Advertiser-funded content is helping brands reach young consumers and the mobile networks make their heavy 3G investments pay off. The potential is huge — the mobile phone is the most direct marketing route available — but brands have so far failed truly to exploit the opportunities. There is currently something of a land grab for mobile content and services funded by advertising, allowing viewers free access in exchange for their eyeballs. Brands are trying to discover what will work for them — a task not made any easier by obstacles thrown up by networks, such as different handsets requiring different video formats. Many advertisers are therefore wondering whether to get involved with sponsored mobile content now or wait until the creases have been ironed out. One pressing argument for early adoption is the numbers. ‘There are approximately 1billion WAP page impressions served in the UK and millions of video downloads per month, so the reach is big enough to interest advertisers,’ says Mark Slade, managing director of 4th Screen Advertising, a specialist in the mobile space. ‘UK operators, in their quest for new revenue streams, are opening their portals to advertising.’ There has been a significant shift by operators in Europe, and in particular the UK, toward advertiser-funded models for their content services that can boost traffic and drive fresh revenue streams. Last month, mobile network 3 announced it would launch an ad-funded video service, offering free video clips to users of its Planet 3 portal, including news, comedy, gossip, animations and film. Not surprisingly, rumours abound that rival UK operators including O2, T-Mobile and Orange are also preparing to include ads on their portals. ‘Our view is that it is a great way for us to monetise content as well as getting fresh content,’ says Peter Northing, director of products and services for 3. ‘The customer gets free content and the advertisers benefit from targeting users. The decline of traditional media will be counteracted by the growth of mobile, and we have proved the concept by the clickthrough rates on ads. People want free content.’ These claims are backed up by 3’s figures. More than 1.2m users viewed Celebrity Big Brother videos over three weeks. On the advertiser side, 70,000 Red Bull ads were viewed through 3’s daily magazine programme and 2.5m Canon clips were watched during the 2006 World Cup. Nevertheless, as an industry, mobile advertising is still in its infancy, and advertisers are understandably wary.

Source - Economictimes

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