The mobile industry’s enthusiasm for mobile advertising and mobile internet is still vivid. With continuously developing technologies and finally more realistic expectations, the two topics perfectly reinforce each other. Mobile, however, should be looked at as an advertising medium in its own right. If advertisers choose to regard it simply as an internet extension, they’re missing a trick. Mobile devices have much more potential as they are personal, inherently interactive, always with you and used in a different way to the fixed internet. In fact, the areas that are heavily used on mobile phones today have little to do with the internet at all. And thanks to new interactive technologies the industry is steadily on its way to increase its reach in the region. Asia’s mobile industry is one of the largest and fastest-growing markets in the world that pushes on and on for new innovative applications. With more than 1.5 billion mobile subscribers and an overall regional penetration of 40% the industry is able to demonstrate a healthy annual growth rate of around 30%. Especially through the efforts of Japan and South Korea the region has been moving boldly into next generation mobile technologies, be it regarding development, applications, or social adoption of mobile Web applications. So, to no surprise the forecast of ABI Research states that mobile expenditures in the region will hit $7.7 billion by 2011 and in general advertisers worldwide are expected to spend more than $19 billion on the platform in 2012, compared with $2.7 billion in 2007 and $4.6 billion in 2008. Indeed encouraging figures to read about compared to the numbers for advertising in other media.

Thus, Asian e-Marketing took the chance to meet three regional mobile advertising experts during the Communic Asia 2009 to explore the reported triumphal procession of the medium, namely Mr. Rohit Dadwal, Managing Director, Mobile Marketing Association – APAC, Mr. Mark Laudi, Managing Director, Hong Bao Media (Holdings) Pte Ltd, and Mr. Emmanuel Allix, Managing Director Asia Pacific from Pudding Media. The trio discussed trends and issues in the mobile marketing space in the region, the importance of consumer trust and how to develop this trust as well as the role of mobile marketing in the digital age and the impact of technological advances it

Rohit Dadwal is Managing Director for the Mobile Marketing Association’s Asia Pacific (APAC) branch, running the regional headquarters in Singapore. He joined the Mobile Marketing Association (MMA) in November 2008, having spent 8 years at Microsoft and participated in MMA activity as a board member. In his role as MD, Rohit work to build a sustainable ecosystem for the mobile marketing industry in the APAC region, promoting the MMA as the leading association for region-wide consultation on key industry issues such as measurement and metrics, mobile advertising guidelines, codes of conduct and consumer best practices. Rohit brings a wealth of industry experience to the MMA, with over 10 years spent working in the Internet and telecommunications industries, including the design and delivery of some of the early ISP services. He has spent the last 4 years working on mobile value added services, user experience and wireless technologies and has been instrumental in launching new products and services across the Asian and international markets.

Mark Laudi is the Managing Director of Hong Bao Media (Holdings) Pte Ltd. He is one of Southeast Asia's leading independent new media consultants. Building on a 14 year career in radio and television presentation and production – including as anchor and Sydney Bureau Chief for CNBC – Mark has shifted his focus to conceptualizing, producing and distributing branded content via "tiny screen" devices, such as the mobile phone, iPod and even PlayStation. The highly specialized pioneer in this area gives us insights into the unique nature of the new media, and why most new media marketing campaigns fail.

Emmanuel Allix is the Asia Pacific Managing Director for Pudding Media. In his role, he assumes the responsibility of the Asian operations and drives Pudding Media’s operations and business in the region. Emmanuel joined Pudding Media from GroupM Interaction (a WPP media investment company) where from 2006 he was their Regional Technology Development Director for Asia Pacific. In this position, he was overlooking GroupM Mobile Advertising activities for the whole region and has been working with various brands, telcos and technology providers to build a sustainable mobile advertising business, looking back now on 10 years in the IT and Internet arena across Asia and Europe.

