Robert Woolfrey, Managing Director, South East Asia, Millennial Media has spent eight years in the mobile business, six of which have been dedicated to mobile advertising. “Of which, the last two and a half years have seen straight up growth for the business,” states Woolfrey in a chat with DMA’s Noor Fathima Warsia.
For Millennial Media, the last 18 months have recorded significant company growth in the Asia region, and the year ahead is marked with some more expansion plans. The company recently opened an office in Japan and is at present evaluating newer markets to foray into. Some of the markets on the company’s radar include India, Hong Kong, Taiwan, China and Korea, which Woolfrey defines as “markets with great potential”.
In this conversation, Woolfrey comments on some of the attributes that are constantly shaping the mobile advertising industry.
You have said that marketers need to do more on mobile. What are some of the trends that you are noticing in that context?
Today, if a marketer is not on mobile, it definitely reflects negatively on the company. All of its customers are on the mobile platform and the penetration of mobile phones including smartphones is only growing. Marketers need to be on the platform not only in terms of advertising but also for other information and engagement tools. And it is part of our job, as an ad platform, to help brands and agencies understand what should be done. There has been enough money spent on mobile now to take it seriously. Clients want it and agencies really get it now. I believe that while some steps have been taken in the right direction, a lot more has to be done and we will see that happening soon.
What are some of the spender categories that are investing in mobile advertising?
If it was a year ago, I would say it is the telcos and the mobile manufacturers. They can target each other and have an obvious advantage in a manner of speaking. Targetting could even be done based on the kind of handsets and that would make for some very relevant advertising. In some markets still, these are the biggest spenders. But some of the other sectors that are spending on mobile now include finance companies with mobile payments and other mobile transactions. Another interesting category that has surfaced is restaurants. They are in fact using rich media for interactions very well.
Gaming on mobile seems to be another very popular area. What does it mean for advertisers?
Gaming in Asia has always been big, and so it was only natural for it to be big on the mobile phone. The developer community is growing at a very rapid rate and we are seeing many new companies come up. Not only games but various apps, whether it is sports scores or fitness, are essentially increasing inventory and reach for advertisers. Games happen to be a very popular category encouraging people to spend more times on their phones. And the more people use their phones, the better it is for us.
You mentioned the emergence of many new companies. Does the fragmentation of the medium help mobile advertising or do you think the sheet number of players can confuse advertisers at times?
Mobile advertising is not just about delivering and ad to a publisher. There is a lot that goes in between, in getting an ad in place. Technology plays a crucial role to ensure that we are placing the right ad on the right handset in front of the right user at the right time and that piece is the secret. It also draws the line between companies that are ahead in the business and the ones that are also there. When advertisers know they are reaching the right users, they are willing to pay more and that is why a company like Millennial Media, given our experience and technology, scores. There is very limited data on mobile in the industry today. We use our own primary data and also tie up with third parties for other data to be able to advise clients in a much more informed way.
Yes, mobile is fragmented and so are publishers. An app, that is the most popular app globally, can spring up tomorrow. As an advertiser how do you plan for something like this? How do you plan your media plans about apps that are going up and down. We normalise this curve. Our platforms are growing and that allows us to take these apps and simplify it for our users so they do not have worry about the seasonality of such tools.
But wouldn’t ads on mobile, which is such a personal medium, be considered an intrusion by some?
Most of the research on consumers embracing mobile advertising is positive. People are consuming ads on a mobile phone. Mobile will always surprise us, whether in terms of the technology, the targeting, the formats or the creativity that can be done on the platform. We are at the very beginning of an exciting space. Every single day something crazy comes up and this wild factor is not going away any time soon. Consumers love some of these things, and brands are going to love it because it gets great results.
Would you say that the focus on privacy and regulation thereof can impact mobile advertising adversely?
Privacy is a significant subject and it will always be a concern with consumers though there are different viewpoints on that so it is not fair to generalise. But there is no doubt that privacy laws are very important. We in fact have a Chief Privacy Officer. We have taken a very proactive approach to this to ensure that not only are we complying with all privacy laws but also thinking ahead on the subject.