March 30, 2007

DEMOGRAPHICS

By Yuszela Yusoff, BuzzCity Manager, Content & Community

In the last two entries, my colleagues have been writing about the rise of mobile advertising. This week, AdMob announced that it has placed 1.6 billion ads since the middle of last year. And the pace is accelerating – 600 million of those ads were made in the past two months.

Just who are mobile ads targeting, though – or who should they target?

I’d like to address that question this week by taking a closer look at the demographics of who’s using the myGamma service.

BuzzCity has conducted surveys of our user base via WAP. We ask multiple-choice questions and provide users with G$ in return. The average survey size is about 300 respondents per country. Here’s what we’ve found out. The average myGamma user . . .


• is in the middle to lower income group* (see note 1)
• has secondary school, trade or technical education** (see note 2)
• accesses the Internet almost entirely through mobile phones
• has limited access to computers
• does not own a credit card

Like many internet surfers, mobile networkers are using myGamma for two main reasons: entertainment and companionship.

27-year old “Liton” is a typical myGamma member. He works as an Airport Signal Man at the Sylhet Osmani International Airport in northeast Bangladesh. While Sylhet is a popular tourist destination, there are not a lot of flights in and out of the city each day. So when he’s not directing aircraft, Liton chats on myGamma. Away from work, he says he likes to bike to the famous Lakkatura tea gardens to enjoy the fresh air.







While Liton
and other myGamma users don’t make a lot of money, our market research indicates that they are willing to spend what they make. They don’t hesitate to spend on “lifestyle” items such as movies, music, arcade games, clothing, gadgets or a night out in a pub or restaurant. In fact,

• 30% spend HALF or more of their income on entertainment.
• 56% pay to go to the movies
• 16% purchase music (CDs and mp3)

This pie chart shows that the biggest reason for spending on these items simply to pass the time. Relaxing with family and friends is in second place.


myGamma experiences high traffic in countries like Bangladesh, India, Kenya, Nigeria, The Philippines, Romania and South Africa. These are places where we find the new power users of mobile devices.

Users in developing nations like these report the greatest receptivity to new mobile applications and services. Ringtones, logos & other content downloads have all gained widespread acceptance and as a result, mobile networkers prefer the latest mobile phone models. They want phones that have the memory and bandwidth to play MP3 songs, receive 3GP videos and access games.

And according to BuzzCity surveys, a typical myGamma member replaces his/her handphone once a year.

The rush is on now to create applications and services to tap into this target group. Applications have got to be easy to use though and bite-sized content work best due to the limited memory of many current phones.
The content that does best is culturally relevant and often in a local language. Take one of our partners, for example, a company called Jiwang. This service – which bills itself as “Malaysia’s No.1 Entertainment Resource” – is attracting a lot of visitors from Brunei and Indonesia as well as Malaysia. Its content is in Bahasa Melayu.

Advertisers use mainstream media to target PMEBs (Professionals, Managers, Executives and Businessmen). But with mobile ads, companies can now effectively target blue-collar workers, particularly in developing countries and in areas outside the major media markets. These users have demonstrated that they have disposable income and that enjoy keeping track of the latest products.

NOTES
1. In Singapore, for example, most of our users earn between S$1000-1500 (US$662-1000) per month. There are very few Singaporean myGamma users earning more than S$2000 (US$1325) per month.

2. India is the exception. Most of our users there have a university degree.


Kok Fung will be sharing more on WAP advertising opportunities at Mobile Monday Mumbai on 9th April 2007

March 15, 2007

ANOTHER BRICK IN THE WALL

By Andrew Lim, Vice President (Business Development)

Mobile advertising is becoming an increasingly important revenue stream for service providers – companies whose business plans have traditionally relied on content downloads. And as Hisham pointed out in his column last week, mobile ads are a great tool for extending a company’s reach far beyond traditional media markets, particularly in developing countries where such a large part of the population lives outside major urban centres.

So you’d think that China – where mobile penetration is linking huge numbers of people to the internet like never before – would be the perfect market for mobile ads.

Well, it would be, if not for actions taken recently by the country’s largest telecom operators.

Late last year, China Mobile blocked access to all free WAP services other than their own and created extra “road blocks” to discourage users from surfing outside the company’s own flagship portal, Monternet. Sophisticated users can reset the proxy on their phones to surf WAP sites outside the telco garden, but they now have to pay a high fee to surf these outside sites. And each time a user is detected to be outside CM Monternet, she is directed to a holding page and “reminded” of the risk of surfing outside sites as well as of the higher tariffs that will be incurred.

To further determine what a user can see and from whom, China Mobile has announced that several services -- including mobile instant messaging and music -- will come directly under the periphery of China Mobile.

Take the case of instant messaging. The most popular IM platform in China, by far, was a service called QQ, run by Hong Kong-listed Tencent. China Mobile “invited” QQ to collaborate with Fetion, China Mobile’s own IM service. QQ was paid a sum of money and given six months to transfer its entire database to Fetion. By mid-2007, the process should be complete.

China Mobile’s intention is clear. It no longer wants to be just a telecom operator. It is now a service-provider as well. We thought about trying to collaborate, but there are already thousands of local companies trying to get China Mobile’s attention. Only those at the top of the buddy list can get in the door.

