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Infrastructure can't slow down march of mobile: Travis Johnson

Interview with Global president, Ansible

Ritwik Sharma 

Travis Johnson

Consumers are way ahead of marketers. So there's a supply and demand imbalance at the moment, Travis Johnson tells Ritwik Sharma

What are the basic ways in which mobile marketers can ensure customers want to engage with companies and their content more than resorting to ad blocking?

One of the benefits of mobile advertising is you can go beyond advertising. People are blocking ads, like banners and typical executions that aren't interesting or adding value. When we look at statistics, rich media ads where people can play a video, share it or add appointment to a calendar are far more effective. There are also ads that are going to be blocked less because they are actually useful. Also, the mobile device allows you to use apps. About 80 per cent of our time in the mobile device is spent on apps. And we don't have a problem with that because it's adding some sort of value. The brands that are adding either utility or entertainment are the ones that will be successful. If they are just saying, "Buy my product, buy my product, buy my product", people will get tired of that and block them. So, brands need to think about the consumer and what their needs are.

One of our clients here is Reckitt Benckiser. They have a host of cleaning products. If they are just advertising cleaning products, it may not be effective for consumers. If they create an app that allows mum to schedule the kids' lunches, after-school programmes, homework and everything else, that's a really good plan for a cleaning product to get into mum's world and be invited in and checked everyday. People keep coming back to the brand. You need to think about what does the consumer want, and then where does my product fit in. So, there's a lot more opportunities through the mobile device to add values.

Do you think mobile telephony in India has some way to go before you can push through some of the more advanced marketing tools, in terms of rich media?

When I look around the world, there are many workarounds and clever solutions. So, I guess what is working for consumers in America and Australia is different to what could be working in a tier-II or tier-III city in India, but it may not be less effective. So, there's some very clever ways of using SMS. There's been some award winning campaigns over the years. Unilever was enabling people to catch up with their brands by pranking a phone and they call you back, you can listen to the radio. You know there are very clever solutions when you don't have the luxury of bandwidth and rich media. It just forces people to get more creative. So, I think you can still use this device because it's in everybody's pocket. It has 50 different capabilities, from SMS right through to video streaming apps and the rest of it. So, you just need to understand and have partners and agencies understand all of those 50 things to be able to come up with the right solutions for the right audience, for the brands. Infrastructure shouldn't slow the effectiveness of mobile, you just need to be more creative.

As mobile and digital media offer marketers a lot more scope of interactive content, do you feel words-based content will give way to voice-based content?

I think over the next couple of years, the big explosion in mobile communication will be video. So, I think using your voice to control your car, your home or things like Amazon Echo within your lounge for chat and other services will probably be adopted in the US, the UK and Australia in the next couple of years. Based on previous adoption India would be a year or so behind that. I think the explosion in India in terms of media will be video. The thing is, the consumers are way ahead of where the marketers are. So, there's a supply and demand imbalance at the moment. It's actually very cost-effective for mobile video. But you need to bear in mind the consumer behaviour.

In India, low call rates and data charges remain a priority for the vast majority. In such a scenario, what are the areas mobile marketers can focus on?

One thing that's interesting about mobile phones is that they give you a lot of analytics as well. So, because your phone is always searching for Wi-Fi signals, you can get a lot of data on user behaviour. Say, I've got a car dealership. I can add a piece of software to my own Wi-Fi network, and I can track customers. How long they are staying, where they are visiting? One of the marketing tools of mobile phone is understanding your audience and being able to re-target and segment them putting those insights into your overall creatives. That's something that's available to every marketer. We have talked about the effectiveness of SMS. So, there are some very low-hanging fruits that can make a big difference.

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First Published: Wed, August 31 2016. 21:45 IST