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Mobile is not an extension of digital, say experts

10-December-2013
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Mobile is not an extension of digital, say experts

Consider this analogy:
Internet: ComScore::Broadcast: TAM::Radio: RAM::Mobile: _______

Even though they might have shortcomings, every other segment in the digital world has a reliable metric to understand audience behaviour, except for the mobile platform. The presence of the blank space continues to haunt the mobile ecosystem and the brands that want to use the mobile platform as a marketing vehicle. And this is just one of a set of unique challenges that the mobile platform currently has.

According to a joint MMA-exchange4media study conducted earlier this year, the mobile ad spend figure in India is estimated at Rs 300 crore in 2013, which is actually more than what had been predicted in last year’s report. Spends on mobile advertising are definitely increasing and currently, mobile advertising constitutes around 10-15 per cent of total digital advertising spends. But it is important that stakeholders identify and work towards clearing the hurdles as soon as possible, especially since mobile marketing is still in a nascent stage.

The problem, according to some, actually starts from a lack of clarity on the very definition. The mobile platform has usually been considered an extension of digital, driven perhaps by the surge in usage of mobile internet in recent years. However, it is unique with its own characteristics, argue proponents of mobile marketing such as Madan Sanglikar, Co-founder & MD of ad2c, who points out the difference in complexity between the mobile and digital ecosystem. An example, he says is that most of the discovery on the mobile is through applications with most people not even realising that they have accessed the internet.

Yes, things like banner ads, the darling of the digital domain, are feasible on today’s smartphones with their large screens, but the opportunities are much more. With the kind of functionality available to a smartphone user today, mobile devices can engage the user on voice, display, text, rich media, video with layers of targeting as compared to only display-led options in digital, says Narayan Murthy Ivaturi, Director - Global Sales & Strategy, Vserv.mobi. “From just movement or multiple clicks, the brand engagement can come alive through numerous intuitive engagement methods such as touch, click, drag, scratch, pinch functionalities; enabling consumers experience a brand in a much more human and relevant way than ever before,” says Ivaturi. Once advertisers and creative agencies start de-coupling mobile from digital and start seeing the unique opportunities that exist in the mobile space, it will lead to better content, which will only help the mobile marketing space to grow further.

Also, as we mentioned earlier, there is an absence of a single, third party platform to track the effectiveness of a brand’s mobile campaigns. In the absence of this, and especially since most brands don’t have their own systems to track campaign performance, they turn to agencies, which, according to Sanglikar, might not always be in the best interests of the brand.

Abhay Doshi, VP, Product & Marketing, Flytxt feels that what creates complications is the absence of cross channel tracking solution. “Most of the data available to marketers and brands is through applications, with more than 95 per cent advertising still done blind. One major piece that is missing is consistency of targeting across mobile channels. What this means is that when you consider Outbound Dialing (OBD), SMS, WAP banners, etc; brands have no way of knowing whether they are getting relevant audience across all these sectors. There is no currency of measurement across multi-channels,” he says.

ComScore has recently evolved its digital traffic analysis tool for the mobile. Called Mobile Metrix, it is currently available only in the US, but maybe something like that could also be used by Indian organisations in the near future. The stress on a reliable and standard third party metric is because it will help instil more confidence in the benchsitters; the ones who are still uncomfortable about investing in a platform that they have little or no prior experience of.

Perhaps the most pressing issue though is the actual data, which is ironical, considering the penetration of mobile phones in the country and the time spent by users on their phones. From online behaviour to demographic data, today mobile phones have become the largest source of data. No wonder then that the mobile ad spends are slated to grow over 43 per cent to reach Rs 430 crore in 2014. It is a potential gold mine of data and just the kind that brands and advertisers love. The problem though is that currently most of the data is too fragmented and concentrated in pockets. “User data in case of mobile as compared to the online world is very tricky when it comes to using it in advertising solutions. The better data you gather, better the utilisation of the medium by advertisers, which will result in better value for their spends and the overall belief in the medium,” opines Ivaturi.

The stakeholder that will play a very important role in the growth of mobile marketing going forward are the telecom operators, as they are the ones with detailed databases on consumer habits. Doshi stresses the need for a data management platform and calls for operators to come together and pool in their data, which he believes could “change the game.” Anurag Singh, Co-founder and Executive Editor at ad2c also underlines the importance of the operator, “Operators can contribute significantly by plugging in the demographic and device usage statistics and allowing ad serving basis these parameters,” he says. But given the cut-throat competition in the telecom industry, this does not seem likely to happen any time soon.

Meanwhile, mobile marketing continues to grow and perhaps, addressing these issues, might help it expand at even accelerated rates. Brands such as Samsung, FastTrack, Vodafone, OLX, etc., are among those that make heavy use of the medium. According to Ivaturi, even the realty sector is expected to be a big spender in this space. Hindustan Unilever (HUL) is another big spender on the mobile. A company spokesperson informed us that, among other initiatives, they do multiple mobile couponing projects across brands, which have lead to direct sales push for brands such as TRESemmé, Axe, Clinic Plus, etc. HUL had also recently held a two-day ‘Mobile Day’ at HUL with some key mobile advertising partners to help the brand teams at HUL accelerate their approach to mobile advertising. The company had earlier tied up with Netcore Solutions to carry out a missed call campaign to promote their Active Wheel detergent brand. This activity resulted in 3.5 million engagements media-dark markets of rural India.

Brands have shown their willingness to experiment with the mobile platform, it is now up to the mobile ecosystem to smooth out the rough edges.

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