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Why we need data accountability in mobile advertising

Kerstin Trikalitis, CEO and Co-Founder, Out There Media shares her viewpoint on why ethical marketing practices are very important in mobile advertising strategies. 

Trikalitis notes:

The digital age has dominated and dictated the way in which we communicate with one another. Marketers especially are no less advocates of digital media today, leveraging on platforms such as mobile, the cloud and social media, to connect to their target audiences. Technological advancements have made advertising more interactive today, allowing marketers to create and distribute interesting content that create a richer media experience for the consumers. In mobile advertising, data gathered from the mobile platform allows advertisers to gain insights on their consumers allowing them to tailor content according to the customer’s preferences or purchasing behaviour. Data, information about user activities or locations, has created new opportunities and corresponding challenges.

The issue of data accountability in mobile advertising has sparked off some interesting debates in the industry, with proponents of data privacy and security often questioning the ethical industry practice of data mining in mobile. It took some time for the online advertising industry to address the issue of privacy that arose at the beginning. Self-regulatory organisations such as the Interactive Advertising Bureau, Network Advertising Initiative, Online Publisher’s Association and TRUSTe have over the years collaborated to establish standards in protecting consumers’ data online. As mobile advertising reaches a level of maturity today with the IAB data showing that global mobile advertising market has reached over $5.3 billion in 2011, such data concerns should be addressed with an industry standard established to guide the practice of mobile advertisers globally.

In Asia, more has to be done to standardise the regulation standards in mobile telecommunications. Countries such as India and Singapore are starting to introduce regulations in place to control spam and protect consumer rights. While these are being celebrated by the consumers, such regulations will primarily affect companies that use the mobile channel to communicate with their customer base and plan to exploit the mobile space for marketing or advertising.

Marketers will need to work closely with the telecommunications service provider to ensure that ethical standards are observed in mobile advertising. One of the ways that companies can improve the practice of mobile advertising is through a permission-based model which makes the advertising more targeted and offers better ROI to the marketers.

A study by Out There Media conducted in May last year revealed that permission-based mobile advertising generates the highest consumer response rate among all other forms of marketing in Asia. The study showed that the average conversion rate for opt-in marketing and advertising stands at 22.15%, considerably higher than the rate for mobile display ads, and more than twenty times the response rate for direct marketing. The proposition offered by permission-based mobile advertising is tremendous, and offers marketers to target the right message to the right audience.

For the consumers, an opt-in marketing programme gives them the freedom to decide what data to share and indicate their interests at the same time. This works well for both the consumers and marketers. For the marketers, an opt-in programme provides them with a profile that they can use to achieve effective targeting. For the consumers on the other hand, they get to decide the type of content that they will be receiving from the advertisers, avoiding spam of irrelevant and unwanted junk SMS advertising. This level of flexibility to opt-in and opt-out, while not mandated by law, is rapidly becoming an industry standard, yet another way that users’ privacy is looked after. This approach can also educate the market on the benefits of mobile advertising, demonstrated through campaigns that mobile advertising need not automatically intrude on consumer privacy.

As mobile advertising continues to evolve and is on course to become the next most powerful medium of marketing and advertising, marketers need to approach mobile advertising with more tact, ensuring a level of ethical consideration in reaching out to their target audience through permission-based advertising. Organisations such as the Mobile Marketing Association has been driving the practice of such standards through the six Cs of mobile marketing; Choice, Control, Customisation, Consideration, Constraint and Confidentiality. The Cs provide careful consideration for consumers rights and attitudes, and this will alleviate the standards of the industry. As marketers learn to respect consumers’ rights and move towards non-intrusive advertising, consumers too will benefit from this practice and fully appreciate the value of mobile advertising. This will fuel the growth of the industry globally, especially in the emerging markets.

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