SINGAPORE--Telcos and ad agencies in the region should band together to measure mobile media in a standardized manner, in order to improve advertiser confidence in the mobile space, said industry voices.
Speaking at the Mobile Marketing Forum Asia event held Wednesday, Hanis Harun, global executive director of Nielsen's telecom practice, said the industry needs a common "currency" to measure mobile marketing reach and traffic, akin to the ratings system for TV and radio advertisements.
Harun cited the example of Spanish-language TV network, Univision, which saw its ad revenue rise after it adopted Nielsen's ratings system. While it had previously overstated the size of its TV audience and had to report a smaller number through the Nielsen system, ad dollars went up because of a corresponding rise in confidence that the network was rated according to a standard, she said.
The technology to measure mobile advertising's audience exists today, she noted. This could be done through a variety of ways such as on-device meters, or through carrier logs, surveys or content tagging. "We just need to agree on one way to measure it," she said.
Henry Stevens, director of media and entertainment with the GSM Association, said mobile metrics can afford more insight into customers, compared with traditional media metrics.
While TV and Internet audiences are often estimated based on a sample size, mobile metrics can be very granular, because each individual can be tracked, said Stevens.
He pointed to an alliance formed in the United Kingdom in February this year with the country's five operators--O2, Vodafone, Orange, T-Mobile and 3UK--as well as mobile marketing associations and media auditor ABC Electronic. Known as the Mobile Media Metrics, the alliance jointly produced a mobile media reporting tool that aims to standardize measurement for advertisers, he said.
According to Harun, the time is ripe for such collaboration in the region. Reflecting on the growing population of mobile users in emerging markets such as China, she said studies have shown that once users get on mobile broadband, they tend to use the service consistently.
SMobile marketing, she added, could appeal more to advertisers in China because of the country's broadband preferences. With a low fixed broadband penetration and a faster growing number of mobile broadband users compared to fixed broadband, mobile marketing could be set to eclipse advertising on more traditional media such as the Internet, said Harun.
"[The smartphone growth] is driving marketing dollars to mobile advertising, but it's still early days, till we have a good audience measurement system for it to grow further," she pointed out.
SMS marketing still important
Amid the excitement surrounding rich mobile marketing, companies should not neglect SMS marketing, urged Rajesh Jain, founder of venture capital company Emergic Ventures.
With the majority of users still on feature phones, especially in emerging markets, marketers should explore ways to make SMS as "sticky" and useful to consumers, he said.
"You should enable people to infect others with their enthusiasm for your brand," Jain said, noting a trend with users in India who are comfortable forwarding SMS messages containing marketing information such as retail discount coupons to their friends.
And for now, SMS is here to stay, he said. The eventual eclipse of the feature phone population by smartphones is years away, at least in India, he noted.
The country has been comparatively slower to get on 3G. It started its 3G spectrum auction just this month after much delay, with telcos commencing their 3G network buildouts only after they've won the licenses. In contrast, its counterparts in other parts of the world had moved to 3G years before--Singapore rolled out 3G in 2005, the United States in 2003 and Japan and Europe in 2001.