Graham Christie
Sep 5, 2014

An outlook on mobile: 2014-2018

In the first of a series of Q&As for my regular Mobile Hub column, this month I have solicited some very fine insights from PwC’s global lead for entertainment and media, Marcel Fenez.

L-R: Graham Christie, Marcel Fenez
L-R: Graham Christie, Marcel Fenez

Based in Hong Kong, Fenez is one of the most knowledgeable and influential people in media in the region, and he’s busy especially at this time of year, given the release of PWC’s Annual Media and Entertainment Outlook across 58 markets. I asked Marcel a few questions about mobile in APAC, and the future, as PwC sees it.

For PWC's Annual Media and Entertainment Outlook, being published and ‘roadshowed’ right now, you speak to stakeholders right across the broad media industry, and mobile seems very visible to all, what sort of mobile themes stick out in this years report?

That the mobile opportunity is now in sharp focus and is significant. Mobile comes up in almost every meeting we have with organisations, with an acknowledgment that it’s the consumer and their mobile behavior that’s leading real change. The key question being asked, is just how much attention, bandwidth and investment should mobile get today? The natural growth of traffic will ensure that mobile maintains a healthy trajectory in the short to medium term, however the rate of long-term growth is less certain, as this will be effected by the creation, adoption, and the effectiveness of industry metrics.

How would you characterise the willingness of digital marketers to exploit mobile?

Marketers are certainly very willing, but mobile is such a compelling, broad-based customer asset, that it is not just in the realm of the CMO. Mobile represents much more than a branding and advertising opportunity, and it shouldn’t be seen in isolation, however planning for and managing this broader scope requires organisations to adapt, and therefore this is challenging. In many ways the mobile opportunity is forcing a reappraisal of the role of the CMO.

How would you characterise digital marketers' capabilities, whether in-house or supported by partners, in exploiting mobile?

Marketers are learning as quickly as possible. Many are adopting strategies that are forcing change, others are more passive. Talent shortage is probably the number one issue faced, and the lack of it means that organisations will outsource and be comfortable doing so in the short term, however, it’s inevitable they will also look to, in the medium to long term, build up in-house capabilities in the areas that will make a difference.

What historical challenges do you now feel are being overcome?

Mobile as a marketing medium has been around for well over a decade, but what has been overcome in the last few years is mobile achieving credibility as a genuine channel. This is due to the adoption of larger screened smart devices, combined with transactional models and technologies.

What are the most important challenges you see in the medium term?

Really most of the challenges and opportunities revolve around the industry’s ability to manage and execute data-based business models, as data is the bedrock around integrating paid, owned, and earned media. Secondly, like any emerging medium, pushing creativity and innovation to meet the expectations of the consumer and marketer alike will be key.

Are the prevailing client/agency structures and relationships a help or a hindrance to growing mobile as marketing channel?

I think what we are seeing now is the emergence of new service type models and companies. As mentioned before the ability for mobile to support a broader-based customer strategy means that the roles marketing agencies and their clients have historically inhabited are not necessarily fit for purpose. Traditional agencies and services groups populated by them will need to adapt.

Why is digital comparatively undervalued and mobile more so, whilst traditional media is said to be “overpriced"? Is it simply supply/demand or more nuanced? And can this change?

Oversupply and relatively under-demand is certainly not helping, but any newer media is often seen as incremental, so it is given away or at least ‘underpriced’, and mobile hasn’t escaped this trend. It’s the least understood medium, so education, and improvements in analytics will need to recover the lost ground.

Should the mobile sector be worried or empowered by the dominance of Google and Facebook?

Organisations like these are often portrayed as the bad guys, but they are not in my view. In the end they have empowered the ecosystem, and much of the velocity in the sector is due to companies like Google and Facebook being bold and innovative.

Lastly what's the one recurring word on the lips of those that PwC spoke to about mobile?

Inevitable.

My thanks to Marcel for sharing these insights and thought starters. Go to www.pwc.com/outlook for more detail.

Graham Christie is CCO and partner of Big Mobile Group

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