Mobile advertising: Europe remains behind the curve

The past 18 months have been tough for the advertising industry as the major brands implemented savage cost cuts to preserve their financial status. This retrenchment has seen severe curtailments in TV, radio and print advertising in Western Europe, and has driven mobile-based ad campaigns off the agenda.

Despite the lack of mobile advertising budgets--although there are rumours that funds are beginning to trickle through again, the industry within Europe seems unable to move forward. The ad agencies still complain that the major brands have only shifted from knowing nothing about mobile advertising, to knowing very little--and perhaps caring less.

Operators, meanwhile, maintain they can provide sophisticated data breakdowns of their subscriber bases, but remain extremely hesitant about providing access to advertisers which could see their subscribers bombarded with unwanted promotional material.

The discussion could be complicated further with the likelihood of legislation being imposed on the number of unsolicited messages sent to mobile customers limited to a small few each month.

While there have been some successful mobile advertising campaigns in Europe--with BMW's text alert to their customer base on extreme driving conditions being frequently quoted, there is a growing admission among software developers that the mobile advertising business environment in Europe is stagnant.

However, these firms are increasingly looking towards Asia/Pacific as a region where brands and mobile operators seem keen to exploit the advertising potential. ‘Europe is lacking the will and initiative to make mobile advertising work', is a common complaint, while Asia/Pac, the Middle East and South Africa are noted for their ambitions to experiment.

Perhaps the issue revolves around advertising infrastructure.

Within Europe there are highly developed routes for brands to communicate their messages to potential customers using TV, radio or print mediums. Those involved are skilled at understanding the strengths, weaknesses and complexities of these long-established advertising channels, with mobile presently remaining outside of any strategic thinking.

Where this level of ‘sophistication' is absent, then newer and more ubiquitous channels, such as mobile, have a far greater opportunity to flourish. So, we could see Europe being educated by developing markets into how mobile advertising can be made acceptable and relevant to the mobile subscriber--a situation that is already underway with mobile banking.-Paul