Interview With Emily Freeman - Status of Mobile Advertising in Australia

Sunday, September 21, 2008 , , , , , ,

I recently did an email based interview with Emily Freeman, founder of Mobilist, one of the emerging mobile consultants on the Status of Mobile Advertising in Australia. Lets explore what she has to say about this emerging platform and the opportunity:

• Please tell us about yourself, your background and interests?
My background is a mix of marketing and online. After my Marketing degree I worked in marketing & product management for companies like Ernst & Young, Fairfax & Microsoft in the UK.
I've always been interested in technology - even in 1997 at Fairfax I managed CD-ROM products! In the dot com boom I worked as community manager for a startup and luckily ended up in a stable role at Sensis when the crash came.

At Sensis I managed websites like Whereis Online and in 2004 I was offered the opportunity to develop Sensis' first WAP products. Back then there was no mobile industry, so it's exciting to have been part of something from the very beginning. After developing Sensis' Mobile Advertising strategy in 2007 I decided it was time to put all that experience to the test and go out on my own.

Mobilist was formed 12 months ago and it's been a great ride. I love being my own boss, and working on my own terms. This is such an exciting industry and there are so many fabulous & passionate people to work with. It's the perfect time to be in this space. Everyone wants to know about mobile and mobile advertising and with my background I'm lucky enough to be in demand!

More about my career background here

• Please tell us about your venture/company?

Mobilist provides consultancy on mobile strategy, and services including mobile SEM and search, mobile advertising & marketing, product development and customer acquisition for mobile sites & campaigns.

What do you see as the main issues and opportunities with regard to mobile advertising in Australia?

The main issues

  • awareness by advertisers of what is possible using the mobile channel
  • inconsistent approaches to targeting & pricing of mobile advertising by carriers/publishers makes implementation complex & time consuming
  • confusion around data charging still limits mobile usage, although data costs are reducing
  • consumer take up of 3G data services, but less of an issue in 2008 and beyond

The main opportunities

  • advertisers that take the time to learn about the channel now will reap the rewards later
  • extending existing direct marketing campaigns to mobile
  • better use of exceptional targeting capabilities in mobile, including mobile search
  • integration of media planning to include mobile channel

To what extent are mobile operators in Australia taking advantage of mobile advertising as a revenue stream? Can you give some figures?

The Frost & Sullivan 2008 report on the Australia Next-generation Mobile Advertising Market put mobile ad spend in Australia at $2.5M in 2007. This is largely made up of revenue earned by carriers & the major publishers. Frost & Sullivan predict revenues of more than $10M in 2008.

All of the Australian carriers are exploring mobile advertising as a revenue stream, some more aggressively than others. In many cases mobile campaigns have been offered as part of a broader online/mobile package, in order to encourage advertisers to trial the mobile channel. Most will throw in a free 'mobile campaign site' with a media buy. Both Vodafone & Telstra take a CPM based approach to mobile advertising, advertising rates between $20 - $75 CPM to serve mobile banners across their mobile portal properties.

Vodafone has been the most proactive carrier in Australia to date, having published a Mobile Advertising charter and rate card. Vodafone offers a variety of ad products including mobile banner ads, sponsorships, campaign sites, push messaging and mobile TV sponsorship.

Telstra, through their advertising arm Sensis MediaSmart, has been delivering a variety of simple, banner based mobile advertising campaigns on the BigPond and Sensis mobile sites since running trials of mobile advertising capabilities in early 2007. The results of this trial can be found here. Recently Telstra has also been exploring the use of QR codes in print campaigns to drive traffic to mobile campaign sites.

Three has taken a different approach to mobile advertising to date. Their focus is on integrated content/advertising packages which they put together on a case by case basis, rather than delivering simple banners across their portal.

Optus has had some small scale trial activity in mobile advertising but does not yet have a scalable commercial mobile advertising product in the Australian market.

To what extent are advertising agencies taking advantage of the mobile advertising format?

Many local agencies are using the mobile channel in integrated campaigns or targeting the mobile channel specifically. Often agencies will have a strong relationship with a single publisher (ie. NineMSN) or a Carrier and tend to focus campaigns around their capabilities and audience. For example, the WPP group of agencies entered into an agreement earlier this year with Sensis/Telstra to deliver mobile advertising for many of their major brands.

Most of the carriers (which are technically media channels) also offer agency-like services, including development of creative, destination sites and campaign planning, along with booking of mobile media. Equally, NineMSN through their 5th Finger business operate as both agency & publisher, enabling advertisers to go direct for a full mobile advertising solution, or work through their agency for selected services.

A significant opportunity exists for agencies to build cross carrier / cross publisher campaigns and thus reach the entire Australian mobile audience, rather than a narrow focus on users from a single carrier only.

