February 05, 2008


By Hisham Isa, Vice President (Marketing)

"Search Eskimos" may seem like an odd heading for this week's blog entry, but if you've seen Hutchison's brillant Indian ad campaign, you know that "searching eskimos" has everything to do with educating the public about the possibilities of the mobile internet. It also highlights how telecom carriers can promote - or hinder - mobile surfing.

At this stage of the game, public education -- letting consumers know what they can do with their phones -- is key. But this message is being broadcast more loudly in some markets than others. Let's take a look at three marketing campaigns: "Mr Blue Sky" by SFR (France), "Can you hear me now?" by Verizon in the US and Hutch's "Search for Anything" in India.


SFR is the second largest mobile operator in France with a 35% market share (in 2006) and nearly 18 million clients. Three million of these consumers are using 3G phones. SFR's campaign features popular French footballer Thierry Henry, who is France's leading goal-scorer. The ad, "Revolution sur the Mobile", highlights that users can use their phones for email, internet searches, messenging, music, video and more. The main message is that SFR offers unlimited 3G internet access.

Vodafone Essar / Hutch has 38 million clients in India. Their ad campaign is the most creative of the three. Eskimos, in full winter attire and carrying spears, are traveling in India - by sailboat, by foot (wearing snowshoes on the beach), in an open-air lorry and on the back of a bicycle. Switch now to an image of a cup of tea and an older Indian man drinking it. The man looks surprised. The eskimos have arrived in his home. His phone beeps and we see "Live Search - Eskimo - Search Complete" on the screen. The commercial then switches to two slates: "Search for Anything" and "Live Search - only on your Hutch GPRS phone".
In the US, Verizon doesn't publicise search, downloads or any aspect of the mobile internet. Rather, its ads focus on voice and the company has identified coverage as the issue most important to users. The "Can You Hear Me Now?" campaign shows monkeys in a zoo holding bananas as if they were telephones. "Some wireless companies like to pretend they're the best" says the narrator, "but there's only one most reliable wireless network in the nation." A Verizon worker then walks past the monkey cage, holding a real phone, and says "Can you hear me now? Good!"

The lack of public education in the US explains why
only one-quarter of US mobile phone users subscribe to an Internet access plan and less than 10 percent have used their phones for internet search in the past six months. By contrast, 20 percent of Indian users -- more than 30 million people -- connect to the Internet with a handset.

Come on, Verizon, get with it!