IPO-headed mobile value added services company One97 Communications and Capital18 funded advertising sales house and network NetworkPlay have inked an exclusive partnership to offer mobile advertising solutions to advertisers, covering Pre-calls, Incomplete Call Announcement, Post Call Notification, SMS, Voice Portals, Interactive Voice Response Out-bound Dialers, On Device Clients (Applications), Enterprise Solutions, Mobile Internet and WAP sites, among others, in India. Speaking with MediaNama, Rammohan Sundaram, CEO of Networkplay said that the partnership will hit the market with advertiser solutions on October 1st, looking to monetize properties created managed by One97 Communications with advertising.

Now questions have been raised in the past about whether the time is right for mobile advertising, and previous efforts by mobile services companies haven’t really taken off in India: Zenga struggled with advertising on their mobile video products, InMobi had to look international for mobile Internet advertising, and OnMobile’s much touted AdRBT has struggled to gain traction.

(Also read: You’ll Have To Wait For 5-8 Years For Mobile Advertising In India To Mature: Ravi Kiran, Starcom)

What will One97 And NetworkPlay do differently?

Vijay Shekhar Sharma, MD of One97 Communications, told MediaNama that just like IT firms couldn’t really do a VAS business, so is the case with selling advertising on Telecom: one needs to understand advertising as a business, and telecom as a media, and this partnership tries to do just that. “Every medium has to find its own space for advertising. We’re trying to find the best fit, and discover niche use cases. It will require someone to handhold of a brand to understand what can be done with the medium, with location, just-in-time capabilities. The maturity of the mobile medium is a couple of years away. Right now, it is about building an ecosystem which will harbor such capabilities,” he said.

Role of Mobile Operators

Sharma says that there will be a co-ordinated implementation with telecom operators: “technically, an operator is the publisher in this case.”

What’s On Offer?

Sundaram says that they’ll traditional brands who havent figured out the mass opportunity on mobile; it has the capability of one-on-one direct marketing, but there’s a bigger opportunity in brand impact, because the medium has not been accepted in that manner. “Lots of wrong things in how people pitch to marketers (i.e. SMS Spam); we have to change that pitch.”

Potential Deployments; Maggi Max Use Case

– Integrated campaigns with DTH: NetworkPlay has inventory on Airtel Digital TV (DTH) and Reliance BIG TV (DTH). Sundaram says that they will look to integrate these campaigns on DTH with SMS and WAP, with an integrated approach.
– Cross-Media Voice & SMS: Sundaram suggested that television channels can use the SMS and Voice Portal combination to drive up viewership and TRPs. For example, if a user SMS’ to participate in a reality show, an IVR call can be made back to the consumer, recommending that he/she not miss another reality TV show, helping the channel to retain the viewer.
– TV & Mobile Integrated Campaigns: Sharma mentioned a campaign they had executed for Nestle’s Maggi Max: a television advertisement asked viewers to call a particular voice portal to share jokes, and the best jokes were picked for television. The advertising was above-the-line on TV, and the interactivity was brought in with the voice portal. The numbers are staggering: in 21 days (10th March to 31st March), they got over 1.21 million hits, with 67,801 jokes were sent/uploaded in this preiod. “This was one a toll free number, and supported by above-the-line advertising from Maggi. The point is,” says Sharma,”that the voice portal is interactive medium for the masses.”

Experimental Medium?

Now the danger, for long, has been that mobile is just an experimental budget for brands. Brands try it, and move on to the next new thing after the campaign finishes, and the advertisers who remain, are those seeking leads or to close transactions (like games). Sharma defends the medium, saying that any person will keep moving on until they find what they’re looking for. “If a brand wants engagement and reach, you have to sync a brands expectations with the ability of the platform. If the need is met, the brand will return. You don’t take a minute to think that you’ll buy google ads to generate leads.”

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