The MD of the MMA told us that he sees the industry “really trying to work towards building the ecosystem around mobile marketing and advertising”. Elaborating on this, Rohit said: “Given the current economic times we are in, I think it is imperative the industry rallies behind the new media which is mobile marketing and advertising. There is a lot of potential there, the numbers speak for themselves. There is interest from both brands and agencies while the telcos are working towards it, as well as technology providers. Brands and agencies are increasingly seeing how they can leverage this medium, to flourish their business and penetrate the audience that mobile represents. What we are trying to work towards at MMA and with our members is to really help build that ecosystem, to make sure that there are certain standards and guidelines codes of conduct, consumer based practices including privacy and safety, so that this medium really takes off on a solid foundation. We are working with partners in the ecosystem which really represents telecom providers, agencies, handset manufacturers, publishers and even telcos.” Everyone has to play its part and “the bigger the pie, the better the share will be quite frankly”, Rohit added. “What we saw with the PC business is happening much faster with mobile”. Actually that’s how it has always been the case: TV took 20 years, the internet took 15, and I think this is going to take half that time.” Rohit emphasized the advantages of the mobile device again, namely being tangible, measurable, a very personal two way communication tool and beyond this, simply in the face of times, stating that “the industry needs to rally behind this and has to look at the best way to bring mobile marketing forward.”

Allix who is running the premier mobile ad network Pudding media and who has a strong media agency background (worked for WPP) reinforced Rohit’s opinion saying that “he’s absolutely right” and pointing out that there are more than 3 billion phones in the world, and only 850 million PCs. “Why do we advertise on PCs when there are 4 times more mobile phones?” he asked. Whatever reasons are behind it, the key point is that the industry could gain momentum. Being in mobile advertising for 3 years now, he told us: “I had a hard time during the first year. Nobody was interested then in having advertisements on a small screen. Now brands realize that this is not just a small screen anymore, this is a full screen. I mean, I’m sure it’s the first screen you see in the morning when you wake up. The importance of this media, which is probably in your pocket, is that it is always on, has fully charged batteries, and you can use it all day. These make this small screen very attractive for brands. There are a few reasons why it didn’t pick up yet, but we are actively developing solutions that now are very attractive for brands, besides the PUSH technology.” Allix also praised the MMA for putting some guidelines and some foundation in place to control wrongdoing and mobile spam, claiming that “having a strong leadership in the region is quite key for mobile advertising to become something.”

Marc Laudi: “Well the same obviously goes from the content publishing point of view. There is probably little that is more frustrating than producing content that people are zapping through as in the traditional television case.” Marc Laudi’s background is set from the traditional media. The former presenter at CNBC and prior to that at Media Corp Radio and the ABC in Australia said: “The thought that there are so many more channels coming through which are perhaps being watched by fewer and fewer people is disturbing from a producers point of view. Just think about how much television you are watching these days compared to 3 or 5 years ago. I’ve yet to come across anyone who says they are watching more TV now than they did 3 or 5 years ago. Everybody says they are watching less. And when they are turning on the television, it’s a DVD, it’s not even a free-to-air channel! Now that doesn’t say or mean that people aren’t watching TV at all, but clearly the shift is on towards mobile. And so from a producer’s point of view, and in terms of monetizing the content, you can’t ignore mobile. You have to be on it.”

Allix believes that the problem of breaking through to consumers has been that an old approach was used for the new media. “Banner ads are just display advertising online”, but crucial for the Internet’s breakthrough has been its ability to be interactive and having a dialogue as opposed to monologue. As these new options made the Internet invasive, a whole new industry to control the content and advertisements popped up. On the mobile phone this becomes even more important because it’s such an incredible private and personal device. Nobody here is openly displaying their mobile phone, we all have it hidden away somewhere. It’s our own personal device. Somebody asks you can I make a phone call on your mobile phone, you hesitate, whereas in the office it would be, “yea sure the landline is right there”. So, because it’s such a personal device, the content needs to be different. The advertising approach needs to be different. The feedback channels need to be different. The engagement is different. So taking the old media approach and transposing that on the mobile and internet, is doing what they did 50 or 60 years ago when television first came about. Have you seen the old television commercials, the original ones? They’re all very funny, because you’ve got this, well it’s not radio because it’s got pictures, and it has elements from cinema, theatre and so forth. But they took all these to create a television commercial. However, it took a while for television commercials to gain their own identity. So, we are in that same evolutionary process now and I guess that’s where the MMA comes in, to set the tone of it to a degree, but not to really dictate the terms to still keep innovation going.”

