Friday, April 9, 2010

Mobile Advertising- Does the customer have a choice?

Yesterday, I had the opportunity to be a part of the live blogging team at the Internet and Mobile Association of India's (IAMAI) 2nd Annual Mobile Advertising conference. The conference was a useful platform to bring together players in the internet and mobile business and brainstorm about how to optimize the use of the mobile phone as an advertising platform.
In the Indian market, with mobile phones being such an ubiquitous medium, and in some regions of the country offering more penetration than TV and the internet, the potential for advertisers to reach a large, dispersed and diverse audience is  immense. Being such a personal medium, users carry the phone around everywhere, and advertising messages have the potential to be more targeted, personalized and relevant to the consumer if advertisers are able to arrive at the right formula.

Some experts talked about how information about consumers through using social networks, subscriber information from network operators, mobile usage patterns as well as information from ISPs is easily accessible to profile the consumer and track their interests, spending patterns and even location. (The amount of information telecom operators have about us painted quite a scary picture!)
There were debates about how to deliver mobile advertising through creative campaigns, where industry experts pointed out the need to make mobile advertising more than just voice and data SMS blasts and saw the need for creative advertising agencies to enter this space. Others saw the need for information/ content relevant to the user to be available to download to make the medium most effective.

In all these debates, what seemed to be missing was the voice of the customer. In information age where consumers are bombarded with content and messages from different sources, should advertising on the mobile phone be optional? Is it even effective?
Arun Bhati from Ericsson raised an interesting debate at the end of a day of brainstorming about optimizing the revenue potential of mobile advertising. Citing the results of Ericsson's study on user attitudes  towards mobile advertising, he claimed that users were more satisfied when they had the control over the timing of the ad, and its content."Opt-in" services helped telco operators build a better profile.

This set off an interesting debate in the audience.
On one hand, the mobile was a medium, just  like the newspaper and the TV.  So, just as in the case of newspapers and TV, subscription to the medium meant consent to subscription to ads.
The other side of the debate ran as follows- the cost one pays in terms of a cable fee or a newspaper cost, being so low, meant naturally that the content publisher/ broadcaster, had to make up their costs through advertising. Using the same logic in the new media, Google offers its search service for free, therefore, is entitled to meet its costs through internet advertising.
But in the case of ads on mobiles, we already pay a heavy cost towards a) purchasing a handset b) subscribing to a network c) monthly usage charges. Therefore, why should telcos/ content providers be entitled to additional revenue through advertising?

Another debate ran as such- the mobile phone is carried around by the owner almost 24/7, making it a very personal medium- more so than the TV, newspapers, and the internet. Being such a personal medium, users consider mobile advertisements intrusive when they receive messages that they have not asked for. Therefore, it does more diservice than benefit for the brand when it pushes messages through the mobile.

All very interesting points. For sure, where a quick buck can be made, advertisers will jump in. But the most effective formula that takes into account consideration for the consumer's privacy, offering the best content to users and the most equitable revenue model between operators, content providers and advertising agencies, is yet to emerge..

What's your take?


  1. Great Summary Sneha. I'm yet to write mine. Good work

  2. I too agree that consumer's voice is not cared about. My write up is here:

  3. Hi its really very nice i enjoyed a lot to visit..latest mobile phones



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