Users 'welcome' targeted ads

With traditional mobile data services like SMS becoming increasingly commoditized and 3G uptakes remaining disappointed, cellcos in Asia are dipping their toes into the mobile advertising water with the launch of a variety of initiatives that help advertisers reach targeted customers via mobile phones.

Philippines cellco Smart Communications, for instance, launched last month a range of mobile advertising services to be delivered through a mobile advertising platform that offers campaign planning, execution and analysis across multiple mobile channels. The platform targets ads using proprietary algorithms and a user model that captures subscriber interests, attitudes and propensities across multiple inputs and matches them up to appropriate ads.

Meanwhile, SingTel has just started a month-trial involving 20,000 users that aims to introduce commercial services early next year, as the operator embarked on an integrated strategy for its mobile and internet advertising platforms. SingTel will deliver the mobile ad services across five different mobile channels - voicemail notifications, missed call notifications, location-based push messages and the Wi-Fi portal. In June the company also launched an ad-funded push email service. Customers receive targeted and interactive ads in exchange for free mobile email. 

Marc Einstein, senior analyst at Pyramid Research, predicts more operators in the region will launch different mobile ad initiatives, especial through the ad-funded model, to drive mobile data usage and uptake of new services.

'They [operators] know there will be some people who won't pay for 3G services and getting advertisers to pay for it will be an option to push end-users to use these high-end services,' he said.

Vijay Sundaram, co-founder and COO of Zad Mobile, which provided the mobile ad platform to Smart, says although mobile advertising is still in its infancy, industry figures show that end-users are willing to receive and view mobile ads as long as they bring value to them, and the ads or marketing messages are delivered in a 'non-intrusive way'.

M1 last month started sending unsolicited location-based ads to subscribers by SMS after a successful trial in October. CEO Neil Montefiore said, 'the advertisers were amazed with the take-up rate, and we were impressed that the rejection rate was just 0.2% [customers opting out].' He said the key was to have a tangible benefit like a special offer or discount.

Trevor Adey, CEO of Consilient, which launched the ad-based, free email service for SingTel, said his firm has found no objections to ad insertions from customers. 'The rest of the world is driven by ads, which subsidize services like TV and newspapers.' He agreed that campaigns works best when they have a call to action like a giveaway or are part of a discount.

Adey notes that advertisers don't yet know what mobile platforms are capable of. 'We're working with creative agencies to create more interactive ads as well as services that can track all actions and clients can change campaign parameters in real time.'

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