Mobile Conversations 2010: Making mobile the lead medium

By Sumantha Rathore , afaqs!, New Delhi | In Digital | May 31, 2010
The panellists discussed what needs to be done to make mobile the lead medium, rather than the leads medium

The third session of the day, titled 'Making mobile the lead medium, rather than the leads medium' at Mobile Conversations 2010 saw panellists, including Satya Kalyan Yerramsetti, chief executive officer and founder, SMSCountry/160by2; Kushal Sanghvi, executive director, business development, media and alliances, StratosHear Tech; and Albert Pereira, director, business development (India), Phonevalley discussing how to make mobile the lead medium. The session was moderated by VS Mani, senior vice-president, general manager and head, Lintas Media Group Delhi.

Mani started the session by stating that mobile as a medium has grown. It has moved from being a socio-economic differentiator to a socio-economic leveller. The emergence of 3G technology is also expected to work in favour of mobile media. Posing a question to the panellists, he said, "Is mobile capable of becoming the lead medium or is it already a lead medium?"

Pereira said that the medium has seen many successful campaigns in the recent past. It has the capability of getting into interactions with the consumers and increasing awareness about the lesser known categories. "There are very few media that can have a response mechanism where you can actually know the consumer, get into a relationship with them and create leads. It is about going beyond the leads medium, which already exists and has been used by many brands." Talking about the less explored categories such as FMCG, "where possibly the money is to explore the medium," Sanghvi said that most brands, when they talk about mobile, are content with short code, long code and SMS campaigns only.

"Though things have improved for the medium in some ways, we still look at mobile as a part of the digital ecosystem. Mobile is not a part of digital media." However, now, it is largely accepted that mobile has the capacity to be the lead medium.

It's about time we talked about all the different exciting things on mobile, he added, which are not necessarily applications as the consumers sitting in small towns may not understand them. For such consumers, voice applications work; he also emphasised that the marketers should realise that the country is not made up of the population in metros but those living in small towns are equally important. "We need to figure out which brand can do what on mobile and therefore, can mobile actually be the leading medium in their marketing campaigns," said Sanghvi.

Yerramsetti started by saying that mobile is still not the lead medium and is lagging behind the other traditional media. He said that the government can play a crucial role in making this medium a lead medium. Opening of 3G licenses will increase the data flow and download application. "The government has also become very strict with companies sending spam messages, which will work in favour of the medium," he said. He added that since the operators have the profiles, if they start sharing it with mobile marketers, it can become the lead medium.

He also said that publishers are one of the reasons why the medium has not become the most important one -- despite the fact that they are the ones who have benefited the most from mobile.

"There is a need for a third party audit such as TAM for television. As we provide the database and reports, which can be fudged, why would a client trust us?" He also said that agencies do not understand consumer behaviour on mobile since it is still evolving as a medium. Television and print have existed since ages and the agencies have a better understanding of those media. "Once agencies understand and come up with a creative mobile campaign, things will brighten up for the medium," concluded Yerramsetti.

Mani said that if a medium is a lead then primarily, all the marketing money goes into that campaign to achieve the desired communication objective. He posed a question to the panellists and asked whether we have reached a stage where brands are actually increasingly using mobile as a lead medium?

Pereira said that at the moment, the money going into this medium is extremely small. "The advertising industry on the mobile phone hasn't even started to evolve. We are in an evangelising mode, and therefore, there is a lot to be done," he said. Though the medium is evolving, money wise it is not there. Mobile has the capability of providing heavy engagement to take a campaign forward.

Mani asserted that agencies look at advertising from a traditional perspective and mobile is different. It is about engagement and how one can use it differently.

Adding to that, Pereira said that mobile and Internet have changed the perspective of interactivity. "If one looks at all the traditional media, we have been developing from static (print and outdoor) to audio visual. The next phase will be about how to get the dialogue going between the brands and the consumers. Mobile as a medium is evolving and is all the media wrapped into one."

Yerramsetti was of the opinion that agencies and big brands categorise mobile as digital, "but that's not the case. It's a mass media". Citing the example of Monginis cake shop, he said that the brand spends a lot of money on mobile marketing, especially during Christmas and New Years Eve. "Small brands that do not have an agency nor are present too much in television or print can spend so much on mobile -- I think that makes it mass media," he added.

Sanghvi said that if one looks at how the agencies evaluate mobile campaigns, they talk in terms of CPR, which doesn't work for mobile campaigns. "We need to figure out if mobile can be measured in a different form of matrix. We follow Internet jargon for mobile at the moment."

"Even if we do SMS, WAP or voice campaigns, we report to the client about impressions, numbers and CPR. It is perhaps not the best way to talk to the client and that's the reason why we will always have to struggle when it comes to getting release orders worth Rs 1-1.5 lakh," said Sanghvi.

Mani asked Sanghvi whether there is a need for a different evaluation model for mobile campaigns. Sanghvi replied that there is a clear demand for a lot of introspection. Large companies need to sit down together and look at different ways in which the expertise of mobile marketers can be used to their advantage. "Advertising is just a single dot of this overall income." He also emphasised on the need to have more sophisticated data to make mobile marketing look more appealing to the agencies.

Yerramsetti said that the mobile operators presently have two sources of income -- subscription and usage fees. "They are happy charging for subscription only. Soon, a time will come when usage will be absolutely free -- like TV. That's why operators need to enhance other sources of income such as advertising for future news."

Pereira said that customized content on mobile is the need of the hour to generate results.

Yerramsetti added that it's not the agencies which can decide the fate of mobile marketing -- rather it's the consumers who have the capacity to decide it. Consumers can push mobile media. If consumers start using the media extensively, the agencies will focus on the content on their own."

Summing up the conversation, Pereira said that mobile is a part of the everyday routine. Brands need to have a conversation with the consumers at the right time. "The targeting parameters need to come from the operators and it will come once we show them the money."

Sanghvi said that sophisticated data and great creative work acknowledged worldwide can do wonders for this medium. Yerramsetti added that interesting matrix, innovation in terms of technology and engaging content, and understanding the consumers' behaviour on mobile would add strength to the medium.

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

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