Rohit: Not everybody does TV, not everybody does print, so I am sure there is a segment for mobile advertisement and you really need to have the right product. Not everything is going to sell online just like not everything got sold on TV or print. I think what mobile presents is an audience which never existed before. For instance, a market like China, India and Indonesia, where the penetration of TV is 100 million, the penetration of all print-related media is 120 million, mobile is 400 million. A brand could never reach those 200/300 million users earlier. But there is a device now which enables you to reach the 100 million on TV, which is an engagement model coming out of TV onto your phones, from print to your phones, but another 280 million which I’m sure companies like Procter & Gamble, Johnson & Johnson, Coca Cola would like to reach. And it’s much easier to reach out as you can sit at one place rather than going all over the place, localizing stuff. What would take 2 years to market in a place like China is reduced to 2 months. Why would you not want to sell to those 300 million? So there is a different market segment all together. But what is the right service being sold? Are you going to end up selling a Toyota car to those 280 million people? Obviously it’s not going to sell, because the potential to spend is not there with those 300 million. But if you are going to sell a shampoo or soap, it is bound to sell. So, segmentation I think is really key and that is I think what is helping to drive the whole adoption by agencies and brands.  The mobile phone is a recent medium, its only 3 years old. If you start comparing it to TV, and see that it is not as established, it is not because TV is 50 years old. But we at MMA want to be certain that this time around, the mistakes that may have been made with the internet are not repeated, and if we can make those foundations, we believe that this business is going to be much bigger than what we expect sitting here right now. Education is another pillar that we are working towards. We have to make sure that everyone understands the value proposition of what mobile is.”

He thinks that the currently hotly debated internet fatigue comes from the fact that the market has to mature. You pick up a newspaper and there are photos on the front page, which are advertisements that may have nothing to do with you. You as consumers have gotten used to it over a period of 100 years. You go to the New York Times Online and you see an ad, you have an option to close it, which is an option you don’t have with the newspaper. The secret is to make it more part of the consumer. It’s going to happen, it’s just the maturity and the age of the medium that we are in that will help drive it.

Asked how to make sure that the user knows what is certified by the MMA and what isn’t, Rohit said: “The operators have a strong interest in making sure that this doesn’t happen, because at the end of the day they are the ones having the customer relationship. When you are charged for something odd like a SMS questionnaire, you are going to call your service provider. They will receive more and more of these calls if they don’t act on them. They are really concerned about it. Customer experience is a key concern. You’re not going to switch from one telco to another one just because one has a better mobile advertising program, but you will switch from one telco to another if they don’t protect your interests, your privacy, or listen to your complaints. They are joining MMA as well for the same reasons, because they really want the industry to develop, and to grasp the value that the industry is supposed to obtain. They really want a place on the value chain. They also want their users to be protected, and they have a lot of means to do that. A lot of them are not considering these bulk SMSs anymore, because that’s how bad advertisements happen. They are starting to know who they are really selling to. At the beginning they didn’t care, if you wanted to buy 5 million SMS’ go ahead, but now they are really concerned about that, because they are getting pushed back, from their own users. They say that if you don’t stop that I’m going to the other telco. I think telcos are key members of the MMA that we are actually pressing to join, to help build this. At the end of the day, talking about trust, the trust is actually with you as a provider. With the brands as well, I mean you won’t see the big brands being intrusive and breaching confidentiality, but the other factor that is really forging trust is the telco. This is because this is where you park your credit card for payments and all your personal data is located. So these guys also play a very key role in educating their users and making sure that whatever company they are doing business with, isn’t taking advantage of their users. That’s a key difference from the internet. ISPs don’t do that, but mobile telcos are all in that game. Trust is key and trust is what is going to help build the industry. Be it from a consumer preference, or a telco that is a gate keeper for all the data they have for the consumer, or the brand that is going to spend so much money. The advertising industry is worth 500 billion dollars, and it’s expected to have 3 to 5 percent happening on mobile. These are not small numbers but are in the vicinity of 20 billion dollars. Telcos know that they are going to get that money. Service providers know they are going to get a share of that money, and brands know they are going to spend that money. They all better be spending that money in the right manner to the right consumer, otherwise there’s a lot of money being wasted. So from an internet perspective when we look at it, trust doesn’t come from one of these 5 or 6 tenets, it also comes from consumers. Something that we always talk about and always preach as the 6 tenets of mobile marketing is really the choice the consumer needs to have. Consumers should have the choice of what messages they get, and opt in services. The consumers should have the control simply due to the fact that the medium is so personal. So, when you send a message out, you have to consider if it is of interest to a consumer to actually read through that message. Restraint is another key, because you have to know when to stop marketing. If you don’t do it as a brand or as an agency, that is when you crossover from marketing to spam. But lastly and most importantly, confidentiality regarding customer data is crucial in order to earn trust. You have the data of the consumer and if you abuse it, you know you are not going to get that consumer again. Trust comes from these 3 tenets. The MMA is in charge of building guidelines and codes of conduct with consumer based practices, which should help in building trust, too. And once marketers are aware of the trust and how valuable it is, they will not go out of their way to destroy it.”

