Penetration of mobile phones continues to grow by leaps and bounds, and as prices drop and handsets get upgraded, there is also a steady gain in the size of mobile Internet users. While the total mobile population of India is estimated to be around 700 million users, the mobile Internet audience is estimated at around 17 million users today, according to several different sources. However, mobile ad networks like InMobi and BuzzCity are reporting growth at anywhere between 25 per cent and 40 per cent, suggesting that advertising on mobile phones is not going away.
For brands, the mobile phone is a unique opportunity, a mass product which is personal in user interactions. People relate much more intimately with their mobile phones and consume messaging more readily, according to experts. Reaching out to one’s customers in this medium is an attractive proposition, but the fact is that advertising via mobile is still not very well understood, and there are a lot of easy mistakes that can be made. A look at the top three mistakes that marketers make…
The biggest problem with advertising on mobile phones today is spam. Even genuine messages are associated with spam because of the overuse of the medium for blasting messages cheaply across a huge number of people.
Sandeep Singh, Business Head, Quasar, said, “The biggest mistake marketers should avoid is to spam the audience. Before signing up for any mobile marketing activity, especially SMS based, marketers should validate the source of the database and also the genuine opt in interest of the user receiving this message. While you may go un-noticed and scot-free from anti-spam laws, which are not very strong in India, you will definitely go down many notches in your consumer’s perception. The brand will get a serious beating for such intrusive advertising. The activity might give you a good return with 2 per cent response rate, but is still not worth getting into bad books of 98 per cent.”
Debadutta Upadhyaya, Vice President – India, Vdopia, said, “One would need to frequency cap and limit impressions to no more than one to two a day per visitor. Successful mobile advertising has a simple formula: keep it simple, entertaining and attractive/ smartly designed.”
Lack of Customisation
Mobile phones are not mass media. The numbers create this impression, but with the various devices and users out there, and the sophistication of data gathering tools, it’s easy to get things wrong by not creating customised solutions.
Singh said, “If you are serious about mobile advertising and are using WAP based advertising, there is no point in doing it without a good WAP site. I have seen many advertisers take users to the PC version of their website or have a click to call through banner ad itself. These will actually result in bad experience for you as well as your target audience.”
He added, “The reach is un-paralleled and is also growing at a substantial rate, but the mobile is still a personal device and can enable one-to-one engagement like never before. Make sure you use the targeting ability; slice and dice the audience as per their demographics, geography, location, billing amount, handset, service provider and on top of it as per the context.”
Dr KF Lai, CEO, Buzzcity, stressed, “Knowing your audience is king when planning an advertising campaign. But on mobile, not only is the user behaviour different from say, fixed line Internet, but the rural spread of mobiles is seeing a whole new crop of users. Many of these users, whether metro or rural, use mobiles as their only access to the Internet. The ad must be tailored to fit these different needs.”
Vdopia’s Upadhyaya added here, “Bland SMSes and vanilla banner ads fall far short of marketer expectations. 3G is already here, and it will enable both better ad delivery and richer, more exciting ad formats with all the frills and thrills that audiences love. These include finger-swiping video ad formats as well as interactive, customisable video ads that can be shared on Twitter and Facebook.”
All or nothing
The medium is new and people still don’t know what works. Going in with an open mind to the different ways in which the audience will react to a campaign is the key, and accepting that some things will work while others don’t is critical. Yet what can, and does happen, is a mobile campaign based on incorrect assumptions and incomplete data, followed up by a drop away from the medium.
Marketers need to be aware that their first attempts on mobile may well be huge failures, and must be willing to make small experiments first, to try and fine tune the approach which will work best for the brand and its intended audience.
Dr Lai said, “The media is fragmented (SMS, MMS) and so is technology (JAVA, Symbian, BADA, iOS, etc). Experimentation has proved to be cost effective for many as these do not need to be a major investment – start small. Experiments make sense, especially when used as a basis for developing a mobile strategy.”
He added, “The advertising market is relatively unsaturated and is inexpensive. While some tactics appear basic, the personal nature of mobiles means users tend to have high expectations. Campaigns that offer utility and entertainment can expect to do well.”
There is no doubt that mobile advertising can be highly impactful. But planning, careful experimentation and a thorough understanding of the technology are critical. Don’t just broadcast, but recognise the new in “new media”, and rich rewards lie ahead.