by Imran Mirza
J ust a few days ago, I was travelling to Malad, the new hub of service industry in Mumbai. While waiting for the lights to turn green, I noticed a shabbily dressed person, with a broomstick in one hand and a mobile phone in the other. Was I shocked? Not really. Sights like this are common, not just in the metropolitan areas, but also tier II and tier III Indian cities where you can see farmers, doodhwala’s, postmen, even the humble housewives using a mobile phone. These people are joining the breed of new Indians who talk more and work even more.
As social scientist Shiv Vishwanathan puts it, “The mobile is to India what the motor car was to America.” And he is not wrong. India’s mobile phone subscriber population exceeds 300 million and is increasing rapidly every single day. This is more than the entire population of many small to medium sized countries. One out of every four Indians has a mobile phone. You do not have to be a rocket scientist to figure out the tremendous potential for advertising and reaching out to millions of Indians in different parts of the country with different demographic status.
Mobile advertising has a better reach than Internet or online advertising
Consider this; India has over 300 million mobile phone subscribers and just about 12 million internet subscribers. Even if one considers the total number of internet users in India, i.e. 46 million (32 million active users), it is much lower than the number of mobile phone subscribers.
Internet advertising or online advertising also has its own inherent limitations. People do not use or stay connected to the internet all day long, whereas mobile phones are always switched on and stay with the users throughout the day.
The cost of advertising on the internet through emails, websites, etc is also higher than what it takes for a SMS marketing campaign. You have to get the visitors to read your promotional emails or websites, pop-up advertisements etc. if you advertise online. With mobile advertising, you get a captive audience for your SMS, MMS, jingles, mobile games, mobile TV and other types of promotional content. With 3G technology now being made available to mobile phone users in India, the potential of mobile advertising will increase tremendously.
Leading the way
Realising the potential of mobile advertising in India, some companies have already started offering a bouquet of mobile phone services like news, cricket, stock market, health, horoscope, etc.
What I like about mobile advertising the most is that you have the flexibility of push as well as pull method of advertising. MyToday has managed to get more than 4 million subscribers since its launch in 2006. It would reach 10 million within a year at the rate of 300,000 additions in a month. According to Mr. Jain, over 100 brands have used the platform with more than 30% of them repeating the campaigns.
Another pioneer in the field is Way2SMS. They call their mobile advertisements as Mobitisements. Users can send free SMS to any number within the country absolutely free of cost. Out of the 160 characters of the standard SMS, 110 characters are offered to the users for their message and the remaining 50 characters are used for advertisements or mobitisements. Many such innovative ways of mobile advertising are expected to be used in the coming years.
The 3G revolution
Things are about to change forever in the world of mobile advertising. The days of simple SMS based mobile advertisements are limited. With the launch of iPhones and 3G technology, advertisers will get another medium as powerful as the television or even more. Users would be able to view high quality images and videos on their mobile screens. 3G would provide the bandwidth and speed required to transmit video mobile advertisements.
In countries like Singapore, telecom companies have installed sensors at different places like malls, retails stores etc. When users pass these places, they get messages on their screens offering discount coupons on products etc. Users can also enjoy streaming video clips on their mobile phones through a video call facility without having to download anything. This can be highly effective for viral marketing campaigns of movies or television programmes.
Another major application of 3G technology is video call back ringtone. Users can view a video playing on the mobile screen while making a call. All these applications offer a plethora of advertising opportunities for everyone.
Mobile advertising is the way forward
In my opinion, mobile advertising is here to stay. Innovative advertising strategies like the ones adopted by Way2SMS and MyToday can help brands advertise their products and services without being too pushy. In this age of DNC lists and legal proceedings against unsolicited marketing efforts, such opt in services can be really beneficial for the advertisers.
The reach of mobile phones in India will increase day by day and so would the scope for advertising. However, it would not be a cakewalk for advertisers. The challenge would be in developing and providing unique and interesting content to the users. Mobile advertising would face threats from issues like mobile content spam, SMS flooding, SMS faking and SMS spoofing. Mobile operators and advertisers will have to figure out ways to filter content and distinguish legitimate traffic before investing any significant resources and money in developing valuable mobile advertising content