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Mobile Advertising Was Hot in Barcelona

barcelona.gifOnce a year, the “who’s who” of the mobile industry flies to Barcelona for the GSMA Mobile World Congress – a week of meetings, presentations, and deal making. 55,000 attendees, 1,300 exhibitors, 2,700 press – its a big show.

MobiAD News was in Barcelona again this year, keeping our eyes open for trends and interesting new mobile advertising plays. Here’s some of what we found most interesting.

ticker_tap.gifMobile Ad companies redefining themselves as media companies.
There are a lot of ad serving companies out there, and it’s getting difficult for them to differentiate. Now, some seem to have realized that operators may in fact be happier to take on content with ads, rather than just ads. Rhythm New Media was one of the first to take this approach, by packaging together video content, providing it to operators with ads inserted. Recently Celltick has also gone down this path.

Rather than providing simply an idle screen ad serving technology, Celltick now offers a variety of content services which fit well on an idle screen, with ads embedded. The uptake has been good from operators, maybe this is the way forward for other ad serving companies. (note: we’ll have a full explanation and demonstration of Celltick in the coming weeks).

on_client_portal.gifMore focus on “On Device Portals” and On Device clients.
As reported several times, having an application on a subscribers handset opens up many more possibilities from an advertising perspective (see NRK interview, NRK demo video and MobiAd Opinion piece). But so far there wasn’t too much focus on this area. Now we are starting to see a lot of activity.

Surfkitchen is a UK startup that builds an ODP (on device portal) that recently announced an agreement with Medio. I also had a chance to see Communology, a company that recently built an application for Mercedes to introduce their new C series car. Once the application is downloaded, it becomes a permanent “Mercedes Portal” in the subscribers pocket.

web20.gifWeb 2.0 is meets mobile
There has been a huge amount of discussion in the online world about web 2.0, but most of the mobile world is struggling to get even web 1.0 things working. This year we saw a couple of things that struck us as truly “web 2.0 meets mobile”.

The first is a new service from Unipier, an Israeli company that provides policy management systems to operators. They have a new system which enables users to publish their entire mobile lifestyle into their existing Facebook page. A mobile subscriber can let all their Facebook friends know what ringtones they have downloaded, what sites they have visited, what content they have bought, etc. Privacy and content control is all managed by the subscriber.

And Unipier has another interesting service. One of the main reasons that Facebook has outpaced all the competition is that it provides open interfaces so many people can develop Facebook applications. To date, this capability has not really existed in the mobile world. Now Unipier has released a platform that enables operators to provide such open interfaces. Again, the big issue is privacy and control of data, but that is what the Unipier servers have been doing all along anyway.

ringback.gifRingback tones are taking off, and providing a new advertising channel
Ringback tones* have been a bit “below the radar”, they have been growing but without much fanfare. The uptake is actually quite good in certain markets, such as Spain (10%), Korea (60%), India (40%), but very low elsewhere such as UK (1%).

Some companies, such as LiveWire Mobile are now realizing that ringback tones can also provide new advertising real estate: when someone calls you, rather than the standard ring tone, why not play an advertisement? And if you don’t want to annoy your friends with ads, you can put together a “white list” of your friends, so that only unknown callers hear the ads.

(* a “ringback tone” is a tone that you set up so that when someone calls your mobile, they hear a specific musical tone, rather than a standard ringtone.)

pyramid.gifFocus on the “rest of the pyramid”
Traditionally the Mobile World Congress has focused on new services and products at the high end of the market (one stand at the show this year was featuring HD TV on a mobile!).

However, this year there was also a lot of attention focused on the fact that most of the developed world is already close to 100% penetration, and so the real growth will be in regions such as India, China, Russia, Africa, and Brazil where lower end phones will dominate.

The key point is that in many of these countries, mobile will essentially be the only means to access the internet. This hasn’t had too much impact on mobile advertising yet, but clearly these markets will be prime territories for mobile funding of content and services in the future.

And in general, lots of publicity around mobile advertising

  • Vodafone held a special press conference on mobile advertising, where Richard Saggers, global head of Vodafone advertising, gave an update to 30 journalists (see an in-depth interview with Richard).
  • There was a conference session “Mobile Advertising – Creating the Mobile Ad Break” which included Gary Roshak of Yahoo!, Alexandre Mars of Phone Valley, Laura Marriott of the MMA, Richard Saggers of Vodafone, Ujjal Kohli of Rhythm NewMedia, and Iain Jacob of Starcom Mediavest.
  • The Mobile Entertainment Forum (MEF) published a report that looked at the impact of Ad-funded mobile entertainment in the UK, and estimated a total value of £145 million in 2012. (see MEF press release). MEF also held EMEA elections, and among others, Thomas Curwen of Publicis has joined the board.

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