Mobile Conversations 2010: Falling in place with the ecosystem

By Poojya Trivedi , afaqs!, New Delhi | In Digital | May 31, 2010
The panel discussed how brands could use technology and the customer data that lies with telecom operators, in order to reach their target groups

The second session of Mobile Conversations 2010, held in New Delhi on Friday, May 28, focussed on aligning the ecosystem, so that mobile advertising could be scaled much faster. Moderator Ramesh Krishnan, chief operating officer, 2ergo India, laid the agenda for the session, highlighting the five components of mobile marketing: telecom operators, media companies, brands, technology, and service companies and consumers.

The panel comprised Kunal Bajaj, partner, director India, Analysys Mason; Premjeet Sodhi, president, The Collaborative, Lintas Media Group; Andrea Stone, head - marketing, Comviva; and Vijay Sharma, founder and managing director, One 97.

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The panel discussed how brands could use technology and the large inventory of potential customers that lies with the telecom operators to reach their intended audience.

Krishnan pointed out that though innovation in technology has been ahead of users' adoption, brands and communication agencies need to focus on how consumers use the mobile. The mobile is not just a display unit; and brands and communication agencies must understand the goal of advertising on the mobile platform.

Speaking on who is the gatekeeper in the process and what stops brands from exploiting mobile as an advertising medium, Bajaj said that telecoms operators have to be willing to share the customer inventory, in order to create targeted ads. He said, "Telcos are not willing to take their customer data out in the external ecosystem."

Elaborating, he said that since telcos have direct customer reach, that data can be utilised by the technology company. Working in association with brands, technology companies could develop targeted messaging systems, based on the metrics and profiles of consumers.

Sodhi from The Collaborative -- the next-generation media planning-arm of Lintas Media Group -- focussed on why brands are not spending as much as they should on mobile marketing. "When the planning process starts, we don't start with 'This is the media and let's use it'. Instead, we first identify the consumer and then choose the medium that will work well."

He elaborated that what's missing in the communication process is that marketers don't know what sort of consumers would be attracted to what kind of ads. "Unless the ads are really targeted, they are intruding into life," he said.

Sodhi added that although mobile marketing is on the rise, the whole ecosystem needs to be aligned for the system to come alive.

Emphasising on targeted ads, he said that mobile is just not a product, but is more like a very personal commodity, "and we don't want to fiddle with anything that personal".

Agreeing with Sodhi, Stone further stressed that mobile is a very personal product; therefore, there is need for focussed ads. "Unlike television, where people can flip channels or completely switch it off, users do not switch off their phones. So, if I receive an ad on real estate, I most probably will get ticked off. But an announcement of a sale at an apparel retailer might get me interested," she said.

Presenting the viewpoint of technology and service providers, Stone said that as a technology company, Comviva is working on how to reach consumers. But she feels that it is not the mobile operators, but the brands that are the real gatekeepers, as they don't include mobile in their marketing mix. She said, "It is the personal property of the mobile phone that companies need to leverage on."

Defending the telcos' unwillingness to share consumer data, she said that they could not afford to do so, without facing a heavy lawsuit, and that "they are open to new ways of engaging customers".

She drew similarities between TV and mobile, saying that TV is an ad-based model and there is key desire for media owners to use the brand. Similarly, the mobile is also a subscription-based model and a sure-shot way to reach the target group. Therefore, marketers need to work mutually with telecom operators.

She reiterated that the factors that need to be leveraged about the mobile platform are that users can't walk away from their mobiles, and telcos have their location at all times.

Citing the example of the music industry, Sharma emphasised on mobile as a mass media to reach the consumers at little cost. He said that the music industry in India is struggling, even though music is one of the most sold items, and this is because telcos have made it readily available in almost every format. "It's just a matter of taking the technology to market and getting consumers to embrace it," he said.

However, he added that mobile marketing is not an open ecosystem, but a private one. Echoing the thoughts of Stone and Sodhi, Sharma said that mobile devices and networks are always connected to consumers; and the level of attention mobile receives makes it even more interesting for brands to advertise on it. However, due its very personal level, the mobile platform cannot be treated casually.

He said that there are just too many ways to reach the consumers; so, "brands need to create solutions to engage customers, and not just ads."

The two things that came out clearly at the end of the discussion were that first, due to its private nature, the mobile platform can be a very good medium for targeted advertising. However, in order to utilize its potential fully, marketers will need to focus on how they communicate their message -- whether it is regarded as spam or an ad will depend on who the receiver is.

Second, it is not a platform where marketers can work individually, but all the intermediaries of the ecosystem will have to work together to make it an effective model. For that, they will need to clearly define a revenue-sharing model.

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