March 15, 2011

Telecoms Go Off-Portal

By Delynn Ho, VP Sales

A shift has taken place in the world of telecom companies.

Not long ago, carriers saw themselves as gateways, creating walled gardens making it difficult and more expensive for mobile users to surf beyond the telco portals. Mobile users wouldn't have it, though. And as data charges in most markets have become increasingly affordable, telcos have had to adjust.

Nowhere has this shift been more pronounced than in the carriers' sales and marketing departments. Under the old plans, telcos were content to market to their consumer base, particularly via SMS blasts. Today, though, carriers are moving beyond their own properties. They're taking out mobile ads and running mobile campaigns, just like brands in other industries, to engage surfers and promote unique services like ringback tones.

The new campaigns are paying off.

Agencies tell us that mobile internet usage during the period of the campaigns has increased by more than 40%.

Let's take a look at examples from three countries . . .

Promoting a Service
Telkomsel holds a 22% market share in Indonesia, but the carrier is reaching outside its own customer base to promote a free roaming service for Blackberry users. The Blackberry Internet Service (BIS) includes emails, chat (BBM) and surfing on social networks like Twitter and Facebook.

Telkomsel's ad campaign is straight-forward. A banner ad

 links to a landing site created by the company:

The campaign is running in Indonesia as well as overseas to target Indonesians who are traveling. Indonesian Blackberry users who subscribe to Telkomsel's service receive free roaming in five markets – Australia, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Singapore and Taiwan.

What's particularly interesting is that Telkomsel targets all smartphones, regardless of make or carrier, in several markets. Telkomsel wants its own Blackberry users to know about BIS, but it also aims to expand its market by targeting non-Blackberry users (so they'll consider switching phones) and its competitors clients.

Consumer Education

Like Telkomsel, Vodacom is working to grow its market, but rather than promoting a specific service, South Africa's largest carrier is raising consumer awareness of how mobile phones can be used.

A simple direct banner links to Vodacom's DIY mobile site, which contains information about data charges and the types of services available, such as chat, content downloads, surfing and search.

Promoting Apps and Proprietary Content

Idea Cellular is partnering with Djuzz -- BuzzCity's free ad-supported mobile games and apps portal -- to distribute a proprietary application, a translation app that promises to 'break the language barrier'.

The language app features vocabulary in nine Indian languages from a variety of concepts and situations. It also offers audio so users can hear the correct pronunciation. This campaign complements Idea Cellular's language helpline, which also offers on-the-spot translation services.

Previously, a carrier app like this would have only been available on the telco's portal, not on an open distribution platform. But India Cellular realises that if it wants to grow the market, it needs a broader approach.

Of course, carriers have not altogether given up on drawing consumers back to their portals. But to do this they need to offer cool content . . . and they need to market their services outside their own gardens.

For a look at one area where telcos have a unique advantage, check out my piece on ringbacks!