The second internet revolution
Global advertising agency, Young & Rubicam (Y&R) believe we are experiencing one of the biggest paradigm shifts in communication. As big as the internet, it is as the cellphone becomes a computer. Y&R feels so strongly about this that it produced a book, ‘Mobile Mania’, to document what this “second internet revolution” means to current culture.
Written by Simon Silvester, EVP head of planning, Y&R EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa), the book describes how putting computing power into such a small device as a mobile phone, is likely to change computing out of all recognition – and our lives with it.
The key of course, is mobility.
Take this stat: 65 million desk-bound workers use Google every day – 6 billion other people on this planet don’t. Why? Because they don’t sit at desks all day, or they don’t have daily access to computers, or they just don’t have computers, Silvester says.
“The ‘deskiness’ of computers has stopped them getting into every corner of our lives. They aren’t there when we socialise, they aren’t there when we shop, or travel, or go to bed… They are not designed for the 80% of humans who don’t sit at a desk all day,” Silvester points out.
He believes the “shape of the future”will come from studying the teen society of today: “It is already much more networked than that of older people in their mid-20s.”
Silvester adds: “For marketers, the cellphone is important because so many traditional marketing media are collapsing at the moment. In certain cases, the cellphone may be the only marketing medium available in the future.”
These are some of the marketing challenges and opportunities that Silvester identified:
• He believes packaged goods marketers have a particular problem because many of their brands were designed for big budget television. “They will continue to struggle to adjust to digital as lead medium.”
• Target audiences have also become an issue for marketers. “Brands cannot transition to digital mobile media whilst retaining a broad demographic target audience – demographics were invented in the TV era to sell airtime.” Marketers mustn’t be that quick, however, to dismiss “TV thinking”, Silvester says, as the web is going video.
• Loyalty schemes will become more powerful over the next few years as mobile media increases engagement and we are already seeing retailers pilot interesting schemes with rewards and coupons in South Africa.
• The rise of the 24/7 campaign: mobile media may also lead to the round the clock, 24/7 marketing campaign which is as immersive for consumers as a video game or Facebook’s gaming success story, Farmville.
• Openness and measurement: because mobile phones provide information and data to the fingertips of consumers as they shop, Silvester says it should force marketing into a new “openness” towards the consumer, as well as better measurement of campaigns.
• Payments: the mobile device will become a transaction device for all types of payments, says Silvester. “For poorer people without bank accounts, mobile minutes are proving a better currency than cash.”
Mobile is the current big thing and it has been the big thing for a couple of years now. The reason it is such a big deal, say the mobile pundits, is its reach and the change in behaviour and even culture that it has engendered.
Alan Knott-Craig, CEO of Cell C, says our mobile devices are entertainment, intelligence centres for people, a hub of intelligence, our workstations of the future. “People are walking around with very sophisticated offices in their hands. Are we making full use of these devices? No, the prices are too high,” says Knott-Craig, pointing to high data costs.
He would like comparative advertising so that consumers could at least make informed decisions.
“Consumers need to be concerned about the price of what they are trying to do and understand their data costs.”
Of course, until everyone has access to broadband, especially schools, clinics and so on, we will not be able to use communications and technology like we should in South Africa; educate our kids; and have the medical system we deserve, Knott-Craig says.
The tech is all there, waiting for us to use, Government needs to play a stronger role, Knott-Craig says. The broadband tipping point will only come from a national strategy from Government.
He predicts interesting mergers and acquisitions for the next couple of years among banks and mobile companies and media and mobile companies.
“The centrepiece around this is always communication. Mobile companies will play a pivotal role in how they will go forward.”
The mobile tipping point for Yoav Tchelet, executive digital director of dotJWT, was when Apple took mobile from a communications device to a platform to enhance people’s lives with the launch of their iPhone smartphone.
“They reinvented the wheel when it came to mobile, as they allowed developers and brands to create valuable content for the mobile device together with the technology at the same time. Mobile became more than a functional space and that is where people’s usage with mobile also changed. It was a total gamechanger. People look at their mobile screens all day, no other device as much.” And that is what brands need to harness.
For Tchelet, mobile is already the first screen. US research shows that 63% of women and 73% of men do not go an hour without checking their phones. “Television can’t compete with that. The power of course, is combining mobile and TV.”
The real innovation is coming from Africa too, as mobile development is actually changing lives and economies. Brands must get involved in this space and be shown to do good, he says. Mobile is in fact revolutionising and hacking industries that were not thought of in this context. Such as banking, micro-finance, health, education, farming.
Prakash Patel, CEO of Prezence Digital calls himself a digital granddad as he’s been in the industry 25 years now. His concern is the skills shortage in the industry and inflated salaries for youngsters without necessarily the requisite work or life experience.
He believes mobile will become the foundation, the DNA strand in the whole marketing ecosystem.
“It is the only device on us 24/7, whether it is the smartphone or feature phone. It is mobilising the masses.”
The tipping point for mobile – in business, society, the technology, he says, was definitely the introduction of the first smartphone.
“It means I could talk to my team on the go through emails, I didn’t have to go home and log in, I could arrange my diary and send a document. Blackberry totally took over the market from Nokia then.”
UK-based, James Hilton, M&C Saatchi Mobile founder and CEO, says it is hard to believe that smartphones have only been around about four years. The first app stores made their appearance in 2009.
When James Hilton started out in mobile, everyone was talking about it as a technology, not a marketing platform – that is how far it has evolved in recent years. Mobile content was wallpaper and ringtones, no one was driving marketing engagement. Hilton launched Inside Mobile, the first mobile marketing agency.
