What ails mobile advertising in India

kedar sohoni

Digital Advertising in India is expected to reach almost Rs. 3000 Crore in 2013 as per a FICCI-KPMG report. However, mobile advertising accounts for hardly 8% of that market. And this is in spite of the latest StatCounter statistics showing that mobile now accounts for 60% of the web traffic in the country.

What exactly is the cause for this discrepancy?

Although the mobile screen size could be a limitation from an advertising perspective, but the discrepancy is still too stark. To understand the reasons for the same, let’s look at various aspects of an advertising/ media planning strategy.

1. Audience Information – To drive advertising on any medium, it needs to be measured with respect to who is using it, for how long, what is being viewed etc. For TV, that need is fulfilled by a TV audience measurement solution enabled by Peoplemeters which collect data related to who is watching which TV channel/ programme and for how long. Online desktop behavior is measured using software meters installed on PCs of opt-in panelists. Newspaper/ magazine readership is measured using periodic readership surveys. In short, each of these media attracts advertising based on underlying data of who is using that medium and for how long. Such metrics which also enable targeting of brand communication are almost prerequisites for ad monies to flow to that medium.

But for the mobile medium, such metrics are not easily available. Audience profile and usage patterns of the ever growing base of Mobile Internet and SmartPhone users, is not known. This severely limits the ability of brands and media planners to use the mobile medium for advertising.

2. Creativity – Each medium has its strengths and weaknesses. Traditional Broadcast TV is probably best suited for large format audio visual communication but it lacks interactivity. Online advertising offers interactivity with rich media advantage. Mobile is a unique medium as it offers on-the-go, almost 24×7 reach with other aspects like location awareness, interactivity etc. A piece of communication designed for TV or even the Internet may not be apt for the mobile medium. Creative agencies need to independently think for the mobile medium rather than merely adapt what is getting used for other media. How mobile works or is likely to work for a brand is not deeply understood and applied and hence the potential of the medium is not getting adequately utilized.

3. Ad effectiveness – Understanding the impact of advertising and how it works is a complex subject. And to figure out which medium works to what extent is even more complex. Impact of non-digital advertising is typically measured through direct sales impact in the marketplace or through surveys conducted amongst consumers for gauging brand measures.

With the advent of digital, the ‘click’ has become the new measure of effectiveness of advertising. While this was a very powerful tool when it was launched, the ‘click’ itself has become detrimental to the digital industry as measurement of effectiveness seems to have stopped at the ‘click’ instead of starting with it.

Mobile advertising by its very nature is likely to impact the brand in myriad ways which can’t necessarily be measured via a ‘click’ or an ‘app install’. Mobile advertising might prompt a user to buy offline, make a phone call to enquire about a product or just serve as reminder medium. Unless the ad effectiveness measurement solutions consider these aspects of how mobile advertising could affect the brand, the ad effectiveness picture won’t be complete.

Therefore, lack of metrics, shortage of mobile centric creativity and inappropriate methods of measuring mobile ad effectiveness are some of the reasons hampering the growth of mobile advertising in the country.