David Murphy talks to Julien Oudart, Marketing & Business Development Director for mobile advertising firm Sofialys Mobile Media Systems
DM: So Julien, give us an introduction to Sofialys if you would.
JO: Sure. We started out six years ago with a mobile marketing technology platform for operators, and around four years ago, we started a project with Vodafone in France (SFR) collecting their customers consent to receive marketing messages on their phone. That database has grown from zero to 2 million names in four years. Brands will run quizzes and competitions on the SFR website and mobile portal offering discounts and prizes, and if you want to enter, you have to sign up to the database.
When you sign up, you can specify how often you want to receive marketing messages, whether you want them via SMS, MMS or WAP Push, and we also ask people to tell us what things they are interested in so that we can send them relevant advertising.
From a targeting perspective, we can segment the database by age, postcode, interested etc., and we can also monitor whether people click on the ads they receive, for behavioural targeting.
DM: And with 2 million people opted in, this obviously works
JO: For sure. You know, people say mobile advertising doesnt work, that its too intrusive, but we all have five or 10 brands that we want to be associated with in our own world, depending on what were interested in. Targeting is at the heart of it, and consent. If you can get peoples permission, and you can get them to profile themselves, then you are able to deliver the right message from the right brand at the right time. Its very similar to the Blyk model. We were big believers in Blyk, and I think the only reason they failed was because they started form scratch, and when you do that, you have to accept that you wont make any money for a couple of years.
DM: So how come you havent managed to sell this idea to other operators? It sounds like a no-brainer to me, but with the exception of Turkcell, I dont know of any other operator that runs an opted-in database like this.
JO: There are some. Orange in France and Vodafone and Telecom Italia in Italy, but they are the exceptions as you say. I think the reason is that these are big companies who make billions from SMS and voice and a little bit from content, so it will take time, but I dont think they will take their eye off the ball in the way that AOL did with the web. They are still in a very good position. They have the relationship with the customer, so they are in a good position to build an opted-in database and to deliver geolocated campaigns, and they also have a lot of experience in mobile advertising now, and I think in six or seven years time when the industry is more mature, they will be in a good position.
DM: So are you anywhere near to selling something similar to other operators?
JO: We are, yes. We have two more in Europe that we will be able to announce shortly.
DM: Do you do anything else with SFR?
JO: We have one other project on the go. Last October, we launched a CPC, auction-based sales channel for keyword on SFRs mobile portal, a bit like Google Adwords for mobile. So if youre a car brand, you can go on and bid for the word car. This has been very successful in driving SFRs advertising business. Its quite unusual, because I dont think the operators have really been focused on monetising the search side of the business so far. The focus has all been on display.
DM: And how does the cost of a typical keyword on mobile compare to the cost of the same keyword on the web?
JO: Its around two to three times higher, because if mobile is done well, people are much more likely to interact with it than on the web. We see clickthrough rates 10 times those of the web on mobile.
DM: And apart from your work with SFR, what else are you involved in?
JO: We have a mobile ad server called Mobile Ad Box that we launched in 2007. We use this to sell inventory for SFR, and for 10 publishers in Italy, Spain and Germany. We have social networks, and some big media brands such as Arena Mobile in Spain.
DM: And on what basis do you sell this inventory, is it CPM (cost per thousand) or CPC (cost per click)?
JO: We try to keep it CPM, but mobile is going towards the performance-based model because a lot of mobile advertising comes from companies that sell stuff for mobiles ringtones and other content, so they like the CPC model, because they only pay if the guy clicks on the ad and comes through to their store. But then you have a big car brand looking to build awareness for a new car launch and they like the CPM model, so you have combination of the two.
Then a little later this month, we will be launching our own online mobile ad exchange.
DM: Like an AdMob?
JO: Similar, but with a much smaller number of publishers, and with visibility for brands as to where their ad will appear. Usually with an online ad exchange, its a blind network, but with ours, you will be able to decide where you want your ad to appear. Our publishers will profile themselves into specific categories, which we will monitor, to help our advertisers target. Advertisers will also be able to target by territory, and by device, so they might only want to reach iPhone users, for example.
And we are looking for a couple of hundred publishers absolute maximum.
I would rather work with a smaller number and have a CPM of 5 8 than with a much larger number and get a CPM of 1.
DM: Whats the exchange going to be called?
JO: Youll have to wait till it launches for that Im afraid.
DM: And what type of publisher are you hoping to sign up?
JO: We are looking at European publishers. They could be big media brands, or big web brands coming to mobile, or big mobile brands who are driving a lot of traffic to their site. The key really is to create the audience. Brands and agencies are willing to do stuff on mobile if we can deliver the right audience. Its about quality, targeting and qualifying the audience.
DM: Just a final thought, do you see any real hotspots for mobile advertising currently?
JO: Obviously you get the emerging countries where the use of mobile is very high but theres very little ad spend. And in Europe, 80% of total ad spend comes from the five big markets: UK, France, Italy, Spain and Germany.
DM: And within those five, who leads the way?
JO: Id say the UK is a little bit ahead, in terms of initiatives and innovation, followed by France.