11 February 2008

The ubiquitous mobilephone

We may switch off our TVs and our PCs, or leave them at home or at the workplace when we are done with them, but we can’t leave behind or live without our mobilephones. The mobilephone has become a part of our lives – an electronic appendage that stays with us 24/7.

A rough count says there are 2 billion mobilephone users in the world (that’s almost 1 out of every 3 persons); and, as far as handsets go, 1 billion mobilephones were sold globally last year. That’s a huge market! No wonder marketers view the mobilephone as a great advertising platform – a ‘third screen’, after TV and the PC.

In India, mobilephone users are doubling every 2 years, with an estimated 225 million users today. So, when people say that digital advertising/marketing in India will be built around the mobilephone, I quite agree. After all, the mobilephone is the most ubiquitous and personal of all devices we use today, offering a unique 1-to-1 platform for communication.

Then, why aren’t marketers jumping onto the mobilephone advertising/marketing bandwagon?

They are, but slowly. The biggest obstacle facing marketers is availability of technology – which, of course, keeps improving in leaps and bounds. Technology offers better handsets, faster networks, multimedia options, and targeting software to send customised promotional messages to mobilephone users.

Today, mobilephone users can not only receive broadcasted text messages from advertisers, but also location-based information/offers using GPS, and customised messages based on user demographics through mobile-Internet-brand partnerships. In this context, mobilephone users with Internet access are better advertising targets than the rest of the crowd.

However, the fear of turning off and losing customers, if users view mobile advertising messages as spam, has cautioned mobile service providers (more than brand marketers) from rushing into offering mobile advertising. After all, they have a lot more to lose than brand marketers who advertise on TV or on the Internet.

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