Campaign India Team
Aug 28, 2013

The mobile hub: Expected and unexpected observations from MMA

Graham Christie, partner with Big Mobile, shares notes and observations from the just-concluded Mobile Marketing Association forum in Singapore.

The mobile hub: Expected and unexpected observations from MMA

I recently attended the Mobile Marketing Association’s two day ‘Deconstructing Mobile’ APAC annual Forum in Singapore. Plenty of senior brand and digital folk supported the event, and of course mobile specialists of every conceivable bias.

The fashionable themes surfaced, of course, some expected but no less valuable to dwell on, some more unexpected and aired out-of-session.


Yes there’s plenty of it, everywhere, and APAC is the epicenter. And it’s developing markets that are really powering ahead. Four out of five mobile users are in developing markets. Half of all mobile service revenues are in developing markets, and half of all smartphones sold today are sold in developing markets.

Rahul Welde of Unilever made the point that mobile is the great democratising marketing channel.  It doesn’t matter if someone is personally wealthy, living in an affluent country, part of an emerging middle class or poor and disadvantaged—they are likely to have a mobile. And in developing markets these are overwhelmingly likely to be a cheap local Android-based smartphone. This vast reach between the Have Lots and the Have Nots is unique.

Martin Sorrell noted that fast-developing countries in our region, such as Indonesia, Philippines, and China, have leapfrogged the PC stage of web adoption, going straight to smartphone which is fuelling take-up.

Tomi T Ahonen the author, scholar, luminary and dapper hat sporter, added insight to Mary Meeker’s global data point that received a lot of coverage this year, that the average mobile owner uses their device 150 times each day. Tomi unpacked it as follows: used once every 6.5 minutes, split into 30 per cent communication (voice, text), 20 per cent utilities (clock, alarm, calendar), 40 per cent media, and 10 per cent other. Tomi’s site provides more details. 

Arts and science

I’ve never seen the divide between the skill of storytelling (the art) and the ability to reach and transact effectively (the science) so exposed. It is a divide, because the business models prosecuted by the protagonists that sit in each camp are at cross purposes.

“What’s new?”, I hear you ask. Well, sheer scale through rampant oversupply, and the velocity and adoption of platform-based trading and creative generation, as conventions that seem to be taking hold, is seen as injecting remoteness between end user and brand owner. This just at a time when thinking and ingenuity are needed, and the request from top advertisers is to find ways to tell better brand stories in this maturing channel.

As one delegate commented, it’s man versus machine. A balance needs to be found quickly, as a mighty channel is under construction, but we might not like the look of it before it’s too late.  Martin Sorrell made the point that post GFC (global financial crisis), marketing organisations focused too heavily on cutting costs and not enough in investing in topline growth, which is right, and not unconnected here, I think. 

On the programmatic side, Sociomatic believes one in three mobile impressions will be RTB (real-time bidding)-traded by 2016. If that’s the case, we must have insights about that impression through data, so it’s worth what it should be. Michael Hawkins of Beyond Analysis threw a spanner in the works, saying that most companies are “wallowing” in data. So the call was, let’s simplify and get data actioned. Easier said than done, I know.


As the ‘D’ word has come up, SingTel shared some information I'd like to relay. The company conducted a survey amongst customers, which was positive, recording that 77 per cent of people are accepting a commercial message but only if relevant (through data intelligence). More interestingly a whopping 33 per cent downright expect to get a relevant message, with the inference made that it had better be relevant—or else. Notice they called it a ‘commercial message’ but not ‘advertising’. Apparently this makes the subject a lot more palatable.

This is logical. After all, advertising’s foundation was a mass-message, mass-medium model, and folk get that. So as Leonardo O’Grady of Coca-Cola (ASEAN) put it, we’ve moved from mass in the '80s, to segmented in the '90s, to targeted in the noughties and now, to networked in the 2010s. I personally think it’s fair for consumers to expect relevance, and challenge us to make the distinction. As an aside, the area of user acceptance is just one hot topic covered in the Australian Interactive Media Industry Association's annual AMPLI (Lifestyle) longitudinal study, which is in-field right now. We can all participate, so jump onto the AIMIA site.

Capability gaps in mobile 

This is a known problem, of course, but anxiety is on the increase. In fact, Sir Martin calls it a ‘war on talent’, adding that smaller more entrepreneurial companies are becoming magnets for expertise. The problem is, there are capability gaps everywhere. On the supply side, with publishers, broadcasters and other audience owners, and also within marketing departments, where surely there is toward the top of CMOs' lists. On the service side, agencies have to deal with this talent issue at the same time as reconstructing their business model to maintain a decent P&L and margin. Not an easy juggling act. 

There’s only one way to build capability, and that is through experience. Experience isn’t just doing the same thing as before, or the same as others. Overinvesting in mobile through testing, training, making valuable mistakes, collaborating and partnering is a safe bet for good ROI down the line, and a generator of talent and capability.

Great work

Lastly there was good work on show, from Australia as well as India, Taiwan, Korean, Singapore and China—really every market in the region. The standard has substantially and markedly improved.

Coke’s ‘A Million Reasons To Believe’ project in Thailand was impressive, as was Prudential’s 'Cha Ching' app for children. And I personally loved Kontor Records office turntable B2B campaign using a vinyl record DM piece and a smartphone app.

The official gongs themselves were handed out on the 23rd of August at the first annual APAC Smarties. Check out the winners and case studies across the 22 categories on the MMA website. Lots of inspiration to be found there.

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