Apples iAds coming soon

Apple iAdsApple just announced its official foray into mobile ad networks – iAds. This is sure to change a lot of things in the rapidly growing mobile ad industry. Google’s acquisition of AdMob might have given them a headstart in the space but with Apple sitting on a huge consumer base the battle of giants will be interesting to watch.

More so coz the iAds would be reaching to the now best-selling iPads too.

Mobile Advertising & the Indian market

Advertising on the small screen aka the mobile handset has been a hot area for quite some time. We have seen multiple models come – some to stay & many more to just fizzle out after their two moments of glory.

The excitement is well founded, its a screen that probably gets the maximum impressions and has the highest reach.

Mobile AdvertisingWhat makes it even more interesting is the numerous models all of which seem to have found their individual niches. Some of the more prominent ones that I found are listed below:

1. Google’s forte- Advertising on mobile search. This model just replicates the adwords to a mobile context. To get the advertising $ the pitch is that the consumer is actively looking for that specific product/service (as highlighted by the searched keyword). Moreover the consumer can not only browse to the advertisers webpage, but could immediately call or SMS an advertised number

2. Banners on WAP sites- This is akin to the online adnetworks with a twist that the banners & the sites being referred to are now optimised for viewing on the mobile screen. AdMob was the largest player  in this segment & GOOG justified its acquisition of AdMob with a detailed note.

3. Ads within Applications: Here again AdMob is supposed to be a big player, but the biggest player of them all is the iPhone. iPhone not only has the biggest app library but has shown other handset manufacturers how to make this a dominant revenue line.

The above models currently have a low adoption in India due to low % of handsets with GPRS connectivity and low penetration of mobile apps. What has worked in the country is good ol SMS. Here again there are multiple models

4. SMS/MMS ads sent to users. This promises scale to the advertiser and pure pain to the consumer. Coz everytime the new ad reacher her, her phone would ring/buzz. Moreover most of the advertisers are not the bigger brands offering great deals.

5. Ads in half of the SMS text- This is typically clubbed with alerts (to cross subsidise) or with free online SMS offered(e.g. Way2SMS) to consumers. Advertisers have issues with both the options. In the first the consumer is more concerned with the alert content rather than the ad e.g. if I get an alert from HDFC Bank about the balance in my current account I am probably not too keen on the Life Insurance being pitched to me at that point of time. In the 2nd option, most advertisers will NOT want to spend money on getting consumers who are sending free SMS online (or so I am told !)

SMS Gupshup which is touted to be the biggest mobile ad network in India, provides multiple channels that a customer can subscribe to. Here the main lever to get the consumer is the content & they use the ads in a contextual fashion (since the content & advertising logic both sit on their servers, its easy to match).

Vodafone (in its previous avtar as Hutch) had experimented with an operator owned full screen broadcasting model. Their technology provider Celltick was capable of targeting consumers basis the cell tower & showing rich media ads through their proprietary broadcasting technology.

Which model will finally become a dominant one in the Indian market?

Will Indian market also get polarised in terms of handset, in which case the handset provider will control this segment?How can Nokia drive more of its clients to its Ovi Store?

Can the operator control the ad ecosystem? They seem to be in the most advantageous position as they control the maximum touchpoints with the consumer.

Will 3rd party operators control the market? Can they build a model which is neat, scaleable & engages the customer in an exciting way?