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« Happy first anniversary Forum Oxford Mobile Applications Panel | Main | Ohmy News invades Japan »

September 07, 2006


Chetan Sharma

Great post Alan. Could you please expand on the mobile element? How do you see it evolving in the next couple of years. Thanks

Tomi T Ahonen

Hi Chetan

Alan is rushing around the next few days so I'll reply to this for us.

First, where the internet is the sixth mass media and now the first "killer programming concepts" if you will, like games shows, talk shows and reality TV (fifth mass media) were new programming concepts on TV not possible on the previous four mass media (print, recordings, cinema and radio). So first the internet tried to copy existing formats (newspaper front pages for example). But with search and community sites the internet is now discovering its new opportunities. You can't do a google search inside the Washington Post print edition or set up a myspace in the cinema (only using the movie projection media without a web connection or mobile phones etc). There are many other powerful new media formats appearing in the internet space - consider the huge honest real world economies inside massively multiplayer online games (MMOGs). These will TOTALLY demolish the previous media vehicles and push cinema, radio, TV etc to ever more niche advertising opportunities. The time of mass media advertising on the first five media is TOTALLY OVER.

But to your question, what of mobile?

The mobile phone is the newest mass media, the seventh. It is so much in its baby stage, that its new own concepts have yet to be invented. There are almost no services on mobile phones that are not copies or variants of those on the web or TV, radio, recordings, print etc. So mobile has not yet discovered itself. But make no mistake. There are three times as many phone users than PC users. There are more than twice as many users of SMS text messaging than users of any other messaging including e-mail and IM Instant Messaging. Phones are replaced twice as fast as PCs and cost much less. Heavily addicted web users visit the web every day. But EVERY phone user carries the phone within arm's reach every day everywhere - 60% of phone users take the phone to bed with them.

So - first point. For all media owners, they need to understand the power of the mobile phone. Imagine Hollywood if it did not understand TV and tried to ignore it? Or if newspapers had ignored the internet? They'd be out of business today (in the Western world). Secondly, the concepts that work on print, TV, internet - DO NOT MAKE the killer apps for mobile, just like they didn't for the internet. We have to discover the power of the newest mass media.

But how relevant is it? If you "like" or "admire" or "respect" Google or Skype or Myspace or Worlds of Warcraft or Ebay or Amazon - the opportunities in mobile will create MUCH MUCH more powerful global giants than these.


That is waiting on the phone, to be launched by brave new companies. Either existing brands going into mobile like Microsoft went into the internet or more likely totally new entrants. When Google launched there were dozens of established search companies on the web. Why will these be more powerful? Because the content industry on the mobile phone is INHERENTLY MORE SOUND economically.

Every mobile phone user knows that all content on the phone is charged. Most content on the internet is expected to be free. The mobile phone services industry passed the 100 BILLION dollar mark last year (thats as big as the total global music industry plus the total worldwide revenues of hollywood movies including rentals, DVD sales etc; and the total global videogaming revnues, combined)

The first downloadable content on mobile phones was released only eight years ago this Autumn. Ringing tones in Finland in 1998. Ringing tones worldwide today are a 5 billion dollar business, and all recording artists release ringing tone variants of their hits. Ringing tones are calculated in the sales of songs when tabulating the hits on the charts around the world.

At the moment we have hundreds of companies around the world experimenting in the mobile media world to conceive of concepts. When they will appear - and the phone is so far superior to the web that this is inevitable - they will also introduce novel new advertising opportunities. The really big ideas - like Google's search ad words - are waiting to be discovered.

Before then, we have another very powerful engine driving innovation specifically in advertising towards mobile phones. The gulf between desirable content on mobile phones and the ability of (mostly young) users to pay for it. As phones get ever more powerful - beyond the first generation of 3G phones - and we now are seeing crystal-clear TV screens, full-screen internet screens etc on mobile phones - as well as the built-in 3 megapixel cameras, VHS quality videocams, bluetooth, SMS etc built-in (what an iPod or PDA or laptop for example does not match) - suddenly the videogaming, TV content, internet content etc becomes compelling on phones.

So suddenly a third of American youth - and 90% of South Korean youth - post pictures to online community sites direct from mobile phones. In trials from Helsinki to Oxford to now live mobile TV in South Korea - when people have broadcast digital TV on their mobile phone (not the lousy quality initial 3G TV, but the true broadcast digital TV to mobile phones) they use them in surprising ways. The majority of the use is AT HOME. The phone becomes the second TV at home - as it has the built-in digital set-top box. If dad is watching football on TV, the kids can watch Jackass or Spongebob on MTV on the phone. Half of the viewing on TV on the phone (when its broadcast TV) runs over 25 minutes at a time !

The tool is becoming mature. Now the media need to mature with it. Suddenly the content is very compelling. Music for example. Twice as many people already consume music on phones than on iPods - and new musicphones outsell iPods at more than six to one. CyWorld in South Korea sells 6 million songs per month as BACKGROUND MUSIC for its virtual online world on mobile and web. The new media formats are now appearing and they are rich opportunities for targetted and powerful advertising.

But its not that idiotic idea of sending unsolicited spam based on your location as you approach a shopping mall. No. That idea is dead. Advertising on mobile will be huge but it needs to be totally reinvented for this media. Just like still images of magazine ads or small-print classified ads from newspapers did not succeed on TV.

And here the most revealing number. 44% of Japanese mobile phone users already receive advertising on their phones.


Its not "ONLY MOBILE". Like we write in the book about the new Generation-C, the Community Generation, ie the youth of today. Like we just heard yesterday at the Mobile Youth Services Forum here in London that I chaired, the youth are inherently multichannel. Your marketing communications - and advertising projects - need to be designed to function in a multichannel environment. Online and mobile (and often in-game, TV, radio, etc)

Chetan, we'll keep on returning to these themese here at this site as you know. This original blog posting by Alan is one of his longer thought pieces that has pieces he's been pondering over in his head for a while now. We'll keep on developing these thoughts and as the news give us good "fodder" when the big media giants stumble along in this space, sometimes with success, more often making mistakes, we'll update the story and give more of our thoughts.

I hope this answers the mobile side for now.

Anyone else reading this - if you're interested specifically on the mobile side, you might want to read several other blogs here over the past year at our blogsite by Alan and me, but also worth reading are my columns around the mobile as the seventh mass media etc. Obviously if you have a research budget, rush to order our book Communities Dominate Brands and you'll get to read a book the vice chairman of advertising giant OgilvyOne, Rory Sutherland calls "invaluable" in predicting how power shifts in advertising; the vice president of Norway's TV2, John Ranelagh says it "identifies the significant issues" for the media industry; and the CEO of the world's largest internet content company, Cybird of Japan, Kazutomo Robert Hori says the book helps "undestand living in the converged world" and how business can survive in it. Or like Stephen C Jones, the Chief Marketing Officer of Coca Cola, who wrote our foreword, said, the book "will end up shaping our thinking" in how advertising and marketing will change into the future.

Thanks for writing Chetan!

Tomi :-)

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