Gabey Goh
Oct 29, 2015

Mobile marketing in emerging markets: A tale of two worlds

SINGAPORE - Having recently signed a deal to enhance Tenthavenue's platform for mobile marketing in emerging markets, Anurag Banerjee, chief growth officer at Ozonetel Systems, explains the challenges advertisers face in such markets, and the evolving set of methods available to overcome them.

Anurag Banerjee
Anurag Banerjee

Ozonetel, a provider of on-demand cloud communication services headquartered in India, signed a deal to build the new version of Tenthavenue's Electra platform on 29 September.

Banerjee told Campaign Asia-Pacific via email that some challenges apply to mobile marketing in all types of markets, while others are unique to emerging markets.

An example of the former is the value that a consumer sees in the ad message or interaction. Given the broadcast and often “spammy” nature of much mobile advertising, the consumer experience is suboptimal.

An example of the latter type of problem is data access in emerging markets. “Even though smartphone penetration is nearing 40 percent in India, a large percentage of them do not have their data turned on. Most advertisers are actually quite savvy in knowing these problems and work around them.”

When it comes to advertising methods, smartphone advertising is often done best by either platforms such as Facebook or other audience platforms. DSPs and other commoditizing platforms are best used to drive price down, especially in emerging markets.

Non-smartphone advertising involves voice, video, SMS and USSD, which, Banerjee said, is huge in Africa. (USSD (Unstructured Supplementary Service Data) is a system used to send text between a mobile phone and an application program in the network. Applications may include prepaid roaming or mobile chatting.)

Other elements are also merging into the smartphone advertising space, such as ‘click to call’, incentivized purchases and voice-based market research. “The smart marketers are merging both environments effectively,” he said.

Banerjee believes that while most marketers are well informed, when deploying campaigns in rural areas, often the challenge is not one of feature phone versus smartphone knowledge.

“It is the treatment of the phone as a one-way instead of a two-way device,” he said.

The role of video is also not in question when seeking to engage consumers in developing markets.

“Video is awesome, and we are experimenting with compressed video technology,” said Banerjee. “Companies like Unruly have transformed the video medium, and India-centric companies such as VuClip have done an amazing job of creating value for advertisers.”

Boosting the ecosystem 

However the mobile advertising scene in Asia is still developing and could certainly be “a lot more elegant.”

“The race has gone towards price of impressions as opposed to brand fit, but many companies are making great strides,” he said, pointing to Inmobi and its Miip product as one such example. “We hope to contribute to the ecosystem.”

One part of the cloud communications telephony company’s contribution to the mobile marketing ecosystem is the recent partnership it signed with Tenthavenue, home to WPP’s ‘connected consumer’ agencies.

The deal will see Ozonetel build the new version of Electra, the company's mobile marketing platform specifically catering for developing markets.

Citing Mary Meeker’s 2015 Internet Trends report, Tenthavenue chief executive Sudipto Roy pointed out that there are still 3.12 billion feature phones globally, and yet most technologies focus on an in-app advertising based ecosystem for mobile.

“It’s for this reason, combined with the emergence of smartphone ad-blocking technologies, that there is a stronger demand for device-ubiquitous mobile formats and subsequently a gap in the market for a platform that can do this at scale with robust data, content-optimisation capabilities and measurement,” he said in a press statement.

“We are resolving that gap by improving Electra and embedding it with the ability to drive ‘value exchanges’ with the consumer, taking them a few steps closer to actual sales and loyalty than traditional approaches do,” Roy added.

The deal is in the form of a licensing agreement, where Tenthavenue pays Ozonetel to access the platform for servicing its clients.

It will also include the development of new features, and improved capabilities will be built on top of the existing Electra platform, comprising a single technology stack through which advertisers can deliver mobile asset formats through USSD, SMS, interactive voice response and compressed video routes across 150 countries.

Banerjee said the company does not work in the areas of in-app advertising where the need to synchronize across phone types and device types is critical.

Brands will also be able to utilise enhanced mobile marketing capabilities including:

  • Measurement of consumer behaviour and engagement levels in real time for a more comprehensive understanding of what content will work.
  • Consolidation and delivery of value exchange mechanisms, such as mobile airtime and talk-time top-ups to consumers
  • The delivery of personalised content and messaging to the consumer through an advanced logic engine
  • Multiple enterprise communication models to scale the offering to across all brands and categories of a company

Asked about content delivery offering, Banerjee called it the company’s “Spotify”—a content and personalization engine that focuses on voice and now on video.

“It can deliver millions of different pieces of content to millions of different people all at the same time,” he said. “Nothing exists in the non-music streaming space that can do the same.”

The system also supports contextual conditions. For example, Banerjee said, a woman who is 27, shops at Aurelia, and is a Tresemme buyer would receive different content than another 27-year-old woman with the same income who is undecided about her shampoo preference.

In addition he said the company is already started mapping people in terms of their propensity to purchase and their lifetime value to a brand.

The partnership will also allow Tenthavenue to integrate new messaging pipes to work with Electra and is also expected to result in the creation of new media distribution products which Banerjee said will soon be announced.

“Please watch this space as we hope to launch something before the end of the year,” he said. “There are messaging platforms that are very brand advertising friendly such as WeChat and our content personalization engine will work with similar platforms.”

Banerjee said the company aims to launch new innovations every few months as this will be a continuous product creation process.

“We are already rolling out some innovative technology like experiments with retailer integration outside India,” he added. “The roadmap is already chalked out for the next six months.”

The company already works with major brands such as Unilever, and was selected as one of the top 50 marketing startups featured as part of the Unilever Foundry event at Cannes this year.


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