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Can advertising on the mobile phone become big? People in the mobile media segment are seeing bright prospects for it, writes Ritu Tripathi.

india Updated: May 08, 2008, 22:21 IST
Ritu Tripathi
Ritu Tripathi
Hindustan Times

Aviva, Perfetti, Britannia, Nike, Levis, Pepsi, HPCL, GSK, DHL, IBM, ICICI, MakeMyTrip... What’s common amongst all of them? They have all tied up with Affle – which is headquartered in the UK and operates beyond that country in India, Singapore, Thailand and the US – to leverage its short messaging service, SMS 2.0, as a content delivery platform on the mobile phone to reach their target audiences through alternative media. Traditional media spaces are cluttered and saturated. Moreover, consumer connect is demanding a greater level of interactivity, beyond conventional “mass reach” advertising methods.

As mass reach messaging increasingly gives way to ‘marketing to one person at a time’, thanks to digital enablement, the consumer gets more freedom to choose what he wants to see, whenever and wherever. It also allows the consumer to interact and engage with the communication.

Vijay Singh, MD, 141 Sercon, maintains, “SMS 2.0 is a powerful tool, which will allow the consumer to filter and choose content. It will allow brands access to the consumer on the move and through the day, rather than having access to him during the defined peak-time viewing.” As the medium progresses, he adds, it will create a lot more interactivity and allow for the critical shift from “viewing” of messages to “engaging” with them. Explaining this further, Anuj Kumar, executive director, South Asia, Affle, states, “These are not new ways to deliver unsolicited ads on the handset. Our focus is to create media environments of value to the users, which in turn could be subsidised by minimal targeted advertising. This is a business model similar to a newspaper, where readers value its content, and the cost of access to this content is subsidised by the advertisers.”

SMS 2.0 has crossed 100 million advertising impressions, making it the largest mobile media service in India. As it is platform-neutral, Affle, which launched SMS 2.0 with Airtel in December last year, is in talks with GSM and CDMA mobile service providers to extend the platform across their services. In India, as the majority of the consuming population is young and getting increasingly digitally savvy, the SMS 2.0 platform as a strong advertising alternative cannot be ignored.

Backing the platform’s possibilities are the statistics. India is one of the top three mobile markets in the world, with over 200 million connections and is adding more than six million mobile subscribers every month, according to published data. According to conservative advertising industry estimates, current mobile advertising in India is worth Rs 40 crore and is expected to grow to Rs 500 crore by 2011.

Advertisers are very conscious of the opportunity. For instance, the Pepsi “Youngistaan” ad on the mobile screen this season plays on the interactive element to engage the youth. Says Sandeep Singh Arora, executive vice president - marketing, cola, Pepsico India, “Pepsi has been a pioneer in leveraging technology to drive brand connect. The brand has brought new, innovative and edgy experiences to its consumers, satisfying the need for the latest in the world of technology.” Using SMS 2.0, Pepsi invites consumers to share their responses and views on Youngistaan with members of other communities and SMS 2.0 users, “thus making the activation truly user-generated.”

Kumar says, “This medium offers micro targeting options and unmatched interactivity. Media opportunities are blended into existing user actions, rather than expecting users to learn new ways to access content/media. SMS 2.0 ensures that the communication spillover is minimised and the effectiveness enhanced. Thus, it works out to be much more cost efficient than traditional mass media and also the Internet. In specific campaign cases, we have seen SMS 2.0 being 60-70 per cent more-cost efficient than the Internet, which in turn is much more cost-efficient than other mass media.”

Singh insists it is a bit early to gauge the mobile advertising platform’s widespread acceptance, though he maintains, “This medium will have the power of changing the rules of engagement. Going forward, I believe, the usage of the cellphone will get subsidised by advertising communication. A consumer would get a lot more ‘free’ time on the mobile service. This will drive the numbers and ensure that the mobile phone becomes a brand’s favored media option.”

Ambika Srivastava, CEO, ZenithOptimedia, is also optimistic: “As people increasingly live their lives out of their mobile phones , it is up to us to offer applications that users find useful and even essential. Once this is done, there will be a natural fit for media planners to place messages. As phones become increasingly capable, so does the ability to push through increasingly attractive messages in the language we want.”

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