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Mobile Marketing Association Forum: Telco Data, User Base, Spends, MMA Office, It’s Complicated

In what was largely a preaching-to-the-choir Mobile Marketing Association Forum held yesterday in Gurgaon, where the opportunity in mobile marketing was highlighted time and again with different versions of the “mobile is big” refrain (context), I noticed one statement in particular that felt a little odd: Arun Sharma, VP (Marketing) and Head of Media said, while responding to a question, that it would be great if someone could combine the database that Facebook has, with its demographic data, and telecom operators like Airtel have, with detailed behavioral information, and a third party network like a Vserv (he said) could use it. Aside of the fact that Facebook will not give its database to a third party, this was odd because if you think about it, telecom operators have demographic information for more Indians than a Facebook does – in fact, even Airtel alone with 181 million mobile connections possibly would have more than Facebook would.

I pointed this out to Lloyd Mathias, founder of GreenBean Ventures, and previously the CMO for Tata Teleservices, and during the panel discussion that followed later in the evening, he said that the real challenge for a telecom operator is that this data isn’t very accurate – and while from a marketing perspective, this is a golden opportunity, it’s a challenge for marketer to clean up this data. There is, of course, also the issue of the do not disturb registry (and it’s hard to believe Sharma’s response that “all the top telcos” are not party to SMS Spam). Sharma had earlier pointed out that mobile advertising is an insignificant part of the total revenue for a telecom operator – “If you look at the total revenue, this is a drop in the ocean. It won’t be a key area. But still, every crore we eye, it goes to the bottom line.”

Some notes from the few discussions, presentations I sat through, and conversations that I had at there:

– Number of Mobile Internet users in India: The number people kept repeating was 200 hundred million Mobile Internet users. As per the latest TRAI data, its 143.2 million mobile Internet connections as of 31st March 2013, and the number of users are likely to be lower than the number of connections, and the number of monthly active users are likely to be even lower. So, to answer the question that someone asked on stage, about whether it is 200 or 250 million users – it’s neither.

– Many big brands are still mostly using SMS and IVR: while mobile marketing campaigns that make it to slides in conference presentations are about the mobile Internet and apps, the sense that I got from a few of the presentations and conversations was that SMS is still big, especially when it comes to FMCG brands looking to reach out to a mass audience. It will take time for the mobile Internet to be accepted as a medium for big ticket campaigns. The rate at which India is adding mobile Internet connections is hard to ignore (or so everyone who attended this conference hopes).

In the presentation that GroupM’s CVL Srinivas made, he highlighted Slice’s Katrina Kaif in a bottle campaign, where the central idea for the campaign came from the mobile team: they put a number under the crown in every bottle of Slice, and a few consumers got a chance to meet Katrina Kaif. In some cases, they got people to speak with Kaif as well. They got 2 million call-in’s. The campaign was marketed using TV commercials, online marketing, outdoor and mobile.

– Mobile Marketing Spends: The Mobile Marketing Association Forum (MMAF) released numbers for mobile advertising in India, pegging spends at Rs 300 crore (USD 45 million), at present, and expecting this ti increase by 43% to reach Rs 430 crore in 2014. A couple of senior mobile marketing industry executives (both sponsors of this conference) incidentally, told me that they think it’s more likely to be around Rs 200 crore. A little hype never hurts things, though, right?

– Device information: Ad2c’s Anurag Singh made an interesting point about targeting using the data that a telecom operator can get – Airtel is using information on 3g capable devices to market 3G. Samsung can advertise the Galaxy Note 3 to users who still have the Galaxy Note.

– We don’t know why the mobile spend is very low: mobile is the most underleveraged medium in the market, Srinivas said, and there is no answer for the question about why the spend is so low. Madhouse has created something called a Madplanner, which has a panel, like Peoplemeter (TAM), and they get GRP like data for mobile. “Clients in India need to be handheld for migrating from offline to online. tools, inveestments insights are needed for multiscreen planning. What will help going forward is that we need to get into audience planning. The days of buying demographics are dead and gone. On mobile you get to know a lot more about your audience -their travel patterns, their content consumption patterns. You get this from telecom operators. Once you build up a data stack, it’s a major enabler.”

– No ecosystem as complex as mobile: Srinivas said that there isnt an ecosystem in media that is as complex as mobile, with too many entities – analytics companies, agencies, publishers, location based services, apps, app discovery providers, ad servers, mobile ad networks, devices ecosystem, telecom operators, and many many more. It’s complicated.

– Affle’s $3.3 million M2X Fund: Affle and the mobile marketing association is going to incentivise people to spend money on mobile – they’ve created a $3.3 million fund, inviting applications under two categories: half the money will be used to co-invest money with advertisers, agencies and publishers for mobile asset creation and mobile advertising campaigns – Affle will add an equal amount to what the other entity is investing. This isn’t exactly funding, in my opinion, and more of a discount – another way of looking at this is that they’ll subsidize half the cost of a campaign. The rest of Affle’s fund will be used for investing in startups or existing companies that are investing in technology innovation and IP creation in mobile marketing.

– MMA Forum sets up India office: Groupm (through its partner Madhouse) is helping establish the Mobile Marketing Association Council in India. India will be the third market in APAC after China and Vietnam.

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