Txt the people
Mobile marketing is in its infancy as it struggles with usability, measurement and education – yet all bets are it’s going to be big. By Herman Manson
A lot is being said about the potential of mobile phones as a mainstream content and marketing opportunity. The numbers are impressive and, yes, the potential is immense, its supporters dedicated and eloquent and agencies enthusiastic.
But strip away the hype and numerous issues remain. Usability advocate and well-known author Jacob Nielsen, for example, recently described accessing content via the mobile web as “a cringeworthy experience” and compared the Mobile Web in 2009 to the Desktop Web of 1998. He notes an “abysmal success rate”, bad download times, sites not optimised for mobile browsers, design not suited to the medium and the list goes on.
He found that regular sized phones offered horrible usability to users, even smart phones got the thumbs down, and the biggest of the lot – the iPhone and similar – offered only “impoverished usability”.
Researcher Arthur Goldstuck meanwhile found that a mere 4% of Internet users regard the cellphone as their primary means of Internet access, while 11% of users use their cellphone for backup access.
Tracking data on mobile advertising spend in South Africa is scarce and local businesses active in this arena haven’t yet come up with a unified campaign that would educate marketers on where mobile could fit into their marketing strategies.
Yet in spite of the bad reviews, mobile is universally expected to help transform how marketers talk to customers (and how customers talk back). The launch of a new industry body, a local chapter of the Mobile Marketing Association (MMA), already signifies a new level of growth and maturity for the sector.
Rick Joubert, Executive Head of the Vodacom Mobile Advertising business and founder-Chairman of the MMA in South Africa, says the association was launched to ensure local industry alignment with global best practice, standards and formats and the creation of local standards for inventory types unique to the local market. The MMA also aims to ensure the development of a local measurement and reporting regime relating to the mobile publisher landscape and tracking of brand investment in mobile, as well as to ensure “consolidated and focused evangelism” of the mobile medium and education of brands and agencies.
Joubert estimates that in South Africa roughly R250 million is spent on mobile advertising (Rate Carded Mobile Advertising) annually. No figures exist for the amount spent on mobile marketing as a whole in this country although the Direct Marketing Association (DMA) in South Africa estimates that almost half of total direct marketing expenditure is now accounted for by mobile channels.
The opportunities are numerous and brands need to research which are the most appropriate to their target market before launching into the mobile space. Options range from mobile messaging to competitions, ‘click to receive’ email, coupons, videos, download content (like wallpaper) or enter branded mobisites.
If branding is what you require, research by US based Harris Interactive showed users will be willing to view ads on their mobiles in return for incentives such as free music downloads and minutes or discount coupons, provided they are relevant to the end user, and the subscriber remains in control of what they get and how they are profiled. More than 60% of those polled preferred ads to be delivered as text messages.
Mobisites themselves are very popular at the moment, but the number of visitors compared to the number of cellular users out there falls short of being spectacular. Two sites doing relatively well (it is early days, after all!) are SuperSport, developed by Yonder Media, which in January 2009 saw nearly one million pages to 74 000 unique visitors, and Soccer-Laduma which served a whopping 1.5 million pages to 85 000 unique visitors. The big operator portals, however, like that of Vodafone in South Africa, serve up to three million unique users per month.
Marketers should take care to approach mobile with a firm strategy in mind – this really is new ‘media’ – and you don’t want to land on the wrong side of customer expectations. Prakash Patel, Draftfcb South Africa’s Head of Digital & Interactive, offers this sound advice when it come to mobile marketing: don’t complicate it and be aware of how your target audience engage with their phones. It’s going to be their call, not yours.
Top 10 mobile sites accessed in South Africa (# of unique users)