Mobile Conversations 2010: Learn mobile marketing from Africa, not from the West: Ravi Kiran

By Kapil Ohri , afaqs!, New Delhi | In Digital | May 31, 2010
Of the overall interactive or digital marketing budget, marketers allocate about 1.3 per cent on mobile in the US and Europe and 2.5 per cent in Asia

As a keynote speaker at Mobile Conversations - a mobile marketing conference organised by afaqs! on May 28 at the ITC Sheraton, New Delhi - Ravi Kiran, chief executive officer, South Asia and emerging market leader, specialist solutions, Starcom MediaVest Group, came up with some interesting observations and opinions.

Citing the examples of some of the biggest success stories in the mobile space, Kiran said that they are not coming from the West. In fact, these are emerging from the African region. Justifying his point, Kiran revealed some figures on the percentage of interactive budget that gets routed to mobile marketing across various regions. Of the overall interactive or digital marketing budget, marketers allocate only 1.3 per cent on mobile in the US and Europe, and 2.5 per cent in Asia. Advertisers in Africa allot more than 50 per cent of their total interactive budgets to mobile.

It's amazing to see the way mobile marketing is changing the lifestyle of people and the social infrastructure and not just the marketing structure in Africa, he added. "I believe that we should take the inspiration for mobile marketing not just from the Western countries but also from African nations as well," Kiran said.

Kiran gave some examples to strengthen his point. "We should look at what's happening in the African market, instead of simply replicating the mobile marketing tricks of the West," he said. The Apple iPad is touted as a device which can become one of the largest mobile marketing media in the West. Extending the assumption to India, Kiran said that it may become a good marketing device in bigger cities in India, but doubted whether it will get success as a mobile marketing medium in smaller towns such as Sultanpur.

He said that we should look at the unique mobile marketing services offered in Africa. For instance, Vodacom (a company of Vodafone) launched an innovative service in South Africa, called PCM (Please Call Me). As per this service, a mobile phone user can send a free SMS to another mobile subscriber, requesting him to call back. The messages are funded by advertisers, who place text ads as footers under these messages. Vodacom subscribers get about 30 PCM messages per month in South Africa.

For the record, the mobile operator, Vodacom, offers demographic and contextual targeting to advertisers, who fund or place their ads as footers under PCM messages. The messages are priced on CPM or fixed cost basis. The company claims on its website that about 20 million PCM messages are sent every day in South Africa and advertisers receive a click through rate (CTR) of about 2.5 per cent.

Mobile is the only pan-African social infrastructure and not TV, print and radio, he said, adding that the way mobile is connecting the African market is becoming a case study in the world.

Another interesting point raised by Kiran was that mobile companies should not see themselves as just operators or telecom companies. Instead, they should reinvent themselves as media owners to flourish. He said, "It is my belief that the only way to solve the ARPU paradox -- which is going down -- or challenge faced by telecom companies is to reinvent themselves as media owners. You have the relationship with the customers, who interact or look at their mobile phones approximately 80-150 times a day."

Now, the question is -- do telecom operators want to use it to help marketing people communicate through it or do they only want to think about how many minutes consumers have spent or consumed on their network.

It will not be difficult for the marketing community to handle one more medium (mobile), which has just 17 players, as they are already planning communication across a few hundred TV channels, radio stations and print publications.

Kiran offered some tips at the end of his presentation. He said that a simplified language is required to convince marketers to invest in the medium. Mobile marketing is just another format of marketing. The principles of marketing are valid on it as well. He added, "We should tell marketers about how it can be used for marketing instead of talking or explaining the technology behind it. Also, we should encourage marketers to experiment with mobile marketing with scale."

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

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