D2 Communications (D2C) was the world's first mobile advertising company, established in 2000 by NTT DoCoMo and Dentsu, the largest Japanese mobile operator and creative agency respectively. D2C ran its first mobile banner ads in July 2000 on the NTT DoCoMo's revolutionary iMode platform and launched its mobile solutions business a year later. Today it has grown to 254 staff, providing services that include the Picture Advertising service, which in the west would be called mobile banner advertising; iMenu Shopping, which is one of the largest "shopping information" sites on NTT DoCoMo's mobile portal; Message Free, an opt-in, targeted, email-based mobile marketing service on NTT DoCoMo; and Contents Tank, providing syndicated games, horoscopes, entertainment and other content for mobile Websites. D2C also runs its own Mobile Advertising Awards, which is in its eighth year.
mobiThinking caught up with Akihisa Fujita, D2C's president and chief executive officer in the run up to The MobileSquared Roadshow Asia on 5-6 May, 2010, Singapore (mobiThinking readers get a 30 percent discount for this event).
What is D2C and what type of services do you provide?
D2C is the largest mobile media agency in Japan. It is a one-stop provider of mobile marketing services. We don't just sell mobile advertising, but also provide mobile marketing consulting and produce mobile sites, content and applications for clients. D2C is both an owner of mobile destinations as well as being the representative of third-party sites.
D2C was set up by NTT DoCoMo and Dentsu: does this mean you work exclusively with these two?
No. D2C works with all three carriers and with other creative agencies as well.
Does D2C operate outside Japan?
Please tell me about the Picture Advertising service: how many mobile publishers (sites) do you represent and how many advertisers?
D2C works with over 400 sites. We don't disclose information on advertisers.
Is this mostly banner advertisements?
There are many kinds of mobile ads, but Picture Advertising specifically refers to banner ads. These ads fill standard-sized ad slots in different type of mobile media in Japan.
How much does it cost to do Picture Advertising on NTT DoCoMo's iMenu (portal home page), and how many page impressions does this deliver?
The price of a picture ad on the iMenu front page is around US$330,000 ($1=JP¥100). There are over 15 million visitors to this starting page for the iMode portal every day and 50 million impressions per week.
What Message Free service?
This is email-based mobile advertising for opt-in customers on NTT DoCoMo. It shows the most effective advertisements to the best potential customers at the best time. Advertisers can target using according to time of day, geographical area, gender and age.
How many opt-in subscribers and how many advertisers are there to Message Free?
There are over 13 million users (as of February 2010), and the service is used by over 600 companies (this number is from one year ago).
Please tell me about iMenu Shopping. Is this a shopping directory? How many shops are there?
Yes, it is. We call it a shopping information portal site. We do not disclose the exact number of shops, but it’s one of the largest of its kind.
Please tell me about mobile Internet and marketing in Japan. Do more Japanese people access the Internet from a mobile than PC?
This depends on age of the user and the type of site. For example, most people tend to access social networking sites by mobile phone in Japan.
How many mobile sites are there in Japan? How many mobile commerce sites are there?
We are not sure of the exact number.
Why do you think mobile Internet has been so successful in Japan?
Many companies started to realize that mobile media is absolutely important now. There are many reasons but, key ones are:
• Mobile media is the closest media to people – they keep their phones within 30cm of their body 24 hours a day.
• Almost half of mobile-phone users in Japan are on all-you-can-use data plans.
• The mobile phone is the only medium that users and companies can connect with each other almost in real time, etc.
What are the biggest or most successful mobile sites?
The best example is McDonald’s Japan – the mobile site is one of the biggest and also most successful.
McDonald’s has been providing coupons service through a cell phone since 2003. The mobile site was set up in the first place, so that customers could download the coupon to their cell phone and show it at the shop. This service has helped attract over 16 million members to the McDonald's mobile site.
Since 2008, they started to provide the coupon service as application service. This was the first time that McDonald’s – anywhere in the world – has been able to conduct true one-to-one marketing using member information and purchasing histories collected via mobile phone. This coupon service now has over 6.7 million users.
McDonald’s Tokusuru mobile site was the Grand Prix winner at the 8th Mobile Ad Awards, organised by D2C, last year.
Dentsu says mobile marketing and advertising expenditures in Japan in 2009 was JP¥103.1 billion (US$1.14 billion)? Why do you think mobile advertising is so much more successful in Japan than the rest of the world?
• Japan has a uniquely carrier-centric ecosystem. The phone carriers took the lead in creating a mobile ecosystem that bundled together phone makers, platform vendors, contents providers, etc. This system works very well – that's why mobile subscriptions and mobile Internet use grew at such an extreme rate.
• As you know, Japan has 128 million people and there are 109 million mobile subscribers. Most of the people are on fast networks and almost half are on unlimited data plans, which means they don't think twice about using the mobile Web.
• Today consumers are very well educated about new services like mobile payment, helped by mass-media advertising campaigns run by carriers. Also mobile ad agencies created by carriers help to guide users to content.
• Compared to other markets, Japanese carriers only take 10 percent of content revenue, leaving 90 percent to content providers, the highest margin in the world. This means that content providers have more to reinvest in developing better services for users.
• Thus the Japanese mobile market has become one of the most highly-developed in the world and as a result the mobile ad market has surpassed JP¥100 billion – a milestone that encourages companies to focus on the market even more.
What can the rest of the world learn from mobile in Japan?
It is common to hear people all over the globe saying Japan suffers from “Galapagos syndrome”, but actually it is not really like that. There already are many global brands, including McDonald’s, Louis Vuitton, Warner Brothers and Coca-Cola using mobile marketing in Japan and achieving great success.
Mobile in Japan has to be seen to be believed… let D2C be your guide.