November 18, 2009

Commentary : Mobile Ad Networks and The Need to Stand Out.

Mickey Alam Khan cut close to the bone when he recently said “One of the issues that mobile ad networks face is positioning, or rather the lack of it.”

So, how did mobile ad networks find themselves in this position?

Firstly, unlike the traditional internet, mobile internet grew from carrier portals where content was tightly controlled. Therefore, it’s hardly surprising that content on the mobile internet has not grown quite as fast as the fixed line internet. Where it has grown, albeit quietly, has been in off-portal services that encourage user generated content.

Consequently, large community sites (social networks) have developed that generate huge amounts of traffic without any specifically tailored context – making the development of specialised advertising channels a challenge.

Secondly, there was a long held belief among (aspiring and incumbent) mobile players that all valuable content was paid content. This led to extended periods of soul searching among many for that perfect recipe to make people pay for content – and among some incumbents, there were some highly dubious subscription plans.  A major consequence of this has been the prolonged delay of further content being made available on the mobile internet.

Until more content is deployed, the land grab for the precious mobile real estate that is currently available will continue (the crescendo of whispers may yet peak!) and few will be able to demonstrate a clear “area of specialty” simply by owning generalised sites.  Without more tailored content, the mobile internet is still a long way from boutique networks serving verticals of specialised content.

While we agree with Mickey’s overall view, we think technology only provides a fleeting edge to a provider’s USP. We feel the ad networks that stand out, even as the advertising industry is evolving with digital media, will be those whose brands are built by delivering superior customer service – perhaps even bespoke campaign development & management – not just to global advertisers and agencies but publishers too.