Global mobile agency Hyperfactory recently set up Australian headquarters with a view to targeting local advertisers and have been actively recruiting a specialist team in Sydney. The Media Store has had ongoing mobile campaigns for several clients in the last 18 months, as have TigerSpike, who are probably one of the more experienced & active players in mobile advertising locally. Ad.IQ, an agency specialising in using SMS as a direct response to print ads have also begun using the mobile channel to drive traffic to mobile destination sites.

Many of these are small niche agencies, but we are seeing more of the larger digital agencies testing the water, often in partnership with carriers or specialty firms such as Front Foot Media, who develop mobile destination sites, or QM Codes who build campaigns linking print ads to mobile content using mobile codes.

To what extent are media planners taking advantage of the mobile route?

To date Australian media planners have not been particularly innovative in adopting the mobile channel. Certainly some have been involved in booking mobile media through the carriers and/or publishers but often this is on request from the advertiser or digital agency rather than as part of the media planning service they provide. Opportunities to book Mobile SEM and off-deck advertising to supplement reach and pick up highly qualified leads are regularly overlooked. There is a great opportunity to offer truly integrated mobile media planning in the local market. At the very least, media planners should inform themselves about the various options locally.

It is said that the mobile ecosystem has four stakeholders - advertisers, publishers, carriers and subscribers? How can they all benefit through mobile ads? Your comments please.

Opportunities for Advertisers (& their agencies)

  • extending reach beyond traditional channels
  • extremely targeted delivery of messages
  • highly measurable campaigns and improved measurability of other advertising mediums
  • accessing mobile users directly when they are out & about
  • positioning as an innovative brand
  • building deeper relationships with customers


  • ROI on the costs of publishing content
  • offering users targeted, relevant messages from advertisers
  • delivering free or subsidised services paid for by advertisers


  • delivering revenue and improved ROI on mobile networks
  • funding delivery of more & better content services


  • free or subsidised content & services which are paid for by advertisers
  • access to targeted relevant messages from advertisers

What is your take on opt-in advertising?

Opt-in is an important factor in the delivery of Mobile Marketing, which is more often based around messaging (SMS/MMS). Obviously advertisers need an opted-in database or an opt-in mechanism before pushing content via these channels. Mobile Advertising is more often delivered within existing mobile content, in the form of search ads, banners or sponsorships. This reflects the way advertising works online.

The user 'opts in' to the advertising when they choose to interact (ie. click). In a good campaign this means they can go on to participate further, such as entering a competition or signing up for content. By interacting the user is expressing their desire to get involved with the brand.

Other forms of opt-in mobile advertising include signing up to receive SMS ads in return for a free or subsidised mobile service, such as that recently launched by SMS Pup. There is a great opportunity locally (particularly for carriers) to offer users opt-in ads in return for services. According to the 2007 AIMIA Mobile Phone Lifestyle Index, 89% of recipients said they would definitely use more content & services if they were free or subsidised.

• What do you think the government (federal and state) should do to improve the culture of innovation and the Telecom industry?

The Victorian government already does a lot through organisations like Film Victoria, Multimedia Victoria and the recently established Mobility Vic. There are numerous grants, programmes and opportunities available for anyone with some initiative. It's a shame not to have the Commercial Ready grants anymore though.

I think there should be more support for venture capital investment in technology based startups. Tax breaks or financial incentives for VCs to encourage their involvement in local startups would really pick up the pace locally. At Mobile Mondays we work closely with the VC community and intitiatives like MEGA to encourage investor involvement in local mobile businesses. In October our Mobile Monday event is called "Why you should invest in the mobile industry" and it will be a great opportunity for investors to learn about this space, but also for startups & small businesses to learn about how to tap into the investment community.

• If you are given an opportunity to change the nation, what 3 things you will do?

I don't pretend to have the first idea about politics or economics but I'd focus on local initiatives that could make a big impact in the long term. Things like providing every home with a water tank, helping set up community gardens or neighborhood groups to grow vegies & become partially self-sustaining. Secondly I'd provide incentives to support small, locally based business, even home based businesses.

And finally, I'd make sure any politician allowed to advise or make decisions on technology and innovation would have to pass a test to prove they can use twitter, blogs, rss readers, instant messaging and the mobile internet. Anyone with this kind of power should at the very least be able to download software, transfer music to an ipod and be able to demonstrate a working knowledge of a social network. Ideally they would have a blog and a significant community of followers from which to draw input to policy, but i suspect that's asking too much just yet!

• Do you have any advice for people who are looking for mobile as a platform for advertising?

  • Research. Talk to every carrier & mobile publisher before you do anything.
  • Get a second opinion and be informed - there is some really bad advice out there.
  • Ask your agency to present examples of how mobile advertising has worked locally - this will force them to find out too!
  • Insist that your media buyer knows about the mobile channel and present options
  • Read my blog, follow me on twitter and join the “Mobile Advertising in Australia” Facebook group
Thanks Emily for sharing your thoughts with us. All the best for future.

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