Five-minute interview: Tomi Ahonen (consultant, speaker, prolific author and blogger)

At every event there’s a speaker who transfixes his audience. Tomi Ahonen is one of them. With boundless enthusiasm, he reels off fascinating case studies and useful stats, faster than you can jot them down. He’s amassed enough material for six ‘real’ books on mobile (the latest is Mobile as 7th of the Mass Media), as well as eBooks, (the latest are Tomi Ahonen Almanac 2009, stacked full of the latest statistics, and Mobile Pearls: Mobile Advertising, with his 50 favorite case studies) and then he’s got several blogs. See Tomi’s site for more details.
He is regularly invited to speak at mobile events. Next on the agenda is MLOVE ConFestival on June 23-25, 2010, in a mystery castle in Germany.

Q1. What is your favorite / least favorite mobile website? (Excepting your

My favorite is Flirtomatic. It’s amazing, fun, bizarre and it’s full of lessons and innovation that can easily be copied by most other mobile Web sites – definitely a front-runner.
It’s hard to single out just one bad one. Even surfing with a wide-screen smartphone, such as the Nokia E90 Communicator, can be a frustrating experience with a lot of Web sites.

Q2. What can the rest of us learn from these?
The key lesson from Flirtomatic is: make services fun and fast. Users don’t want to spend time “surfing”, they need to get to the pages where the fun starts, easily and rapidly.
To avoid having a poor site, make sure it is regularly tested. Ask people who aren’t geeks or gadget freaks, perhaps the company founders’ parents. If regular people can use it, it passes the test, but if they get frustrated, it needs to be sent back to development.

Q3. Who is the new kid on the block – the mobile site to watch for the future?
While it’s not that new, I love Qik, it’s a service for video broadcasting and sharing. I think it will be big.

Q4. What sector would you say is furthest ahead in mobile marketing?
It’s surprising, perhaps, but it is cars. Automobiles themselves are expensive and rare purchases for everyone, but young adults tend to change cars more often than most. This age group, sometimes referred to as Generation C (named after content, community etc), tend to be addicted to mobile. So if you’re selling cars to young adults, mobile is an optimal channel.

Q5. What can the rest of us learn from the auto sector?
There are many great innovative campaigns from the simple, but effective to the high tech:
BMW ran a MMS based-promotion for winter tires in Germany. It cost less than one TV advertisement, but sold 45 million dollars worth of new tires.
At the other extreme is Ford’s recent campaign for the Ka which is one of the first campaigns to use augmented reality. Looking through your phone’s camera lens you see 3-D Ka superimposed over the real world – very clever. See this video:

Q6. What’s the most exciting area of mobile marketing?

The really exciting place right now is advergaming – it’s the hottest, wildest and most bizarre opportunity. It’s innovative, fun, viral and engaging.
The second most exciting opportunity is engagement marketing which is why, for example Blyk has 30 percent response rates and enormous customer loyalty. Even when customers are bombarded with six ads every day, the number-one complaint is: they want MORE ads. This is the power of engagement marketing.

Q7. Who uses this to maximum effect?
Advergaming: Tohato launched multiplayer game called The World’s Worst War to promote the some new snacks that was a massive hit in Japan. See this video below for the case study.
Engagement marketing: Blyk.

Q8. What is the most useful resource site and / or must-read book for mobile marketers (apart from your own)?
Two great books from the past 12 months are Mobile Advertising by Chetan Sharma and The Mobile Marketing Handbook by Kim Dushinski.

Q9. Which mobile-marketing guru would you like to see do our five-minute interview next?
Please get one of the Hakuhodo executives behind the Tohato’s World’s Worst War. I don’t know who they are, but I’d love you to interview them and get the full story of their wild and wonderful campaign.

Which mobi guru would you like see interviewed next? Comment below or email editor (at)

Other mobiThinking five-minute interviews:

  • Pam Horan, Online Publishers Association
  • Barney Loehnis, OgilvyOne, Asia Pacific
  • Tom Eslinger, Saatchi & Saatchi Worldwide
  • Jonathan MacDonald, (consultant, blogger)
  • Edward Kershaw, Nielsen Online
  • Rory Sutherland, Ogilvy
  • Juston Payne, Wiley
  • Alexandre Mars, Phonevalley
  • Rob Lawson, Limbo
  • And don’t miss:

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