RIO DE JANEIRO: Advertisers looking to make an impact among Latin American shoppers should seek to employ mobile marketing as a central component of their media plans.

According to Roxana Strohmenger, an analyst at Forrester, the research firm, the internet is a very "powerful vehicle" that brands can leverage to attract the attention of consumers in this region.

Social networks have proved particularly popular, with properties like Orkut, which is part of Google's portfolio, enjoying extremely high usage levels in Brazil and Hi5 in widespread use elsewhere. 

However the persistence of a "digital divide" across Latin America means unique strategies are needed to take full advantages of the opportunities afforded by the web.

A survey conducted by Forrester found that 56% of people living it major cities in both Brazil and Mexico do not have access to a PC with an online connection at present.

"Companies are still unable to reach a significant number of consumers through social media tools," said Strohmenger.

More positively, as some 75% of city dwellers in Brazil and Mexico own a mobile phone, this route offers "huge potential" for brands that develop content and applications specifically for this channel.

"Companies with a presence in Latin America need to incorporate cellphones into their media allocation mix," said Strohmenger.

"Cellphones are an integral part of a Latin American's life and can be a platform that companies can successfully use to connect with their target audience."

Another layer of complexity results from the fact that just 5% of the wireless audience in Latin America regularly log on to the mobile web.

A primary contributor to this modest rate of uptake is that smartphones currently account for just 8% of the mobile category in the region.

As such, the kind of data-rich material that has become commonplace on devices like the iPhone in the US and Western Europe would not be appropriate.

"If your tool is sophisticated and/or requires the internet, you will still hit only a small part of the market," Strohmenger argued.

One organisation that has adopted an approach perfectly suited to these conditions is Bubble Motion, which runs a service known as Bubbly.

This system operates in a similar fashion to Twitter but is based on voice messages rather than their electronic equivalent, and works on all types of mobile phone. 

"In a market that we know is interested in social, Bubbly is an innovative way to harness the power of social media through a device that most consumers have," Strohmenger suggested.

Data sourced from Forrester; additional content by Warc staff