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The mobile messenger

business Updated: Oct 02, 2007 21:00 IST
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Richard Humphreys, Chairman - Non Executive, Affle, UK, and a past President of Saatchi & Saatchi Worldwide, spoke to Hindustan Times about the launch of the all-new SMS2.0 and the scope of mobile phone advertising globally and in India. Excerpts:

What is Affle all about?

Affle is a company focused on making mobile media a reality. We do it by offering services which users value. As a company we are clearly driven by two rules: the consumer rules and the fact that innovation is a must. Affle currently operates in five countries – the UK, India, Singapore, Malaysia, and USA. We are in the process of strategically expanding to other top mobile markets including Japan, China, Korea, Philippines, Hong Kong, Australia, New Zealand, Thailand, Taiwan and Indonesia. Affle has already established strong partnerships with leading mobile network operators, original equipment manufacturers, content providers, media agencies, and advertisers, across various geographies. Some of Affle's partners in India include: Airtel, Indiatimes, Cricinfo, Jagran Digital and several advertisers who have validated our revenue model.

What is SMS2.0 (application powered by Affle)?

SMS2.0 is an upgrade to the existing SMS application which comes to users at no additional cost. It offers users a much better SMSing experience. As the application resides as the default SMS application on the phone, there is no additional user training required— the user would take the usual actions to launch his SMS application.

However, he now has options to personalise his SMS with colours and emoticons, and he also gets free access to his chosen content categories when the message is getting sent. This is usually the time when the user is still looking at the handset, and we thus leverage this eyeball-assured media to deliver more value to users.

What are the media trends that will rock advertising?

In today's scenario, where consumers come in contact with brands at various levels, it only becomes pertinent for advertisers to adopt innovative, aggressive ways to cut through the ad clutter or ad fatigue of modern life. Hence, effective advertising would need to be contextual to the user, and merge with his lifestyle/media consumption. The dividing line between content and advertising is already blurring, and going forward it would blur even more. Thus, user-created advertising, social networking, blogging and mobile marketing would definitely be areas which would rock advertising in the short term.

How is mobile media an effective advertising medium?

The mobile phone today is the most widely carried electronic device and the only device carried to the point of purchase. Also personal and identifiable, it is a great platform for a brand to communicate and engage with the audience. However, like with any media, advertising on the mobile phone has to be delivered in an environment which users enjoy. Thus, services that offer scalability and user focus are the ones which will emerge as frontrunners in the mobile marketing arena.

How will this mobile media space grow in the future?

Analysts worldwide predict that this market will boom very fast. Given what Affle has created, we believe that we could significantly push these numbers further north.

The case of India is unique, as most Indians are estimated to have their first internet experience on the mobile. Given the growing reach of mobile phones in India and their advantages as an advertising medium, we could see this medium overtaking a lot of growing and established media in the next three-to-five years.

In India, they are finalising a law whereby prior permission is necessary for sending SMSs. Your views on this?

We really welcome this move as this will help the industry evolve to a level where users would not be spammed. It will also help applications like SMS2.0 which are very user-focused, and where minimal advertising is blended with an enhanced content and personalisation experience.

Thus, like most established media, this move will help evolve mobile advertising to be non-intrusive and permission-based, which is great to enable sustainable growth for the industry.