Of course the spam problem came up during this discussion as well and all agreed that most probable in combination with free mobile movies, consumers would accept advertisements like on TV, too. Further, all panelists believed that spam is a very individual appreciation. Some people are interested in spam from time to time if it provides good information. Allix told the story that in India you even have people complaining if they don’t get a message when spam blockers work, as they think they are not good enough to receive the offer. Once again this boils down to the fact that it’s a very personal device, and one of the key things behind mobile advertising is targeting and personalization. So, knowing the user is imperative and also a key difference from the internet. “If I recognize your IP for instance, I don’t know if it’s really you, it could from a cyber café, an office firewall, or from your wife or kids at home. Only when it’s your mobile, it can be almost guaranteed that it’s you, as very few people share mobiles. If you follow up on advertisements in your SMSs, but not your WAP, then naturally I’m going to stop sending them via WAP. Or if you gave me feedback telling to stop advertising, I should stop doing it. Knowing who is behind the phone, and knowing how you are engaging your phone and reacting is a goldmine somewhere. It’s very difficult to achieve, because 1 to 1 marketing is seldom, but mobile is actually a personal device that can do 1 to 1 marketing. Radio, TV, print cannot. The internet was a step toward that, but it stopped with cookies being deleted. Mobile is actually the first media where it really becomes one to one. That’s a challenge because you have to be very organized and staffed to be able to keep track of users. However the winners will be those who understand best how to create interaction and to avoid spam. Please always keep in mind that you need a consumer’s permission and never forget the first tenet of marketing which is “choice”.”

Marc explained further: "From a content producer’s point of view, you know what happens when a company tries to reach your audience via you? They send you a press release and a press briefing and then they hope you’ll write about it - hopefully nicely. In advertising and marketing in general, companies are increasingly using the phone and the internet to bypass you, to bypass the journalist and reach the audience directly. The channels are there. Singtel has a Facebook group, as well as a number of companies. And so as a producer of content, what we’re finding with our clients, they’re not advertorial, we call it commissioner editorial. The reason why we make that difference is because those companies understand the need to be balanced, which is not something you really get in advertisements. In ads, the company is perfect and everything’s rosy, in commissioned editorials, companies are asking for the negatives to be included. They’re happy for you to point out the deficiencies, because it’s still within their controlled environment, because if they don’t allow us as content producers to point out deficiencies, the companies we work with understand that their viewers will not believe it, in which case it might as well not work. So you’ve got companies reaching out directly to consumers through the internet, through mobile with their own editorial messages as part of their marketing effort. And that is where it gets really interesting because that is where you find companies saying we don’t want to be seen as perfect. We want to be seen as having a dialogue one to one, even the best of dialogue, where we can accept what our product does and doesn’t do. So, particularly with companies that want to raise awareness of their product, educate about their product, not the hard sell, but the education part, understand the importance of balance."

Brand advertiser and consumer product manufacturer from the Fast-Moving-Consumer-Group (FMCG), have been the first that used the mobile successfully for quizzes/lotteries or on-pack-promotions to create a feedback channel for the dialogue between target group and brand. Now, mobile portals present information in the look and feel of brands on people’s most personal gadget. Still, according to our experts, the mobile multimedia adventure just seems to have started off – let the games begin!

By Daniela La Marca