InMobi exec says now is the time to develop MEA mobile marketing strategies

BARCELONA, Spain--InMobi executive Richard O'Sullivan said senior marketing executives in the Middle East and Africa must begin developing mobile marketing strategies today, to benefit from rapid increases in the number of mobile Internet users in the regions.

In an exclusive interview at the Mobile World Congress here, the mobile advertising network's VP and general manager for India, Southeast Asia, Middle East, Africa and Turkey told FierceWireless:Europe that mobile advertising markets in MEA territories are set to increase nearly sixfold between 2014 and 2018, because of rising mobile Internet usage.

In the Middle East, O'Sullivan noted that marketers have "yet to shift a sizable portion of their budget to mobile," despite growth in smartphone penetration that today "hovers around 30 per cent" on a regional level and at around 60 per cent in the leading markets of the UAE and Saudi Arabia.

That lack of movement on mobile advertising means the Middle East "still has the reported lowest percentage of mobile spend (based on total digital spend) globally," O'Sullivan noted.

Forthcoming events including the Expo 2020 in the UAE and the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar "will be major catalysts for growth in GDP, and therefore with advertising heavily linked to this metric, a rise across the board is expected," O'Sullivan said.

The situation in Africa is a little different, he noted, because the region tends to have a mobile-first approach because of a lack of fixed infrastructure. O'Sullivan said the dominance of feature phones across Africa "translates to great potential for marketing on low-cost feature phones," as the majority of consumers "experience Internet connectivity, online commerce, and education for the first time through mobile and not personal computers."

That feature-phone focus means users in Africa are "very lucrative to advertisers."

InMobi research conducted in 2014 revealed that mobile dominates Africans' media consumption, accounting for 101 minutes of an average daily total usage of 6.4 hours. "Africa is definitely one of the most promising regions for exponential growth as the second-largest and fastest-growing mobile phone market in the world after China," O'Sullivan noted.

Nigeria stands as InMobi's largest growth market in Africa, O'Sullivan said, explaining that ad impressions in the country grew 60.9 per cent quarter-on-quarter. Tanzania and Kenya came next, with growth of 15 per cent in both countries.

"This is still a web-centric network, where 79% of total ad impressions are generated from mobile web pages rather than apps," O'Sullivan said. However, he also noted that app downloads on InMobi's network increased 57 per cent between the second and third quarters of 2014 and said a recent report by the company into app downloads revealed that "there are some major app lovers" in Africa. Users in Mozambique led the way, downloading an average of 8.4 apps in the third quarter of 2014, with Nigeria next, with an average of 4.4 downloads.

"The global average is 1.7, and the highest number we've seen in Southeast Asia is around six in Indonesia," O'Sullivan said.

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