It is interesting to see how technology has evolved since 1996 when Al Gore, the then American vice president, defined Global Information Society (GIS), as the “network that would give every citizen access to the world‘s most advanced library…..the GIS would create a deeper sense of shared stewardship of planet earth… everyone should have access to a global repository of information”.The next challenge would be to build the Global Information Infrastructure (GII) that would enable the GIS to flyAt that time mobile phones were not even close to carrying any internet technology other than voice
As recently as 2004, an article by AM Singh in The South African Journal of Information Technology showed a gloomy picture about the digital divide that was a threat to GIS due to inferior education and poor or no access to learning opportunities for non-Whites, as well as lack of telecommunications infrastructure and high cost of connectivity.
The picture given by AM Singh was only in 2004, however, it has changed drastically in the past nine years to the extent that education level is no longer a barrier for access to internet nor is high cost of connectivity thanks to the high penetration of technology through mobile.
I would declare it a criminal offence for media planners not to include mobile on every media plan that they send to client given its complementary role to every media type that currently exists.
Cellphones are currently the third largest media type after radio and television. According to Wireless Intelligence, 79% of cell phones in South Africa are feature phones and only 21% are smartphones.
This should not make any difference on the impact that cellphones make in the media mix since feature phones are still able to access social networks such as Facebook and Mxit among others as well as USSD functions.
Cellphones provide consumers with an opportunity to engage with the message that marketer send out. Immediate feedback is a given with this medium, hence its ability to complement any medium currently available.
It provides media planners, creative agencies and their clients with a new measure of communications effectiveness almost within minutes of sending out their message. However, it does not take away the attractiveness of the product and the creativity of the communications. There is also no guarantee that consumers will always engage with any message, especially if the creative execution is bad, or the product is unattractive.
Two examples of effective use of mobile in the media mix were executed by The MediaShop. The first is a TV ad used to encourage consumers to download a coupon that they could redeem in-store, via USSD.
As per the graphics below, by the end of Muvango on SABC 2, 8000 coupons were downloaded.
This brings us to AM Singh’s observation of lower education among non-whites as a barrier to engaging with technology.
Muvango is a vernacular programme on SABC 2, Venda to be precise!
Mobile has managed to bridge the digital divide that scared the researches of only a decade ago.
The second example is The Mediashop’s medical aid client whose objectives were new acquisition and to gain feedback from their existing client base.
We included USSD as part of the media mix. A dashboard was created for client to see responses minute by minute as consumers engaged with the client’s prompts. They also see the number of people requesting to join and those who simply dialled but never proceeded to join, but gave feedback.
Below is the dashboard that client and the team working on the campaign had access to, in real time.
Mobile penetration is very high among South African consumers and should not be ignored or simply consider as an afterthought.
Mobile provides marketers with a media type complete with an effective measuring tool that offers engagement and real time feedback like no other.
It is a very powerful medium if used correctly. And it would be sad if media planners used it only as a ‘slap on’ medium instead of integrating it into strategies with the well-defined role it deserves.
Peter Khoza is a media strategist at The MediaShop.
IMAGE: Wikimedia Creative Commons