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Friday, March 02, 2007

Mobile and advertising - forget about one-to-one marketing

I've been having a spirited debate over at the Forum Oxford discussion forum, following on from Tomi Ahonen's blog post on whether mobile will become "the 7th mass media", displacing TV, Internet etc.

I think he vastly overstates the case, and that it's more evangelical posturing than objective analysis and prediction.

I think some of the biggest fallacies are around advertising & the supposed "personal" nature of mobile.

The first issue - what is the definition of "mobile"? Is it a normal cellphone, on a "normal" network? Is it a unique number, or a SIM card? A laptop with WiFi is mobile. The free newspaper I read on the tube is mobile. The radio in my car is mobile. Even if you say "mobile electronic devices that link to a two-way wireless network", you have a broadening definition. We might find that Rupert Murdoch introduces a portable 6-inch WiMAX tablet optimised for full-browser MySpace & Sky TV, is that "mobile"? If the Economist moves to an e-book or flexible electronic paper & you get content downloaded via Bluetooth or UWB or NFC.... is that "mobile"?

But the main fallacy is "One SIM = 1 Mobile Number = 1 identifiable Person". This is only partly true today, and will be completely false tomorrow. Sorry advertisers, forget about one-to-one marketing hype, it's an unattainable dream, which ignores technology evolution.
  • Firstly, fixed and mobile numbers are being blurred. A fixed number may end up on a mobile device, or vice versa.
  • Secondly, the mobile industry is pushing SIMs and mobile numbers towards non-personal, and even non-display oriented devices, like femtocells or PCs or even consumer electronics products.
  • Thirdly, mobile phones are being pushed as "gateways" for multiple users or multiple devices - almost like broadband modems/routers. I saw a device at 3GSM which pushes video from the phone screen to an external TV. So, advertisers, +44 7934 104943 might be a phone... or a plasma TV with 10 people watching. This data will probably not be fed back via the network.
  • Fourthly, the average number of mobile devices owned by an individual will grow exponentially. Cellular radios are cheap, so people will own a bunch of phones & other connected gadgets, with multiple numbers and multiple service providers, making total media consumption impossible to track.
  • Fifthly, and especially in emerging economies, mobile devices are shared, perhaps between all the members of a village
  • Sixthly, while anonymous prepaid users' behaviour can be tracked up to a point, there is much less "hard" data available about the subscriber
  • Seventh, people switch phones & operators regularly. There is no obvious & easy mechanism to port measurement of media consumption.

So, advertisers - don't believe the hype about unlimited, exquisitely-targetable marketing enabled by mobile communications. It's simply not true. Yes, mobile advertising will become very important, but it's critical to have realistic expectations which take into account.


Sravan Kundojjala said...

Problem with ad industry is it's still not matured to the point where it can target right customer at right place in right time.Most of the mobile advertising is also push based and doesn't care much about customer preference like web.May be once the platforms like Wi- max,OFDM(Sprint/Nextel will deploy in US soonly) comes then Mobile phone user generated content picks up and then viral advertsing can be targeted.But these things have good market in developing countries than developed.

Alessandro said...

I think that this is definitely true for advertiser.

I do not agree if the advertiser is the operator itself.

Being an operator you know what you SIMs are doing on your network and you even know on what device they are sitting.

Sharing SIMs and phones is not a practice that you will see in markets addressed by advertisers.

The fact that every single user owns several SIMs is true but, again, as an operator you know if a SIM is a silent one or not.

I know that most operators are not going to play directly in the advertising arena but some of them may want to that and they will have the power and technolgy to support such initiatives in an effective way.

Just my two cents.

Anonymous said...

Watch out for GPS-enabled personalized advertizing hitting the US next year. Korea and Japan are already there.

Anonymous said...

Hi Dean and readers of Disruptive Wireless

Thanks for mentioning the blog and yes, you and I see this somewhat differently, but its an honest difference of opinion and I greatly respect your views on it.

Since you took offense on the personal identity part of my argument, would it be fair to say, you find it reasonably acceptable that four of my five points of the mobile phone's supremacy are valid. That its the only always-carried media (we don't carry our TV or cinema everywhere), its the only always-on media allowing instant updates and alerts (not possible in a newspaper or a recording), its the only mass media with the creative tool available at the point of inspiration (we can't start to create with our radio or our a magazine). And it has a built-in payment mechanism, which can't be done in the movies, and even on the internet requires always a third party like a credit card company or PayPal?

I argued the mobile is an inherently superior mass media (medium) because like only the internet before it, it can replicate all of the legacy media, but it also because it adds these five elements not possible on any of the first six.

But lets discuss the SIM card and identity a bit more. Here you make very good points, many that I have argued myself, and you and I agree on many of these. Yes, 20% of all phone owners in Europe have two SIM cards or subscriptions, even in laggard America already nearly 10% of phone owners have two subscriptions.

It does not pose the same identity issue as multiple personalities on the web. It may not be perfect, but every time phone number +44 1234 456 7890 in Britain consumes a page of the BBC news site, that is definitely the same subscriber. Even if occasionally the same owner accesses the BBC site from the alternate subscription say phone number +44 9876 543 210

As to machines and their SIM cards, our car, our intelligent fridge and our electricity meter will not suddenly have an impulse to read the playboy site. While increasingly machines will have SIM cards (every tree in many forests in Finland, cows at some herds in Canada, pets in Japan and South Korea etc) - these will not generate traffic to media. They are subscriptions that can be ignored from the equation - FOR MASS MEDIA use.

I agree with you, this is by no means a perfect solution. But also, for the media brands, mobile is BY FAR the MOST ACCURATE measure of an audience ever. I would hope you could grant me that. Its not perfect (and maybe even the accuracy will decrease over time) but it is by orders of magnitude better than anything we had before. Don't you think so? Or which media has more accurate customer knowledge than mobile operators have of their subscribers?

Thanks for commenting about the blog and for the discussion also at Forum Oxford,

Your friend

Tomi Ahonen :-)

Anonymous said...

I wonder why none points out the opportunities of opt-in advertising?
Since a conssumer opts in, requesting for that or the other material, the problems of unknown unrecognized unpersonal messaging just disappears. you ask and you get, you don't ask-none bothers you. why not communicate that way?

Anonymous said...

"Opt-in" as a yes/no choice: may be ok, but for personalizing ads? Who will fill in questionnaires what they are interested in and if so, then these will be fairly high-level like "sports, travelling, ...".

Context-based advertising is so much more powerful for the advertiser and less annoying for the consumer. Just compare Google with normal banner advertising in the Web.

Question is how to do this "right" in mobile. I also see that the "my personal device" is the main use case for mobiles and thus an opportunity.

Shared PCs and user accounts have not prevented the success of Google either, and mobiles are more personal than PCs.

I think the biggest issue currently is the low usage of mobile browsing, so there is really not much money (yet) for advertisers to make.