The discussion ended with the panellists talking of what they thought would change mobile advertising in the next two years. While Philips felt that video advertising was the future, Gupta said convergence of social media and the mobile was the way forward. For example, one can leave a friend a message on a social networking website like Facebook and get a reply from the friend's mobile.

Parthasarathy felt that interactivity and richness of media would change mobile advertising in the next couple of years.

Mobile Conversations 2008 in Bengaluru was presented by afaqs! and MyToday in association with mKhoj.