China Mobile and its list of “white sites” are eyeing ad revenues. But we think their actions actually threaten the development of wireless advertising. Restricting consumer choice will dampen the number of users and thus the size of the advertising audience.

China’s Minstry of Information Industry meanwhile issued a statement condemning monopolies, but regulators have taken no action against China Mobile’s anti-competitive actions.

Meanwhile, China Unicom, China’s 2nd biggest mobile operator, has recently announced plans to impose new rules and restrictions on her list of Service Providers. This is likely to lead to a further tightening of her “walled garden” as well.

It’s worth making one final note here. Telecom providers like Verizon in the US and Vodafone in Europe also restrict consumer choice. The story in the media about these companies is that they are opening up. Verizon is offering YouTube videos. Vodafone is starting a mySpace service. But offering access to a select list of popular providers is not the same as equal access for all – the model which has been the cornerstone of internet growth.

There are so many services that users would like to be able to access from their mobile phones and the list of new content and services is only going to grow. However, if access to these services is dependent on operators being able to secure an arrangement with each service provider, it's not going to work. Keeping up with the pace of innovation is a hard enough task. Telecom operators should focus on building systems that deliver services and content that users want, regardless of who creates them – not blocking them.

March 08, 2007

MOBILE MARKETING - BEYOND SMS

By Hisham Isa, Vice President (Marketing)

Content downloads – the bulk of many a mobile industry business plan – are stagnating. In some cases, they’re even declining. The take home percentage for a mobile service provider isn’t very exciting either. Take the case of a ringtone sale in The Philippines. Retail price is PHP 30 (US$ 0.6). Market rate for revenue share is 30 percent. So that’s just PHP 9 (US$ 0.18) per transaction before royalties and marketing costs. In some countries, the percentage drops to just over 20 percent.

So what’s a mobile service provider to do?

Well, at BuzzCity, we have three revenue streams: membership fees, merchant commissions and advertising. The area where I see the most growth and opportunity is the third item on the list. And I’m not alone in this view:

"The full value of mobile marketing lies in the ability . . . to create more relevant customer experiences among more receptive target audiences," writes IDC vice president Scott Ellison in a report released last week entitled “The Potential Actually Exceeds the Hype”.

IDC predicts that the mobile advertising market will grow more than 25-fold from US$160 million last year to more than US$4 billion in 2011.

“Mobile marketing can reach billions of mobile users in the developing world on an individual basis for the very first time,” the report continues “and thereby create new markets and customer relationships for brands.”

At BuzzCity, though, we’re already running over a hundred ad campaigns. Eighty percent of o
ur advertisers are repeat customers. Ads appear both on myGamma and on 1500 partner sites. Here are some examples:

* Mobile agency Mobiclicks is running ten campaigns for clients targeting users across South Africa.

* Malaysia-based mobile I.T. expert mTouche are running a regional campaign across southeast Asia. They chose to advertise on a mobile platform because of the rising cost of traditional print ads.

* US-based Cellufun is advertising across our network.

BuzzCity’s story is not typical of the industry at the moment – advertising already accounts for 15 percent of our total revenue and should rise to 40% in 2007 – but we believe we are at the forefront of the mobile marketing wave.

The next wave of content is likely to be specialised information (bus schedules, cricket scores, weather reports) with huge public appeal, and this is likely to
attract the most ads.

You’ll notice that the first adapters are companies also working in the mobile space. Brick and mortar firms have been slow to adapt, mainly I think because media agencies are still overlooking the mobile sector. This will soon change though. Here’s why:

1. Mobile phones are the best platform for reaching people outside major urban centres, particularly in developing countries. This is a big driver in places like India. Mobile phone networks extend beyond the big cities into areas with poor TV reception and limited newspaper or magazine distribution. Mobile networkers also have a very different demographic than internet users (see Kok Fung’s article).

2. It’s cost-effective. We auction our ad space – similar to Google. The higher a company bids, the more
likely its ad will be shown. The average cost per click is 2 US cents for a campaign on myGamma, so a one-month mobile media buy for a regional southeast Asian campaign costs US$10-15k. Compare this with (a) internet ads or (b) print campaigns. Google ads cost at least 5-6 cents a click (popular keywords cost more!) A print campaign in a single country, Malaysia, is US$42k. That will buy you regional exposure for 3 months on a mobile platform.

3. Mobile marketing offers a unique one-on-one experience. With traditional media, the net cast is really wide. Plus TV viewers can take a break during commercials to go to the kitchen or toilet. Mobile networkers, on the other hand, keep their eyes on the screen. It’s easier to target content to them based on their preferences and usage patterns.


The biggest obstacle that service providers like BuzzCity face in this area though comes from telecom operators. In the PRC, for example, China Mobile is making it increasingly difficult (and expensive) for mobile phone users to surf outside of a pre-approved network. But more about this in the next blog entry from our China expert, Andrew Lim.

Hisham Isa


For more about mobile adverstising, join us at Mobile Content World Asia 2007, where Kok Fung will be speaking about global trends.