“Mobile is a whole new channel: portable content to snackable content. It fills a void in life – maximises downtime on trains, planes. Mobile is the ‘new smoking’. Nowadays people pick up their mobile phone and engage.” There is in fact more power on your smartphone than the Apollo space mission had on the craft and on the ground! he says.
“What upsets me most is when people call it a mobile phone – it is a mobile computer! There is a whole new world out there, the phone is an element, but it is not the be all and end all. Mobile has been taking out other technologies as it goes… note the death of the digital camera,” Hilton says.
In the 1990s, email was thought to be the killer app of the internet. Silvester points out that at about the same time, sms exploded in Asia, not email.
“The need for always on, always connected, always there has become critical for ordinary people.”
The big question, Silvester poses is about behaviour: “How will the way people use computers change as they start to carry powerful ones with them all the time? Probably as much as the way computers changed when they stopped being the size of rooms andstarted to fit on desks.
“Things will also change because phones are more ‘conscious’ than desktop computers. Thanks to GPS location, accelerometers and compass functions, a modern cellphone increasingly knows where it is, and what it’s looking at.”
Soon, Silvester says, mobile phones will feel less like a tool, and “more like part of your brain”.
That change is already bringing about changes in consumer behaviour, he says:
• Twitter wouldn’t exist if people had to go home to tweet from their desktop PCs.
• People wouldn’t organise a party on Facebook if they could only check their status at home.
• People are starting to watch TV on their cellphones – even when they are at home.
• A decade ago, most people did most of their writing on PC. Today, Silvester says, Japanese professors complain that students now routinely write and submit their dissertations from their mobile phones.
• Commonly quoted research indicates that most people would rather leave their wallet at home than their mobile phone.
• At the height of the 1990s internet boom, there were 200 million computers in total connected to the internet, Silvester says. In 2009, alone, 180 million smartphones were sold.The Economist reports that it is estimated that by 2015, almost all shipped handsets will be smart.
• Half the people on the planet carry a cellphone with them all the time and nearly all use them constantly, Silvester says: “It is therefore likely that cellphones will become consumers’ main computing device of the future.” It truly is the first and most accessible screen for many.
Stephanie Houslay, general manager at Cape Town-based Acceleration Media, calls it “social integration on the go”.
“Mobile technology means that people are always available and connected. People carry their social identities on their mobile devices wherever they go. With a portable, durable online identity, users have the opportunity to share their data between sites to build, maintain relationships and stay up to date with the people they know and the things they care about.
“Brands need to learn to tap into the social identity and integration frameworks that drive the mobile internet. They must apply social thinking at every level of their businesses to successfully speak to and engage with mobile consumers.”
Crowdtilt.com CEO, James Beshara, goes even further: “Our phones are becoming our remote controls for life. Our phones are our emergency kit for first-world problems.” There is an app for everything, he says.
In JWT’s annual trends report, they highlight the ‘mobile fingerprint’ as a trend for 2013, explaining that smartphones are evolving to become wallets, keys, health consultants, and more. “Soon they’ll become de facto fingerprints, our identity all in one place.”
Silvester says people who argue that social networking is a bigger trend than mobile are partelycorrect. Except, he points out, that mobile devices enable social networking and make it so “compelling and useful”. “Mobility is the underlying force behind social networking.”
Silvester of course includes all mobile devices in this mobile revolution, including tablets and gaming consoles.
In Native director of mobile content, Angus Robinson’s report back on the Mobile World Congress held in February 2013 in Barcelona, he revealed that the world is moving from the mobile era, to the ‘LTE and cloud era’. The mobile cloud is one of the biggest business opportunities and challenges to be faced by businesses in the next 3-5 years, he reports. In fact, General Motors announced that all its future cars will have 4G/LTW connectivity embedded.
More data was consumed in 2012 than all the previous years combined, which causes network challenges.
Robinson said MWC highlighted the disconnect between agencies, media owners and marketers, which are all struggling to understand and optimise the new marketing channels and technologies.
MWC also took a peek at the future, Robinson reports, with wearable mobile devices being mooted as the next major direction that the mobile industry is taking, including smart watches and Google glasses, health monitors and even gesture sensors.”
Silvester explains why mobile is truly a global revolution, not centred in the United States as the first internet revolution was. In fact, while most Asians and Europeans discovered texting in 1997, it actually only went mainstream in the US in 2008:
• Handsets in Hong Kong are sold unlocked, contract-free and ready to go.
• Sending money by cellphone happened first in Kenya with the M-Pesa payment system of choice. Mobile minutes have also become a widely traded currency.
• Building payment card functionality into cellphones is common in Japan and is also happening in Singapore and the UK.
• Moldova of all places boasts high definition voice calls.
• Cellphones were used better in South Africa’s 2009 election, where the ANC sent picture messages to 33 million cellphones, than in the famous Obama campaign, which built an iPhone app a bit late to have much of an impact on the previous US Presidential election.
• In Germany, Lufthansa was the first to replace paper tickets with barcodes sent to their passengers’ phones.
• The reach of telecoms companies extends over boarders. In the Ukraine, the biggest mobile network operator is in a joint venture with Norway’s Telenor.
• The average woman in Sub-Saharan Africa touches her hair 37 times a day – and checks her cellphone 82 times a day (Millward Brown 2008).
• An ordinary Indonesian sends over 800 texts a month.
• Cellphones allow Indian peasant farmers to negotiate a price for the livestock before they spend a day takingit to market.
• In ordinary countries like Thailand, middle class youth update their handsets every six months.
In fact, Silvester believes that the mobile-based internet boom could be the most democratic technological boom in history.