October 13, 2009


By Manish Mishra, Country Manager & Executive Producer (India)

Earlier this year, I reported that there's been a shift in mobile advertising in India from branding to direct sales. Over the past nine months, I've seen increased evidence of this in the accounts that we serve.

Mobile ad sales overall in India have grown significantly in 2009 as compared to a year earlier. The BuzzCity Advertising Network served 899 million ads in India in the third quarter, 36% higher than a year earlier. More than a billion ads were served in Q2 '09, a 60% year-on-year increase.

Digital agencies like Webchutney, meanwhile, expect India's top 500 advertisers to markedly increase mobile's share of digital advertising over the next year from two percent to nine percent.

In 2008, the biggest advertisers were content providers (ringtones, wallpapers, downloadable videos, etc.). Now, though, banking, finance, entertainment and educational companies are joining in.

I believe there are two reasons that Indian companies are spending more on mobile. One, the return on investment – in terms of generated sales leads and conversions - is clear and easy to measure. And two, mobile provides better reach to consumers outside of India's top tier markets (Calcutta, Chennai, Dehli and Mumbai).

Let's take a look at an example from the educational sector, which according to CLSA Asia, is a US$40 billion market.

NIIT specialises in courses in the banking, finance and I.T. sectors. The school has a pan-Indian presence and offers guaranteed jobs to graduates.

NIIT's mobile ad campaign has one clear objective: generate leads for their courses.

The company designed several text and banner ads, publishing them across all categories of Indian mobile channels. The ads have clear engaging messages like:

  • “Get Job Ready in 99 Days”
  • “IFBI offers Scholarship worth 25k”
  • “Career in Banking with Scholarships”
Users who click on the banners are taken to a landing page, where they enter personal data.

A sales representative then follows up with a call. The campaign generates 150 leads per day (or more than 4500 leads a month) at a cost of about 40 US cents per lead. Given that the average NIIT course costs 25,000 – 27,000 rupees (about USD 540 -580), it only takes a few sales to generate a positive monthly ROI.

The ads, meanwhile, have been most effective in reaching consumers in the Tier 2 and Tier 3 markets (ie outside the big four cities).

To further improve the campaign's effectiveness, NIIT joined BuzzCity's beta “Conversion Tracking” programme, which directs NIIT banners to mobile sites that generate the most leads. It works by placing a cookie on a user’s mobile phone when s/he clicks on an ad. If the user subsequently reaches the conversion page – in this case a thank you note that NIIT sends consumers who fill out the “contact me” form -- the cookie is retrieved and matched with your ad.

The algorithm monitors which sites generate the most conversions and directs future ads that way. It also uses the information to improve your campaign's ad scheduling. The Conversion Tracker also helps advertisers monitor – and subsequently tweak – the performance and design of different landing pages.

NIIT has renewed their contract, a clear indication that they're happy with the campaign's perrformance. I think any lead-oriented company in India – particularly in the educational sector – would be foolish not to target consumers with a mobile campaign. It doesn't cost much – particularly compared with other forms of media – and the return is measured in actual sales, not brand-building.