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With mobile, context is king

Published: 30 November 2011

Mobile is one of the most powerful advertising channels available. In fact, it could even be argued that it has the potential to be more effective than your traditional forms of advertising because your cell phone never leaves your side.

By Darren Gilbert

Mobile is one of the most powerful advertising channels available. In fact, it could even be argued that it has the potential to be more effective than your traditional forms of advertising because your cell phone never leaves your side. While newspapers, magazines and televisions are switched off, your phone is the only device that remains on and ready to receive information. Add to this the fact that today, according to Nielsen, more South Africans use cellphones than radio, TV or personal computers, and you will understand the opportunities that it offers.

In the past 10 years, mobile usage among adults in the country ballooned from 17% to an impressive 76% in 2010, while South Africa ranks fifth in the world for mobile data usage, ahead of even the United States. These figures make for impressive reading. But how do you go about making the most of this channel? What do you need to do to create effective campaigns? For Tim Bishop, CTO of Prezence Digital, it all starts with understanding that the people you are attempting to reach on mobile are the same as for any other channel. The only thing that is different is the channel.

Of course, with this change of channel, the behaviour of the user also changes but they are still the same person. Bishop points out that this is where problems and confusion can occur. Assumptions are made, including the idea that people are sitting in front of a desk with a big screen and time to kill. This couldn’t be further from the truth. “Whenever doing anything with mobile, the rules are different. Your audience is most likely outside or busy with something else rather than sitting at a desk waiting.” With this firmly in mind, it needs to be said that while content is certainly important, especially in terms of engaging with your audience; with mobile, context is king.

It’s a point further emphasised by Heike Meyburgh, digital strategist at Cerebra Communications, who adds that brands need to be strategic when considering their campaigns. “You need to be sure to create a mobile ad campaign that takes the context of the audience into consideration.” It’s all good and well creating a fantastic website but who is going to be able to sit down and sift through all that information? If you can’t answer this question, then you are on the wrong track.

So how do you get onto the right one? Together with context and relevance, Bishop believes when developing mobile campaigns – effective ones at that – it comes down to how your company defines the word ‘effective’. For company A, it could be about feet in the store while for company B, it’s about ‘likes’ on their Facebook page. Once you have these objectives and measurements in place, you need to understand your target audience. Advertising is intrusive by nature and in going onto someone’s cell phone – a personal device – it takes intrusiveness to a whole new level.

This is where relevance plays such a key role, as Bishop continues. “I won’t mind if you send me information about airline tickets as I fly often, but as soon as you send me something I don’t want, then you have gone too far.” Ask yourself if you want to receive the message that you are about to send out. “When it comes to mobile advertising, it’s not rocket science. None of it is. We all use mobile phones. What do you hate getting? What do you like getting? Those are the rules.”

However, for all this talk of keeping things relevant and targeted, rules are broken. Some might view it as spam. But it’s not the biggest pitfall that brands need be watchful of. Number one is that mobile is a space that can swallow money very quickly. As Cerebra Communications’ account manager, Julia Makhubela states, “Brands can throw money into the mobile space with little or no thought, strategy, messaging, outcomes or objectives.” If you want to do mobile, figure out your strategy first.

If something goes wrong with your campaign, it is too easy to blame the channel. But if you were to do that, you’d be focusing on the wrong point. It’s not the channel that is wrong, but rather the way that you use it. Which channel can literally reach 50-million people tomorrow across a broad spectrum of South Africans, from LSM 1 all the way up to LSM 10? There is no other channel quite like it because in our high mobile phone penetration environment, it is the ultimate channel. Now, you just need to use it.

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