The second session of Mobile Conversations 2010, an event organised by afaqs! in association with affle and 160by2, had experts discussing the opportunities in the mobile marketing space and the challenges that are faced by marketers.
Almeida, in his opening remarks, said that the mobile phone is no longer just about voice delivery. It is moving into an era, where it is not merely replacing the landline telephone, but offers a lot of other services and features.
Khan spoke next, saying that operators today focus on other concerns than on mobile advertising. "Mobile advertising is very, very far from the mindset of operators. It is a pity that nobody has evangelised the medium," he said.
According to Khan, the operators need to be shown the "colour of money" and be told that the mobile is a viable source of revenue. He opined that advertisers often take the path of least resistance, citing the example of the race to buy spots during the Indian Premier League.
"You have to extrapolate television and internet. We need fresh ideas. Why shouldn't the top advertisers on television be the top advertisers on mobile too?" he remarked.
Hiranandani focused on how content enables mobile advertising and marketing, which he thinks has been happening over the years and is not a new phenomenon. He cited examples of Castrol and Thums Up games on mobile, which followed their respective commercials.
Marketers are now exploring user generated content, which they are mixing with advertising, to push products through chats and other social networking media, he said. He added that marketing through applications and mobile videos through social networking will be increasingly used over the next two years. "Forty per cent of the applications on the Apple application store will be funded by brands," he observed.
He continued to cite examples of various brands, such as Nike and Zippo, to further his point on branded applications and the opportunities the space throws up. Hiranandani also noted that mobile TV would be another powerful platform to watch out for, once 3G comes in.
He also talked about the challenges that exist in merging content and applications with advertising. "We need faster speeds and better connectivity. Consumers need to be educated on the capability of their phones; and brands need to be educated too on the opportunities available," he said.
Talking from the application point of view, he said that mobile applications need to be relevant to the consumers and must be portable (compatible with all handsets).
Ramamurthy briefly spoke about the consumers and their concerns. "Mobile is a medium that is an extension of our own selves. One clear difference from other media is the time span attention. Do we have enough time to spend on our mobiles? No! We are looking for instant gratification," he noted.
He wondered if the service experience of the consumer is satisfactory. "Are we giving the right service experience or is it just on paper?" he asked.
Ramamurthy, like Hiranandani, stressed the need for consumer education. He quoted some research findings, which had revealed that the top three things that one uses a mobile phone for are alarm, camera, and voice and text, respectively. "How many of the 550 million users of the mobile phone really know how to use the various features on their phones?" he asked.
Taking the discussion further, Almeida asked the panellists what could be done to address the challenges as an operator, an application builder and a consultant.
Khan reiterated that attention needs to be paid to mobile advertising and better consumer understanding.
Hiranandani directed his observation to Khan when he asked, "If operators say that mobile advertising is not even being thought of, how can we come to you with newer applications?"
Education can only happen by operators, Hiranandani rejoined.
"We have not been talking cohesively with advertisers and brands. More content out there is always a necessity, but the other challenges must be first addressed," he said.
Ramamurthy noted that the content of the service that is being provided needs to be relevant and interesting enough to the consumers. Reacting to an example earlier cited of a Pizza Hut mobile application, he asked why a consumer would bother to order pizza through an application, when a plain phone call would suffice.
Closing the discussion and responding to Ramamurthy, Almeida said that mobile applications should either save time, or justify the time spent on them.
Mobile Conversations 2010 was organised by afaqs! in association with Affle and 160by2.