Kenya: Mobile Advertising Needs APPs to Grow

Digital Content

Relevant local information that can drive more people into the Internet is what is required to spur mobile advertising in the country, according to industry experts.
Moses Kemibaro, the regional manager of Internet marketing firm Dealfish said the potential of mobile advertising is enormous and barely scratched.

"If you look at rankings on research from mobile ad networks such as AdMob, InMobi and BuzzCity, you will note that Kenya is within the top five markets for mobile ads in Africa, he says. "However the big challenge is that there is a need for more local online publishers to come on board mobile web so that there is more inventory".

According to a recent TNS Digital Life survey, over 90 per cent of users access the Internet using their mobile phones. The unique characteristics of mobile devices - interactivity, compatibility and portability - enable users to defy spatial constraints giving the mobile phone an edge over other media of communication.

In addition to this, the convergence of a number of features such as voice, video streaming, still pictures and Internet under the mobile device platform make the mobile phone a perfect tool to reach the masses.
Despite this strategic advantage that the mobile phone has over other media and the enormous following, the bulk of the country's multi-billion shilling ad spend is channelled to conventional media outlets - TV, radio, newspapers with the Internet taking the back burner.

"Since the majority of users access the Internet using their mobile phones, local advertisers stand to benefit immensely by harnessing the advertising potential of mobile web," says Kemibaro.

Kennedy Kachwanya, a business tech expert says that while every person in possession of a mobile phone is a potential target for mobile advertisers, some limiting factors downplay mobile ad reach. "The typical Kenyan owns a phone with very basic features, he says. "As such, the only form of mobile advertising through which they can be reached is through short message service, SMS".

"The majority of Kenyan mobile users are however not thrilled when they constantly get unsolicited ads through SMS, Mr Kachwanya interjects, "Many consider this spamming and often times complain to the respective mobile phone network operators to stop".

Increased penetration of smart phones riding on the back of a growing middle class gives mobile advertising fresh impetus to further develop in form and content. This is because more sophisticated forms of mobile ads like Mobile Web Banners, and Posters, ads on apps can be adopted.

Mobile banners and posters are ad formats where the ad content scrolls above and below the mobile screen respectively. Such ads require devices running on more sophisticated operating systems like Google's Android or Apple's iOS. Currently, Chinese firm Huawei is leading the pack with its Android powered IDEOS and analysts are expecting other handset makers to develop cheaper smart phones in an attempt to appeal to the growing middle class market.

This, according to Kemibaro presents an opportunity for application developers and advertising agents to develop a symbiotic relationship where advertisers can market their products while developers can generate revenue using their apps.
"App developers could generate income by making their apps free but monetise them through advertising. This is a common practice globally and one that will become more commonplace in Kenya as we move forward however there is need for developers to create more apps to carry mobile ads for this model to really take off".

John Muiruri is the business development manager at Uko Technologies, a start-up with several apps on Nokia's OviMail. "The greatest challenge that app developers face is that many potential advertisers are not aware of how they can leverage on existing local apps in the stores to market their brands", he says.

In addition to this, the rate of local app downloads is low because many mobile phone users are yet to fully understand the concept of applications. This despite a number of local apps being offered for free.

"The concept and hype of mobile apps is mostly shared among techies but the greater majority of consumers are oblivious". Part of the blame however, lies on developers who do not carry out proper research before launching their applications to the market.

In addition to research, developers are encouraged to use social media to market and obtain feedback about their apps. "We normally provide links to our free apps on Ovi Store on Facebook and Twitter and also use word of mouth", says Mr Muiruri.
For advertisers, creativity in ad content is key to creating successful mobile advertising campaigns says Mr Kachwanya. "The numbers are there, what marketers need is research on what consumers want and consumer mobile behaviour".