Mobile Conversations 2010: Can mobile be the lead medium?

By Devina Joshi , afaqs!, Mumbai | In Marketing | March 29, 2010
At Mobile Conversations 2010, experts in mobile marketing debated over what makes mobile just another medium, and whether it has potential to go beyond that definition

On a general plane, mobile marketing constitutes a miniscule fraction of an average marketer's media mix, if it figures in there at all. This is the case, when the medium offers the opportunity to reach out to more than 500 million consumers in a personalised way. Discussing the fate of the fairly nascent medium and the various opportunities it poses for marketers was a panel of industry experts at Mobile Conversations 2010, an event organised by afaqs! in association with affle and 160by2.

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Moderator Anuj Kumar, executive director, South Asia, affle, led the discussion on 'Opportunities on Mobile Media and how it helps achieve marketing objectives'. The speakers were Vinod Thadani, regional mobile director, India and South Asia, GroupM Interaction; Pavan Chandra, MD, Vivaki Nerve Centre, India; Satya Kalyan Yerramsetti, CEO and founder, SMSCountry/160by2; and Sujai Srivastava, head, VAS marketing and mobile advertising, Reliance Communications.

Kumar kick-started the session with a cricket analogy: Can mobile ever be the Sachin Tendulkar of marketing (the lead medium), or will it have to contend with being a Rohit Sharma (just another support medium)? He described the various advantages of mobile media for marketers. Mobile offers "mass personalization" to more than 500 million consumers, while other media are content genre led. As opposed to one-way communication on other media, mobile marketing allows for two-way interactivity. Consumption pattern-wise, mobile is also a 'lean-in' medium (implying more participative) as opposed to passive 'lean-back' (which is the posture in which some other media, such as television, are consumed).

He also pointed out that what limits mobile marketing could be the manner in which it is used (primarily for voice calls, that is, a communication device as opposed to a media device, although the shift is gradually happening), and the 'push' nature of mobile advertising seen today.

However, he added, some factors that are changing mobile media include bottoming tariffs by Telco companies (and hence a shift in user behaviour), better and cheaper handsets and the entry of many players in this field, easier access to mobile internet, and the creation of applications and App stores, which only spell more opportunities for advertising.

Srivastava of Reliance Communications spoke next, talking about how all media -- and opportunities for marketing therein -- have evolved over time. "Today, mobility is a convergence of data, voice, SMS and the internet," he stated. "Mobility, from our perspective, is how we pitch for the best for brands, particularly when it comes to the last mile -- the retail store -- which is a huge opportunity area."

Thadani of GroupM gave a detailed perspective on how mobile marketing can be made to work. First, mobile marketing needs to be personalised (and relevant); and one cannot have the 'same creative' as other media dumped onto mobile. Second, mobile marketing cannot be intrusive; and the best way to avoid that is to merge mobile advertising with content.

Third, mobile marketing needs to be comprehensive; that is, one mustn't have the 'Try it; it might work' approach to this finely targeted medium. "Mobile marketing shouldn't be restricted to lip-service; it needs to be an integral part of your campaign," Thadani told marketers present.

He further segmented categories as adults -- including finance, technology, telecom and travel -- who are big users of mobile marketing; and newborns -- such as FMCGs and durables -- who are ignoring the opportunity mobile marketing offers. "Remember, the metric in mobile marketing will not be an opportunity to see; but an opportunity to participate, engage and contribute," Thadani said.

Chandra of Vivaki attacked the myth that mobile advertising alone is intrusive. "Aren't TV ads also an intrusion?" he questioned. He also shared a funny designation he had once come across on a marketer's side: Alternate Channel Manager, which is supposed to imply "someone who is in charge of everything else".

"We are creating these boxes, which limit the exploitation of various media," Chandra said. He added that a lot of sniffing around needs to be done to fully understand how to evangelise this medium, including finding the missing pieces, such as technology gaps, vendor management issues and so on.

Yerramsetti defended the current state of mobile advertising, explaining that while bulk SMS may be frowned upon in the metros, it works wonders in smaller towns and cities. "Mumbai and Delhi may frown upon it; but a small mobile player like Zen Mobile whom we deal with, thinks bulk SMSes work, and are something that consumers look forward to," he said.

Yerramsetti concluded that newer ways of creating engagement definitely need to be developed on mobile, and this medium should not be treated as an extension of the internet.

Mobile Conversations 2010 was organised by afaqs! in association with Affle and 160by2.