Mobile marketing: Not yet, but getting there | View Online Article

Whenever a disruptive technology or platform arrives, it is common for all and sundry to hail it as the next big thing, no matter the field. It happened in the IT sector with cloud computing and most recently in the advertising sector with mobile marketing. No one denies the immense potential that the mobile platform holds. Spends on mobile ads have been consistently among the fastest growing (as compared to traditional media) over the past few years, even in India, which usually lags behind developed countries when it comes to digital ad spends.

Earlier this month ZenithOptimedia released a report entitled ‘New Media Forecasts’ where it put emphasis on the importance that mobile will have in driving global ad sales in the coming years. The report claims that ‘for the first time in the past 20 years, a new platform is expanding overall media consumption without cannibalising any of the other media platforms’. The report further forecasts that mobile will contribute 36 per cent of all new ad spend between 2013 and 2016, overshadowing even TV (34 per cent) and desktop internet (25 per cent) while leapfrogging radio, magazines and outdoor to become the world’s fourth-largest medium by 2016 globally.


However, one important thing to note is that the ZenithOptimedia survey did not cover the Indian market, though a related report by the same company does project that overall advertising growth for BRIC nations will slow down from an average growth of 15.8 per cent in the previous decade to an average growth of 9.5 per cent a year over the next three years. Of course, surveys carried out by other corporations have themselves painted a rosy picture for mobile marketing in India. So, is the ‘Year Of The Mobile’ finally upon us? Are we in for a surprise in the next couple of years?


Currently, the Indian advertising pie is largely dominated by print, which, according to the PITCH Madison Media Advertising Outlook 2013 accounted for 41.7 per cent of total ad spends in 2012. This was closely followed by TV at 40 per cent with internet, outdoor and radio making up the numbers with 8 per cent, 6.5 per cent and 3.2 per cent shares respectively. Even if digital and mobile marketing continue to grow faster (as is the case right now) than other media, it will still take something remarkable for them to catch up with print and TV spending in the next couple of years.


Can mobile eat into the TV pie?
Madan Sanglikar, Co-founder and MD of ad2c feels that to expect digital advertising (including mobile, which is usually considered a sub-set of digital) to outgrow TV in India is “preposterous”.  According to him, it is more likely that digital spending will overtake print since print ad spending is dropping. “Digital advertising growth will coincide with a drop of print advertising. When it comes to mobile and digital advertising, we need to see it (ad spends) first outgrow magazine ads and then print as a whole. TV is the last frontier,” he said. He further added that though mobile advertising will definitely see growth in 2014, he does not expect it to be anything radical.


Sanjay Mehta, Joint CEO of social media marketing company, Social Wavelength agrees that mobile marketing will lead in terms of percentage growth followed by social and digital. But, he cautions that as a whole, it is still too early for new media advertising (mobile, social and digital) to overtake traditional media. “We have come from times when new media was getting just 2-3 per cent of the total spends. From that point, to the point of overtaking traditional media, is a long way off. However, we do see specific clients, either owing to their category (IT, BFSI, auto, etc.) or due to their personal experience out of initial experiments, betting very big on digital and social. We have seen cases where digital and social has reached levels of 40-50 per cent of the marketing spends for such companies,” he added.


Narayan Murthy Ivaturi, Director – Global Sales and Strategy,, is a bit more optimistic. According to him, 2014 will be the year when mobile marketing will officially be recognised as a medium for ‘reach’, with a huge surge of growth being led by the mobile platform. However, even he doesn’t expect the mobile platform to eat into the marketshare of other platforms. “India is a market driven by sentiment, not data. Over the next couple of years, additional budgets might get allocated to newer platforms but I don’t expect brands to cut back on their traditional marketing spends. If a brand is spending ‘x’ amount on traditional media, it might add a further ‘y’ amount to its marketing budget which might go to other media like digital and mobile,” he said. The growth opportunity, he says, will be in the blurring of mobile and online and whether advertisers bring money usually reserved for video spends on TV to the mobile.


This sense of cautious optimism is understandable. The mobile medium is relatively new for Indian brands and though many are making heavy use of it for their campaigns, issues regarding campaign tracking and relevant data are also a hindrance. Another reason is that most agencies do not understand the need for content which is specific to the mobile platform and not just an extension of the Internet. As Sanglikar puts it, the potential has always been there, but the reality has also been always very different.


It all comes down to innovation
The biggest differentiator will be the level of innovation that each medium offers and how agencies and marketers take advantage of it.  And, clearly, in this case, the mobile platform (even digital and social media for that matter) has a huge advantage over television or print, not only in India but globally. Says Shivam Srivastava, Director and Business Development, Vdopia, “Mobile revenues at Vdopia have shown double digit growth in last couple of years; in fact, mobile growth has been so good that it has already created an ecosystem inside the digital spend ecosystem. TV is not innovating enough in India whereas mobile and social go hand in hand when it comes to consumption and interactivity.”


The emergence of better smartphones and mobile internet is obviously what most advertisers are counting on to fuel the growth of mobile marketing. Srivastava, like Ivaturi, concurs that video on the mobile will be a big growth driver and this will only improve as mobile technology keeps improving every year. However, he also points out the need for mobile only agencies and trading desks, as seen in markets like EU, US and Singapore, for mobile advertising to truly take off.


Most certainly, mobile marketing is not ready to challenge print and TV in terms of ad spends currently and it might probably take well beyond 2016 for it to catch up and overtake other media, but the ‘Year Of The Mobile’ is definitely coming.