Have you ever asked for more ads?

Have you ever asked to view more ads, or would you prefer to skip ads and go for content? Do you forward through Game of Thrones to get to the ads?
Surprising answer: chances are that you have skipped content to willingly ask for ads. I’ll explain now.

This was a question posed by ex-Nokia exec and all round inspiring techie/mobile futurist Tomi Ahonen at his talk in Johannesburg on 2014-11-06.

Tomi Ahonen in JohannesburgIt was aimed mainly at marketing professionals (about 5 technical types in the room, the rest were marketing people) but there was value for everyone.

You can read through a (rather bland, considering how energetic the talk was) bulleted list of highlights in the second link above, but the main takeaways for me are:

  1. Mobile market is huge, growing explosively, and everything is accelerating.
  2. Don’t eschew the low-tech stuff like SMS and MMS in favour of something more flashy – you might not need an expensive app.
  3. Content drives better sales.

The mobile media (read: advertising) market has grown from $0 in 1998 to $236 billion in 2013. Ahonen puts this into perspective: this is bigger than Hollywood, Nollywood, Bollywood, the global radio industry, all of computer gaming, and the global music industry. Combined. Nothing compares. And this growth is accelerating.

Do you remember when everyone clicked that the Internet was going to be huge? OK, cynically, that insight drove the Internet bubble – contextless macro-scale insight cannot drive micro-scale innovation unless you plan well. We needed web 2.0 to mature a bit.

We are now at the point where everyone clicks that mobile will be huge, bigger than the internet. Already there are more mobile devices on the planet than there are people. And people keep these devices on their person, most (if not all) of the time. Are you planning for this?

Low tech mobile solutions like SMS and MMS get a boring rap – but Ahonen quotes research that puts SMS usage above Facebook use – among teens in the US, the so-called “facebook generation”. More interesting, though, are stats from a telemarketing survey in the UK:

  1. 89% of consumers would like to receive delivery notices via SMS, but only 26% have received any;
  2. 84% of consumers would like appointment reminders via SMS but only 29% have received any;
  3. and 68% of consumers would like opt-in SMS offers from brands that they purchased from in the past three months, but only 12% have received any.

There is clearly a large gap between consumer attitudes on mobile content and what we make available, and the focus is too much on high tech and not on pervasive tech (like SMS).

Which brings me back to Ahonen’s question about asking for more ads. “Have you ever used the recommendation feature on Amazon?” he asked. If you have, then you have asked for more ads to be served, as a form of content. The recommendation feature drives 30% of Amazon sales! I certainly page through it regularly and have discovered amazing books through it.

The point is that it is advertising, but such good advertising that it becomes content. It’s valuable content, too, not just fluff.

Ahonen’s implicit message was: provide real value and on move away from the scatter-gun spam approach we see in mobile marketing. Instead, provide real value, but make sure it drives sales. Use existing, cheap tech to do so.

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