September 23, 2009


Delynn Ho, Regional Director, Southeast Asia

BuzzCity champions an open mobile internet. Over the past couple years, we've written several times about how mobile carriers should not build barriers that restrict users to the carrier's portal or make it difficult or prohibitively expensive to surf other sites. User preferences are clear. In countries where carrier “wall gardens” have been lifted, mobile surfers access a wide range of content, both on- and off-portal.

So what's a telecom carrier to do, particularly if it wants to be a content provider as well as a communications pipe?

Advertise, of course! Compete like everyone else for consumers' attention! So this week, I'd like to share an example of a carrier that is doing just that.


South African mobile service provider MTN is now advertising on other sites to sell value-added services and attract users back to its portal. The MTN campaign, produced by ad agency Aquaonline, promotes MTN Music Bundles and Music Price Plans. The campaign messaging is straight-forward:

“30% off MTN Music” reads a graphic banner. 
“Are you a music lover?” asks the text ad. 

Click on either advertisement and consumers are directed to MTN's portal. There, users can register for free music or subscribe a value-added paid service.


The campaign averages 4.7 million exposures a month. That's a great number. In fact, it's about 6 percent of all monthly mobile ad views in South Africa.

The campaign's click-through rate is about one percent, compared to a 1.9% network average. As I've mentioned in previous blogs, one of the best ways to raise the CTR is by using multiple banners and not relying on a single ad.

In addition, I would advise MTN to launch separate campaigns for each product line or service. They're selling two things here: music bundles and music price plans. Different segments of the market will be attracted to each item. Music lovers of all types might go for the bundles, but bargain hunters in particular will click on the price plan promotions, which start as low as 10 rand (about US$1.34).

Similarly, the sale of other products – games, virtual gifts, wallpapers, etc – will fare better with specified ads, rather than a single campaign directing everyone to the same portal.

MTN has a market share in South Africa of about 33%. If it were to advertise solely on its own portal, MTN would miss two out of every three potential consumers. Now, that doesn't make much sense.

Even market leader Vodacom can reach just one out of every two mobile surfers via its own portal.

With broader ad campaigns, telecom companies can reach their competitors' clients, either through targeted advertising or by publishing ads across the entire BuzzCity network. There's a lesson here for other businesses as well – don't limit your reach by staying within the confines of a single online community or portal.