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Overcoming The Challenge Of Cultural Differences With Mobile Advertising

comverse_guy.gifThe more than 6.7 billion individuals living in approximately 200 countries on six continents around the globe constitute a vast human mosaic. The differences between people are enormous: different countries, races, climates, religions, ages, genders, languages, economic and education levels, different tastes and interests.

And yet despite these differences, the fact is that people everywhere use mobile phones. In this opinion piece, Guy Yaniv, VP and General Manager of Comverse MobileAd, discusses how mobile advertising can overcome the challenges of cultural diversity.

Mobile advertising: adapting to cultural needs around the world

In view of the profound differences between cultures, not to mention enormous variations between individuals within cultures, one might ask whether mobile advertising can adequately address the issue of human diversity in order to be universally relevant and effective. The wide variety of success stories around the world demonstrates how each operator adapts its mobile advertising to the cultural preferences and needs of its users.

Three selected examples illustrate the point:

Virgin Mobile USA – online surveys: Virgin Mobile USA’s Sugar Mama plan enables users to earn free air time by participating in online surveys, interactive commercials, etc. This may be seen to reflect the needs and capabilities of an affluent and literate culture with advanced mobile devices.

Vodafone Egypt – Free Call Me SMS: Vodafone Egypt accommodates the need for low-income individuals with basic devices to convey messages without paying for the call with their Free “Call Me” SMS. Now instead of calling and immediately hanging up when they want to be called back, users can send an ad-funded SMS, which is more acceptable to many users and more profitable for the operator.

Swisscom – Video Heaven: Swisscom serves the needs of interests of its market by enabling users on the go to enjoy watching videos of their choice for free with its ad- supported mobile video offering for video-capable handsets.


Conveying the most appropriate message to each individual

Mobile advertising is probably better equipped to overcome cultural and other differences than any other form of advertising. Some of the key tools and capabilities that make mobile advertising uniquely able to properly address each individual anywhere in the world are:

Intimate knowledge of the user/targeting: The unrivaled degree of intimate knowledge about each subscriber that the operator can possess includes: age, gender, income range, hometown and current real-time location, device type, usage habits and preferences, browsing and purchase history and more. While safeguarding user privacy, this knowledge can be used to target ads, delivering relevant and timely content to ideally suit each user. Everyone has an area of interest and will find certain ads pleasing; the key is smart targeting.

Incentives and rewards: Everyone is interested in a good deal. Whether a user is affluent or struggling to make ends meet, ads become more relevant when they offer users value. Tailored to culture and to user interests and needs, incentives such as discounted or free usage of phone services (messaging, browsing, downloading…), coupons and bonuses can focus the culture-appropriate and personal needs of a wide variety of users. Enabling users to opt in or opt out to ad campaigns helps ensure that users get only the type of ads they want.

A word in the hand – multiple channels: Whereas traditional advertising usually has a single way to deliver a message, mobile advertising has an unparalleled range of methods to deliver a message tailored to the individual directly into the user’s hand. Channels include: voice (eg visual voicemail, ringback tones), messaging (eg SMS text, MMS pictures and videos), mobile Web browsing (eg banners, interstitial pages) and audio/video streaming and downloads. Through knowledge of the user and targeting, multiple channels give the operator a variety of ways to get the right message to the right person at the right time – with full sensitivity to cultural and individual sensitivities and preferences.

Determining what works well – metrics: Mobile advertising is supported by highly precise tools for gathering, reporting and assessing effectiveness of ad campaigns (ad exposure, click-through rates). The scantily clad young women and rock music that are so successful in one market are anathema in another. Precise monitoring of user reaction to ads is one of the ways that operators can ensure that ads are culturally appropriate and optimally effective.

Political correctness and good business practice

Being culturally sensitive is more than just being politically correct — it’s also good business. Business is founded on relationships, and mobile advertising retains its value only if the relationship between the operator and user is enhanced.

Mobile advertising has the tools to achieve a high degree of cultural sensitivity and is proving itself around the world as equal to the task of meeting the very diverse demands of groups and individuals.

19.11.2008    Tags: ,
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