Yahoo: SEA a potential hotbed for mobile advertising

Company exec says 3G infrastructure buildouts, falling data costs and more Web-enabled devices will drive the mobile ad market in Southeast Asia.
Written by Jamie Yap, Contributor

SINGAPORE--Advertisers in Southeast Asia have not yet fully embraced the mobile platform, but this will change in the near future as the region presents compelling opportunities for mobile advertising to take off, noted a Yahoo executive.

Tommaso Del Re, Yahoo's head of mobile and business development for Southeast Asia, told ZDNet Asia that the bulk of advertisers in Southeast Asia are still looking at a combination of desktop and mobile Internet, and not just mobile alone, for ad placements.

"Mobile advertising is still in its early days," he said, citing the dominance of traditional mediums such as TV, print and outdoor. Yahoo, according to him, has spent the last 15 years trying to educate advertisers to go digital. Del Re was speaking at an event the Internet giant held here Wednesday to launch four new online ad formats, three of which are solely for mobile devices.

Despite the current fledging state of mobile advertising, Del Re said that he predicts the mobile platform will be the go-to medium for ad placements, as more established, blue-chip brands look for a "special engagement with consumers".

Del Re identified three main drivers that will fuel the mobile advertising trend in the region: the introduction of faster networks such as 3G; falling data costs; and a wider availability of Web-enabled handsets, not unlike the Apple iPhone, that are just as "powerful" and also "cheaper".

Combined together, these three factors means users get "better experiences when on mobile", he iterated.

Prajit Prakash, Yahoo Southeast Asia's custom ad products manager, also said the region has "compelling opportunities" for mobile advertising.

Using the example of Indonesia, Prakash pointed out that the country has a low fixed-line or broadband penetration, meaning it is easier for consumers to access the Internet on their mobile devices such as a smartphone. Increasingly cheaper mobile devices have also fueled the trend of mobile Web usage, he added.

Furthermore, the existence of several value-added mobile services such as SMS news alerts and mobile banking services, have aided the adoption of mobile Internet, said Prakash.

Different platforms, devices a challenge
Del Re acknowledged that it is a challenge to develop multiple ad technologies and formats for the various mobile platforms and smartphones available in the market today, and likened the effort to having to produce different engines for diesel, petrol and electric cars. In spite of this, the effort is "justified", he said.

According to him, having to address the challenge of multiple platforms offers Yahoo the opportunity to "ask [ourselves] what kind of product we can offer" and take on the perspective of the consumer. For instance, if the user's device is an Apple iPhone, "our frontpage would very rich and interactive", but on a feature phone, the offerings will be more "bare bones" with less rich media and images, he explained.

Currently, Yahoo's newly-launched mobile ad formats are only available on the iPhone. Prakash said that formats for Google's Android platform is in the pipeline, but could not offer a more definite timeline.

The mobile ad formats launched Wednesday are:

  • An "Expandable Banner", which offers a larger canvas by expanding downward and covers nearly two-thirds of an iPhone screen;
  • An "Adhesion Banner" that remains fixed at the bottom or the side of the screen as the user scrolls through content;
  • A "Click to Video Banner" that shows a video clip when a user taps on the ad. It will play full-screen on a native video player and once it is finished, users are brought back to the Web site.

"Social Ads", available on both desktop and mobile form factors, are social widgets that support existing online advertising campaigns. The format allows users to comment and share an ad on social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter.

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