Dial M for money

Source: Mumbai Mirror

Firms dealing in value-added services tap into the 260-mn strong mobile market for niche marketing; launch ring-tone jungles, ads in SMSes and even Bluetooth marketing in malls

Vinay Dalvi

Mumbai: Urmila Sen, a state government employee, recently called her friend only to be completely shocked by a jingle: “Kya aap Close-Up karte Haieee…”

What Sen encountered is a pilot programme – launched by a Bangalore-based value-added service (VAS) firm OnMobile – to help advertisers tap the 260-million strong mobile market in the country.

“This is an example of using Ring Back Tones (RBTs) for ads, with the subscriber getting free SMS or talk-time in return,” says Pratap Bernard, head of marketing and products at OnMobile.

But RBT is only one of the many unique propositions that mobile-based advertisers are turning to. Cellphone users an also be enticed to receive ads at the end of free SMSes containing religious quotes, new updates or cricket scores.

Consider Netcore Solutions, which runs a service called ‘MyToday’.

The “free” stock market quotes or astrological predictions they send daily to their subscribers have a small, one-line ad for various brands.

“We deliver close to 10 million SMSes to out 3.5 million registered users daily,” says Abhijit Saxena, CEO of Netcore Solutions. “And we’ve advertised brands such as Colgate, TataSky, Birla Sun Life Insurance, Shoppers Stop, Big Bazaar, Sony, and even the IPL.”

At present, the mobile-advertising industry is estimated to be worth Rs 40 crore, but experts believe that new innovative approaches could push the industry to grow to a whopping Rs 500 crore by 2011.

In fact, research firm Informa Telecoms and Media forecasts that the global annual expenditure on mobile advertising will reach an amazing Rs 50,000 crore by 2011.

Another venture – stated by Anil Peswani, CEO of Equator Solutions – broadcasts ads to phones the moment one enters a mall, like High Street Pheonix, R-Mall, Orchid Mall and all of PVR’s multiplexes across the country.

The only requirement is that the phone’s Bluetooth needs to be up and running.

“If that’s activated, you will get all types of offers and discounts offered at that mall,” says Peswani. “We advertise at the ‘right time and right place’ – when the customer is on a shopping spree.”

Bharti Airtel also recently came up with a service named SMS2.0, wherein a subscriber needs to download software that allows him to create colour SMSes filled with emoticons.

Each of these SMSes would then have an ad automatically inserted at the end when the user sends them. But the user has the option to choose what ads he/she is comfortable with.

Even Tata Indicom has launched dynamic advertisement banners that accompany its Web-based mobile applications.

Not to be left behind, Reliance World has also carried various brand campaigns – including one for Cadbury’s and another for Castrol – on Reliance phones.

“With mobile phones becoming a very important part of a person’s life, we are very sure that if you advertise properly, they are bound to catch the eyeballs of consumers without any spamming,” says Mahesh Pratap, president of applications group at Reliance Communications.