P&G's Mobile Ambitions & Case Studies from Emerging Markets

Carlos Grande

This is one of a series of edited extracts from the Mobile Marketing Forum 2008. Other articles cover:

For all his reports from the event, visit WARC's Mobile Marketing Forum blog.


Followers of Procter & Gamble's recent strategy announcements will hardly be surprised to learn that recruiting "low income consumers" in emerging markets is a key goal of the multinational owner of 350 brands. It may not have been as clear that P&G sees mobile communications as instrumental in achieving this goal - at least until this was spelt out at the 2008 Mobile Marketing Forum in Budapest.

Khurram Hamid, P&G's global head of mobile marketing, told attendees that mobile communications was at the centre of its drive to reach "its next billion customers", particularly in areas such as Sub-Saharan Africa where mobiles outnumbered fixed lines, television sets or clean water supplies. P&G believes that, worldwide, mobile communications has three broad roles depending on the local market in question.

In the advanced economies of Western Europe and the US, mobile has a supporting role to underpin mainstream media such as television, and increasingly the web. In other large, but still immature economies such as Brazil, India and Russia, where internet and mobile access is growing but often limited to the cities, it plays a lead role - sometimes leapfrogging analogue media which never really developed. Yet in areas such as sub-Saharan Africa and rural Pakistan, it has become a hero, providing the only communications channel available to millions of people - and the brands which want to reach them. 

As a global group, P&G needs to adopt marketing activities which can be scaled across these disparate markets, and mobile offers one of its best hopes, Hamid said. Yet Hamid also complained that large planning agencies had been as slow to embrace mobile marketing as they had once been to recommend that clients use the web.

P&G, which will spend an estimated $350m on interactive, mostly web-based marketing this year, had eventually turned to smaller specialists to create its internet campaigns. Mr Hamid said the same situation could occur in the mobile market unless mainstream agencies put the medium into more of their planning and strategy briefs.

Mr Hamid warned: "If you're (the agency networks) not going to be there, we're going to bypass you." He added that the whole process of launching a mobile campaign, which typically required advertisers to work with several agencies, technology groups and mobile operators, needed to be simplified. He said: "There is a whole vast value chain and we have to make so many choices. Make it easy for us and you will get the money." 

Mr Hamid was one of several speakers during the Budapest event to argue that mobile marketing would be most important to multinational advertisers in emerging markets. The following case study material, collated from several speakers, provided ample evidence for this view.

Emerging Markets Mobile Case Studies (1): South Africa

South African marketers are believed to spend more on mobile marketing than internet advertising. Over half of all direct marketing expenditure in the country also goes via mobile channels. And in a presentation by Joanne Scholtz, director, interaction GroupM, the country emerged as a dynamic, large and innovative market for commercial mobile activities. 

Scholtz began by setting out the characteristics of the country which make it an attractive option for mobile marketers. In a country of 47m people, 20 per cent have an income of less than 50 euros per month, compared to the average South African income of 450 euros per month. A large percentage of the population has therefore never owned fixed line telephones, televisions or internet enabled PCs.

The country now has an estimated 42 mobile accounts (some are second or even third phones) - an 80 per cent penetration rate. By comparison, only 5.6m South Africans have web access and broadband penetration is low and access typically slow. It is also a very diverse market, stretching for affluent urbanites to rural hut dwellers. 

Mobile internet access is also growing quickly. According to a Siemens/Nokia study, mobile internet had been used by 25 per cent of South African mobile users in 2007. Mobile data tariffs are comparatively cheap, and for many people mobile provides their first experience of the web. The country regularly appears in the top 10 most active nations worldwide on the Admob international mobile advertising network. It notched 117m mobile ad views in August 2008 and Google has also rated the country the third or fourth largest national source of mobile searches.

However, as in other countries, mobile marketers complain about a lack of agreed metrics and a complicated supply chain to get campaigns to market. Permission is also a large issue, aggravated by unethical selling of consumer information databases. This has prompted one operator, Vodacom, to create a network-neutral permission-only database of mobile users. The database has recruited 200,000 registrants and brands which have marketed to this database have reported high response and good read rates on commercial SMS and other types of messaging campaigns.

Innovative mobile media options

One of the features of the South African market (also available in Serbia and Egypt and likely to appear in other markets) is free "Please Call Me" (PCM) messaging. Mobile phone users will send this type of SMS message - typically they have a quota of free PCMs as part of their airtime deal - to a contact rather than making a call which would incur a cost.

There are some 20m PCM messagess sent in South Africa every day. Consumers also use them to confirm the times of pre-agreed transactions - such as picking or dropping someone off - with the time that the message is sent serving as the prompt for the understood time the action to take place. The PCMs can also carry commercial messages and these are typically booked out by advertisers at the earliest opportunity.

