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Mobile Conversations 2010: The mobile phone is a media device

By Kapil Ohri , afaqs!, New Delhi | In Digital | May 31, 2010
The mobile handset is not just a communication device anymore; it has become a media device as well

The first session of Mobile Conversations - a mobile marketing conference organised by afaqs! on Friday, May 28 at ITC Sheraton, New Delhi - focussed on how brands could use mobile media successfully.

The session was moderated by Sandeep Vij, chief knowledge officer, Mudra Group and chief executive officer, DDB Mudra Group. The panellists included Anuj Kumar, executive director, South Asia, affle; Sandeep Singh, co-founder and business head, Brand and Media Solutions, Quasar; and Shravani Sen, head, qualitative research, Synovate India.

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Kumar began by saying that the mobile handset is not just a communication device anymore; in fact, it has become a media device. Consumers use it not just for text messages and calls, but for consuming varied content.

He believes that a few reasons that have led the mobile handset to become a media platform are: reduced prices of mobile handsets, lower tariffs offered by mobile operators, easy and cheap access to unlimited mobile internet and availability of mobile phone applications or widgets.

Kumar said that so far, marketers have exploited the communication part of mobile marketing; now, it's time to leverage the potential of mobile as a media device. On how brands can do that, he explained that marketers should look for seamless integration of their brands with the content consumed by users on mobile phones. Some of the ad formats that advertisers could try are: ad integration with voice-based content, adverting ring back tones (AdRBT), SMS 2.0, SMS footers, mobile internet banner ads and branded mobile phone applications.

Citing some examples, Kumar revealed that Maruti has integrated its ads with cricket-related voice-based content. Monte Carlo has used its famous 'The way you make me feel' jingle as AdRBT; while Sony has used SMS 2.0 to promote various shows on the channel. In Sony's case, when SMS 2.0 subscribers send text messages, they can view the Sony ad, and click it to save the programme schedule in their phone calendar; so as to set a reminder for the concerned TV show. Unilever has created a 'Be Beautiful' mobile application to provide beauty tips and provide information about their cosmetics.

For the uninitiated, SMS 2.0 is a text messaging application for GPRS based mobiles. Users can download this free application from the mobile operator's portal. Once downloaded, SMS 2.0 allows users to compose and send messages in a way similar to the default SMS application which comes preloaded on mobiles. The difference is that it displays a banner ad at the bottom of the screen while composing or reading a message, and a full-screen ad during the process of sending the message.

Vij asked Singh to talk about various brands, advertising companies or categories, which easily align with mobile advertising. Singh replied that out of Rs 60 crore ad spend that gets routed to mobile advertising, the maximum chunk is contributed by companies whose core revenue comes from mobile.

For instance, he explained, mobile value added service (VAS) providers including mobile gaming and application companies are a large chunk of this. The rest comes from FMCG and automobile firms. FMCG companies use mobile marketing to support, scale and bring engagement to their mainline campaigns; while automobile firms use it to generate sales leads or test-drive requests.

On how consumers react to mobile marketing, Sen pointed out that marketers should not overlook the traditional ways of marketing and should learn to effectively use the targeting capabilities of the mobile phone. She said that real-estate companies send SMSes, which are not even relevant for consumers.

Vij asked whether measurement of mobile data should come from operators or some neutral agency. To this, Sen said that neutral mobile measurement agencies would eventually emerge, although there are none right now.

Kumar stated that since the mobile ecosystem is complex, an independent neutral research agency is necessary for mobile marketing to grow. He added that though mobile operators have a lot of consumer data, they may not share some data as it might be crucial to them. Sen pointed out that as in the case of other mediums, mobile marketing players could come together to create a neutral measurement agency.

Another interesting point raised by Kumar in his presentation was that the mobile medium is very different from the internet or online medium. Other than a few similarities with the internet, the mobile medium is more like radio, TV and newspaper. Like the internet, it has interactivity. But unlike it, the mobile medium has vast reach and has the potential to engage users with voice or other formats.

When the discussion was opened to the audience for questions, one of the audience members asked how consumers registered with the do-not-disturb (DND) directory could be targeted. One of the panellists replied that it was good for the mobile marketing industry, if more people register for DND service. He added that mobile advertising is not just bulk SMS or push marketing. It is about mobile content consumption, where advertisers can contextually plug their brands with the content. Thus, in such a case, agencies or marketers should try to engage users with mobile applications or other creative content.

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