The insiders guide to mobile Web marketing in Canada

Get the low down on mobile in Canada, the world’s second largest country (by geography). Join the world’s top wireless guru, Laura Marriott as she draws together all the latest stats, the top mobile sites and all the brands, agencies and publishers that are leading mobile innovation with the help of her fellow Canadian experts.

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How big or advanced is mobile Web in Canada? What’s the potential?
“Canada is a world leader in wireless telecommunications. Wireless keeps us better connected, increases business productivity, provides jobs and prosperity, and plays a valuable role in keeping our communities safe and secure,” says Bernard Lord, president and CEO, The Canadian Wireless Telecommunications Association (CWTA) .
Essential facts and stats about mobile from Lord/CWTA:
• Canada was one of the first countries to establish a nationwide 3G network. Currently, the 3G footprint covers more than 90 percent of the population. Continuing investment by carriers means Canada will also have a world-leading 3.5G network.
• 22 million cell-phone subscribers (over 66 percent of the Canadian population) at end of 2009, expected to reach 30 million within five years.
• 75 percent of all Canadian households have a mobile phone.
• 50 percent of phone connections in Canada are wireless.
• Canadians send 100 million text messages per day.
Essential facts and stats about mobile Web:
• 21 percent of mobile consumers (or 4 million Canadians) use their mobile phones to browse the Web (Nielsen Online, June 2009).
• 53 percent of mobile users have an Internet-ready device, ( [Bell Canada] survey, September 2009).

What is driving growth?
The growth of mobile Web in the Canada, in common with mobile markets around the globe, is driven by:
• The speed that operators rollout better data networks and consumer-friendly data plans.
• Consumer adoption of phones that make accessing the Internet easier and a more rewarding experience.
• Availability of more compelling content and services that meet consumer needs.
• Made-for-mobile Websites that are optimized to deliver a high-quality consumer experience.
• The popularity of downloading applications from app stores.
According to Lord, the driving force behind innovation and investment has been competition in the wireless industry and it is essential that investment continues. As wireless is a proven catalyst for stimulating economic growth, he encourages private and public organizations to step-up investment in the wireless infrastructure that underpins essential community services such as tele-learning in rural schools, linking local healthcare providers with remote life-saving applications or ensuring that all citizens have high-speed Internet access.

Which industries/sectors have shown the most interest in mobile Web/marketing in Canada?
The pioneers were the mobile-content providers – i.e. those offering ringtones, games and other paid-for services.
Consumer-facing brands in financial services, travel, entertainment, automotive, retail and food and beverage have also been quick to see the potential of mobile marketing.
According to Amielle Lake, CEO of mobile marketing company Tagga Media, there has been a lot of success stories among food and beverage brands such as Coors Light, Global Restaurants and Old Dutch Foods.
At Mobile, which lays claim to the largest mobile advertising network, Brad Cressman, head of sales and marketing explains: “Sympatico focuses on brand advertisers, rather than content advertisers (ring tones, downloads etc…) and has found that success with mobile advertising follows a similar pattern to online with top-tier brands in the top-spending categories. The auto market has been very active, particularly Acura, Lexus and GM for example. One of the greatest benefits of mobile is the ability to combine brand advertising with customer engagement – brands like Starbucks, McDonald’s and Axe (Unilever) have followed this strategy.

Which brands are the most innovative and most active mobile marketers?
For Brady Murphy, managing partner of mobile agency Vortex Mobile (mobile site:, three companies stand out particularly as mobile innovators in Canada:
Scotiabank (Canada’s third largest bank) uses mobile Web, applications and SMS for both marketing and m-banking and is very bullish about gaining first-mover advantage.
LoyaltyOne (the Canadian company behind Air Miles) – Murphy believes loyalty/rewards companies hold the key to unlocking mobile couponing and offers (among many other things).
• Dell Canada (mobile site:, which uses SMS and mobile-friendly emails that link to an m-commerce site that is attracting an increasing number of transactions.

What sorts of campaigns are they running – mobile Web or SMS; cross media; national or local?
• In Canada, SMS is still remains the most prominent tool for interaction, but over the past year brands have been increasingly investing in mobile-friendly sites and apps.
• The trend in recent years has been towards integrating mobile into overall marketing strategy at much earlier stages in the planning process. Mobile is most effective when integrated into cross-media initiatives – such as adding a mobile call to action to a bill-board campaign.
• Brand campaigns are normally run at a national level, but mobile is also used local as part of regional radio, TV and print campaigns.

