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exchange4media's mobile advertising awards; The Maddies, were held last night in Mumbai. The awards celebrated the best work done in the field of mobile advertising over the last year.

On the occasion, there was a panel discussion on the topic - 'Mobile Advertising: From First To Last'. The panel comprised of Amar Thomas, Head (Marketing) of BlackBerry, Anuj Kumar, Co-founder & Managing Director at Affle, Antti Öhrling, COO at Jolla and Rohit Sharma, Founder and CEO of Pokkt. It was moderated by Ronita Mitra, former Senior Vice President – Brand Communications and Insights at Vodafone.

The objective was to discuss whether mobile advertising does in fact need to become 'first' and how can brands leverage the medium? Mitra pointed out that though the mobile user base has become more than that of the US, India still lies in the bottom of the list when it comes to mobile ad spends with just 10 per cent of ad spends as compared to around 50 per cent in developed markets. This was another facet of the ecosystem that was under discussion.

Kumar agreed that currently we are witnessing the biggest inflection in India when it comes to the mobile medium. Talking about what is holding the mobile ecosystem back in the country, Kumar said, "At times it is the natural inertia. The spends we are seeing are mainly from the companies that depend on mobile but anyone running a business knows that if 70 per cent of your business is happening on a medium, then the ad spends on the medium have to be proportional."

Thomas also opined that a reason for this could be that the mobile ecosystem has evolved so rapidly and grown so quickly that brands have struggled to come to terms with it. Speaking about the need for ad spends to increase he said that it was the prerogative of individual marketers to shift money from ATL spends on to the mobile. "With 4G coming in towards the end of the year and smartphones no longer an elitist tool, this will change drastically. You also need to create content especially for mobile instead of just putting content that from different medium onto the mobile," he opined. Expanding further on this, he said, "We see that most content creators just pick up what they have made for TV and put it on the digital platform. At times, we are in bad network regions or in noisy surroundings where it is not possible to hear things properly. Why are they not putting subtitles? You would have thought this is something basic but for some reason it is not being done till now." He further stated that the need of the day was for brand and content creators to start adapting to the platform.

When asked about his views, Öhrling preferred to look at the question of what is holding back the mobile medium from the opposite standpoint. According to him, in today's world, there are direct corollaries between digital and traditional media. "Facebook is the new TV, Google is the new print, Games and apps are the new cinema and banner ads are the new OOH. If you look at mobile advertising in the US, it is $50 billion industry dominated by FB because we give them our information. The second placed is Google because they know everything about us better than our spouses. Beyond these two the long tail is really long," he pointed out. His point was that traditional media likes newspapers are struggling because they could not adapt to the changing conditions and consumer preferences, which is the advantage of the mobile medium.

"TV executives in a few years will start getting worried about their jobs as the younger audiences are spending more time on mobiles than on TV," he warned.

Kumar also agreed that the more pertinent question was not whether mobile ad spends were not happening, something he believes is wrong to think. "I am saying that we are already a Rs 1,000 crore industry. The challenge is how to turn this into a Rs 5,000 crore industry," he said.

Sharma further justified this thought by saying that it was too early in the day to say that mobile has not been embraced since it has just been two years since we have seen the proliferation of the medium. "We are seeing that typical brand advertisements are taking time but there are not many options available for marketers. Mobile is the next logical step to the TVC. The challenge is how to scale up," he said.

Mitra then queried whether the quality and accuracy of data was a concern for marketers. Kumar replied that data on mobile is the richest of all mediums and is not bothering marketers. According to him, most brands are looking to increase their audience base without really caring about the quality of the audience so they are not really concerned about data quality. However, he agreed that certain brands are now realizing the importance of quality over quantity.

Öhrling further pointed out that contrary to popular opinion advertising on mobile, beyond Facebook and Google AdWords was not that easy since there is no standard format like in TV or print advertising; nor are there globally accepted norms. "You can do a lot for less money but you need to be clever about how you do it. Maybe people are so busy with work that maybe they do not want to put in the energy to understand the medium. Laziness is a factor," he stated.

Sharma made a further point that sometimes it is the agencies that tend to create the problem by overselling the measurability factor of medium which then becomes counterproductive. To this, Kumar replied that the problem lies because agencies tend to have a 'one size fit all' attitude. He suggested that it is better to have the right pitch depending upon the client.

Speaking about innovation, an interesting point was made by the panelists. Though agreeing that innovative creatives were important, they also maintained that in this medium, innovation also comes in different layers like targeting, measurability, post 'call-to-action', etc. and at the end of the day this could make a difference.

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