The country has also experienced rapid growth in instant messaging on mobiles (which is cheaper for consumers than sending an SMS). The leading supplier, Mixit, has 7.5m South African customers and has launched into other markets. 

Results from mobile media

PCMs have been used by OMO, the Unilever detergent powder.

Over a 38 day campaign in November 2007, 34m messages were tagged with prize-related additional content by the Unilever brand, including free airtime and a few cell phones. The results were: 

Advertisers such as Cadbury's and Peugeot have also aired similar campaigns.

As mobile phones are personal, discreet and always carried, they have also been central to social marketing campaigns in South Africa. Scholtz detailed how they have been used by retro-viral clinics to remind patients to keep appointments. Some clinics have reported a rise in attendance of up to 90 per cent following such campaigns. Typically the users are sent several reminders and a thank you after attendance at the clinics. PCMs have also been used to broadcast HIV helpline numbers (typically call centre volumes double after the PCM message goes out), and to recruit volunteers for campaigns against female violence.

Scholtz summed up six main ingredients for successful campaigns:

1. Have clear objectives
2. Understand your audience
3. Look at their behaviours and attitudes
4. When you have a strategy in place, use mobile to amplify other activities you are doing (surveys, greetings etc)
5. Select the best partners and products available for a campaign
6. Follow through on the execution to accumulate learnings

Emerging Markets Case Studies (2): Turkey and Georgia

Mobile-based communities are starting to pick up pace in several emerging market economies. Arda Kertemelioglu, co-founder and chief business development director of Mobilera (Turkey), provided examples of the genre.

One of Mobilera's most prominent activities is running segmented and permission based mobile communities for brands wishing to attract and acquire new customers, retain existing ones, increase stickiness and trigger the use of products and services. A typical client is Turkcell, a Turkish mobile operator in a market where the average youth has two and a half SIM cards and there is little loyalty.

Mobilera created a mobile loyalty programme using a combination of demographic data and operator information on individuals' behaviour and usage. Customers were then invited to join the programme and offered prizes and tickets in return. Over time this has accumulated 18m users - half of Turkcell's total user base. 

In Georgia, it oversaw a launch campaign for Geocell, a new mobile operator, of a mobile youth community called Zoom. The campaign used a variety of events and marketing. The specific mobile elements were:

The total campaign, involving a continuous run of such offers, resulted in a 140 per cent rise in Geocell membership. In further activity, discounted cinema tickets were offered to members: 40 per cent of members used the offer more than once. In addition to driving subscribers to Geocell, the company also claims that Zoom members spend on average 10 per cent more on mobile services than average Geocell customers. Other examples were cited from Ukraine and Moldova.

Emerging markets case studies (3): Croatia

Finally, VIPnet, a Croatian operator and partner of Vodafone, offered evidence of an advertising funded mobile service. It was presented by Matthias Grundboeck, director residential marketing, VIPnet.

Encouraged by research showing that more than 60 per cent of respondents claimed to be interested in mobile marketing, the operator launched Tomato-plus, a junior sub brand for an advertising-funded tariff. Under the deal, customers received 50 SMS and 50 free call minutes in return for accepting advertising messages by SMS, MMS or email. 

Advertisers were charged on a per-message basis (7 eurocents per SMS; 14 eurocents on MMS). Consumers' responses were free via SMS. Users registered online where they were asked to give certain lifestyle information as well as demographics to aid targeting of campaigns. Within two weeks, there were 7000 users on the tariff (Croatia's population is only 4m).

They were then sent an average of two or three messages a day (some users complained when they didn't receive messages fearing that the service had ended and they had lost their free minutes). The messages have been used to promote DVDs and mobile coupons as well as research users' habits (some research questions have had 75 per cent response rates).

According to the company, some 98 per cent of participants said the service was somewhat or very attractive. Mr Grundboeck, and his colleague from a partner agency, Alexandra Deutsch, were asked whether this advertising-funded model would work for all operators. The answer given was that it would depend on the operator's brand and customer profile. For some users, advertising-funded services would not be appropriate, and therefore operators might more likely to offer such services via a sub or new brand.

About the Author:

    Carlos Grande is editor of WARC Online. He can be contacted at carlos.grande@warc.com.

He joined WARC in 2008 after eight years at the Financial Times, where he was latterly marketing correspondent. Previously, he was acting deputy on the FT's UK companies newsdesk and a senior UK companies reporter. 

Prior to that, Carlos edited Creative Business, the FT's weekly print section and website covering media, marketing, advertising, PR and technology.