What are the most popular mobile sites and activities?
• The most popular mobile destinations in Canada in Q1 2009: Windows Live Mail (1.4 million unique visitors); Google Search; Facebook; The Weather Network and Yahoo! Mail. (Nielsen Online, June 2009).
• Top categories accessed via the mobile Web include: portals, e-mail, weather, news and current affairs and search (Nielsen Online, June 2009).
Mobile sites of famous Canadian brands include
News: Canwest/; Toronto Star; National Post; Ottawa Herald; Globe and Mail ; Quebecor Media; Metro;
Broadcast and entertainment: CBC; CTV; The Score; Slice;; Cineplex;
Travel: WestJet; Air Canada; Canadian Tourism Commission (CTC);;;;
Government: Government of Canada;
Banks: Royal Banking Corporation (RBC).
Olympics: The official Vancouver 2010 mobile site

What are the key:
a) mobile/creative agencies
Mobile agencies have played a strong role in bringing mobile marketing to brands. Promotions companies like LPI and 6S marketing (mobile site:; and interactive companies like Carlson, BStreet, Proximity and Cossette have adopted mobile well and dedicated themselves to educating their brands on the best tactics to harness mobile.
“All the big Internet publishers and traditional creative agencies are dabbling in mobile, but as with every new medium, it’s the mobile-specific agencies that are going the deepest, like Vortex Mobile and Polar Mobile,” explains Andrew Osmak, senior vice president of Canadian Internet/mobile dating agency Lavalife.
b) Mobile advertising networks Mobile claims to be the largest mobile advertising network in Canada, but many of the US-based networks also have a presence.
c) Network operators
The latest subscriber figures from CWTA for Canadian mobile operators are:
Rogers Wireless – 8.3 million subscribers (the mobile site: is only for subscribers); Bell Wireless – 6.7 million (, TELUS Mobility – 6.4 million (, SaskTel Mobility – 0.5 million, MTS Mobility – 0.5 million.
d) Associations
From an industry-association prospective, the most effective mobile marketing groups are Mobile Mondays Vancouver and Mobile Mondays Toronto), CWTA, Digital Media and Wireless Association of BC (DigiBC), and the MMA.

What makes mobile marketing different in Canada compared to abroad?
Mobile marketers report that there are three basic dynamics that differentiate Canada from its counterparts. These are:
Cost – Canada remains one of the most expensive countries in the world for consumers to own cell-phones. There remains little price competition between the five carriers. The high prices mean consumers are reserved when it comes to engaging in any mobile marketing initiatives, just in case it may prove costly.
Scale – While the majority of Canadians have mobile phones, the percentage that have interacted with mobile marketing campaigns is still quite small, which restricts the reach for mobile advertisers. But this is expected to change rapidly.
Statistics – Marketers have little access to data on usage behavior and general trends on mobile consumers, making it difficult for a brand or agency to establish targets and define success metrics. Today, innovative mobile marketers rely on US data to determine mobile marketing campaign concepts and then compare results.

Where should people go for more information – reference sites, books etc?
• Books: Mobile Internet for Dummies is a great starting place.
• Industry Publications (not Canadian): Mobile Marketer, mobiThinking, Fierce Mobile and RCR Wireless. Broader publications like AdAge, AdWeek and MediaPost also cover mobile strategies. Canadian blogs include Burning the bacon with Barrett from BStreet’s Phil Barrett and Canadian Marketing Blog from the Canadian Marketing Association.
• Organizations such as Nielsen and ComScore provide useful research on how consumers use mobile, but neither cover Canada in much depth.
• Associations: CWTA, Digital Media and Wireless Association of BC (DigiBC), MMA, Mobile Mondays, GSMA all provide educational documents, guidelines and events for members and non-members alike.

Special thanks to: Bernard Lord, president and CEO, CWTA; Jason Kerr, manager, industry affairs, CWTA; Andrew Osmak, vice president, Lavalife; Amielle Lake, CEO, Tagga Media; Gene Keenan, vice-president mobile strategies, Isobar; Brady Murphy, managing partner, Vortex Mobile; and Brad Cressman, Mobile.

Laura Marriott led the Mobile Marketing Association as president and CEO from 2005-2008, a period of astronomical growth for the industry and its association, helping to push adoption of the mobile channel among brands and agencies and the development of best-practice guidelines. She is now a consultant and a board member for several companies. You can contact her on lamarriott (at)

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