In June 2009 Arthur Goldstuck (World Wide Worx) in an update to an earlier report, noted that there were approximately 37 million human cellphone users in South Africa – representing a population penetration of 77 per cent.
South Africa continues to be a mobile marketing pioneer: consistently in the top six markets (by volume of mobile advertising impressions) of the major global mobile advertising networks like Admob, Buzz City and Mkhoj (who between them serve close to 500 million monthly advertising impressions to RSA) as well as the dominant independent mobile web browser, Opera MINI.
Further, home-grown mobile social media services like Mxit and The GRID never fail to draw admiration from international peers and also continue to grow beyond the South African market.
Vodacom’s Mobile Media business is a leading mobile advertising unit within the Vodafone group globally; its model has also significantly influenced the thinking of many other mobile operators and global technology vendors around mobile marketing best practice.
It is a little disappointing that the other mobile operators in South Africa have not yet invested in any meaningful way in the development of the mobile marketing industry; they occupy such an important place in the mobile media value chain and have control over a range of high quality advertising inventory.
It is however great to see the large media companies and publishers visibly working toward integrating mobile into their offerings and also in some cases looking to actually publish their content to mobile: we are not only seeing the print media players entering this space but increasingly also the broadcasters – look out for permanent mobile integration into many TV and radio executions in the near future.
Today, in South Africa there are well over 10 million unique monthly users of the mobile Internet (broadly defined) compared to just over half that amount for the PC web; more importantly however is the fact that the overlap between these two access channels is quite small – less than 30 per cent of regular mobile web users have easy access to the PC web.
In addition Mxit (July 2009) reports over 14 million registered users (unfortunately Mxit does not report unique monthly users) and Vodacom’s Please Call Me ad tags reach on average about 23 million unique South Africans across all cellular networks, every month.
I estimate that approximately one third of South African advertising and media agencies already have a dedicated mobile resource, normally as part of a ‘digital’ or ‘new media’ team; agency attitudes to mobile are shifting, with the understanding of its massive potential in this market.
The recent establishment of a South African council of the global Mobile Marketing Association (MMA) has, as at end August 2009, attracted close to thirty member companies most of which have become actively involved in supporting the development of four key priorities: mobile marketing standards and formats; measurement; training and networking/PR. So far only three large mainstream agencies have committed to the local MMA so the advertising industry is under-represented and is at risk of missing a great opportunity to help shape the development of the mobile medium.
At Vodacom, close to 70 per cent of mobile media revenues originate from agencies as opposed to brands direct – a sign of a medium fast gaining acceptance (the 2009 Loeries advertising awards will for the first time also include a mobile advertising award).
In addition to driving innovation, and enhanced user experiences in publishing and advertising, mobile is also having a significant impact on processes related to customer service as well as commerce (mobile wallets), both of which are ultimately key in the overall marketing value chain.
We will look back at 2009 as the year that the chasm between the early adopters of mobile media and the early majority (mainstream agencies and brands) was crossed: the year that the 7th mass medium reached a tipping point.
* Note: I wrote this piece for the October 2009 edition of Marketing Mix Magazine