The insiders guide to mobile Web marketing in South Africa

In June 2010 South Africa hosts the FIFA World Cup, which is a huge opportunity for mobile marketers (see this guide). Mobile Web is the ideal way to deliver information on tickets, destinations, what’s on etc; branded content and marketing-led competitions; as well as, obviously, sports news. South Africans love sport and mobile sites such as (with over a million hits a month) and (with 3.7 million hits a month) have shown dramatic growth over the past 12 months.
South Africa is a regular member of AdMob’s Top 10 countries for mobile Internet usage. Vodacom has proved itself a forward-looking mobile operator with initiatives such as mobile social network The Grid. But with such a diverse population, South Africa presents interesting challenges together with the opportunities.
Our guide to mobile Web marketing in South Africa is Sean Pashley, chief commercial officer of mobile agency Starfish Mobile.

Insider’s guide to mobile in: NigeriaKenyaBrazilFranceJapanCanadaGermanyUSAIndiaUKAustraliaSpainSouth AfricaCountry guides homepage

Q1. How big or advanced is mobile Web in South Africa v the rest of Africa? What is the potential?
Internet-enabled phone penetration in Africa is limited to about 10-15 percent of the mobile population, whereas in South Africa about 40 percent have WAP-enabled phones.
In South Africa, Nigeria and Tanzania subscribers have shown a particularly high propensity to use the mobile internet with the first two regularly featuring in AdMob’s Top 10 list.

Q2. What is driving growth? What’s holding it up?
Evidently there is huge room for growth. The factors that will drive this include:

  • Handset pricing – as the African Telcos’ generally offer lower subsidies on handsets, Africa is more dependent than elsewhere on manufacturers continuing to introduce low-cost mobile phones that can access the Internet.
  • Subscriber education – there are often misguided fears around data charges for browsing.
  • Growth in localised mobi-sites – there is still a dearth of sites offering local news and issues and what’s happening etc.
  • Provision of mobile Internet services in local languages will also be important.
  • Q3. Which sectors have shown the most interest in mobile marketing in your country? Is interest from local or international companies?
    In mobile marketing’s broader sense (short code campaigns and the like), fast-moving consumer goods and the liquor brands have been among the most active, as well as earliest to ‘experiment’ with mobile. Media companies followed closely as they had ready access to advertising collateral. The motoring brands have also started coming to the party.
    Many of the aforementioned brands are local offices of international companies such as Unilever, P&G, Coca-Cola and Revlon to mention but a few. Interestingly, the South African brands ran mobile-marketing campaigns (e.g. “Buy and Win”) prior to their European or American counterparts. This was helped by unified short codes being available in SA earlier than elsewhere.

    Q4. Which brands are the most innovative and which spend the most on mobile marketing? Who isn’t interested, who should be?
    Brands that like to be a bit risqué but cannot get away with it with traditional media love mobile, such as the deodorant brand AXE (called Lynx in some countries) and liquor brands. Some media brands are starting to invest heavily into the arena as they realize that their audience can source similar content on their own terms and timeframes.
    Who isn’t interested? People who think that their mobile phone is only good for texting and making calls! Also many of the ‘traditional’ ad agencies have not invested in mobile-marketing resources yet.

    Q5. What are they doing: mobile Website; banner ads; text campaigns?
    As the most ubiquitous bearer, short code (i.e. text-based) campaigns still predominate especially in the “Buy & Win” type campaign format. Correctly structured, the campaigns can be used to generate permissive and profiled databases which would enable mobile CRM activities. Banner ads and mobile websites are definitely picking up impetus as marketers gain an appreciation of the ‘targeted’ nature of mobile and the efficacy thereof.

    Q6. Are these long-term or short-term campaigns?
    This varies and so it should. There are certain product categories for which mobile has limited value – an example would be insect sprays (who would want to visit their mobi-site on a regular basis?). On the other hand, there are other brands with intriguing stories and content who should embrace mobile as an integral part of their long-term marketing mix.

    Q7. What are the best mobile sites? What makes them stand out?
    The Times and SuperSport mobi-sites are favorites as they’re timely with their info, simple to navigate and have great functionality. Sites such as FHM have successfully established their mobile niche.

    Q8. Who are the most innovative/powerful players on the supply side:
    From a South African perspective, mobile marketing agencies such as Brandsh, Trigger, Grapevine Interactive are probably at the forefront.
    In terms of the mobile advertising networks, there international players such as AdMob and Nokia Interactive Advertising, while local players such as Acceleration Media, Habari Media and Stonewall are also making decent inroads. Vodacom (South Africa’s biggest MNO) and Cell C has availed elements of their ‘real estate’ to advertisers such as being able to tag Please Call Me messages with offers. Cumulatively, they generate 30 million advertising messages per day.

    Q9. What makes mobile marketing different in South Africa compared to abroad?
    South Africa offers a number of unique challenges to marketers. To start with, there are 11 official languages and there is the matter of handset functionality variances. As a vast percentage of the population is unbanked (i.e. without a bank account), you need to be cognizant of this if you’re running a competition where there’s is cash to be won. With the correct insights and experience, a client’s mobile-marketing agency should be able to develop and implement a campaign that addresses these challenges while still delivering on the campaign’s objectives.

    Q10. South Africa hosts the FIFA World Cup in 2010, what opportunities does this present to mobile marketers?
    The opportunities are mammoth: everything from World Cup SIM cards pre-loaded with content to advergames, instant messaging applications, tourism services (location-based services and translation services), entertainment services (what’s on, where) and branded content (this World Cup update brought to you by XYZ) and so on.

    South African-based Starfish Mobile provides clients with both content-provisioning and mobile-marketing services. The company has developed and implemented more than 2,500 campaigns across Africa for mobile network operators and brands such as Coca-Cola, Ford, Cosmopolitan, Kellogg’s and KFC. See the case studies here.

    See The insider’s guide to mobile Web marketing in:

  • Japan
  • Canada
  • Germany
  • USA
  • India
  • UK
  • Australia
  • Spain
  • South Africa
  • Brazil
  • Country guides homepage
  • Further reading:

  • Global mobile stats: all latest quality research on mobile Web and marketing in one place
  • The Starting 11 – the essential mobile-marketing guide for the 2010 FIFA World Cup
  • How will savvy brands use mobile marketing to take advantage of the FIFA World Cup?
  • How top football/soccer clubs engage fans with mobile
  • mobiThinking guide to mobile ad networks (2010)
  • The insider’s guide to mobile social networking: the 10 Ps
  • Conferences & awards for mobile marketers, with offers
  • mobiThinking’s page of essential links
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