Mobile Hub – Observations from 'Deconstructing Mobile' APAC forum

Mobile Hub – Observations from 'Deconstructing Mobile' APAC forum

Graham Christie, partner at the Big Mobile, recently attended the Mobile Marketing Association’s two day ‘Deconstructing Mobile’ APAC annual Forum in Singapore, where plenty of senior brand and digital folk supported the event, and of course mobile specialists of every conceivable bias.

Here are some of Graham's notes and observations from the event:


Yes, there’s plenty of it, everywhere, and APAC is the epicenter, and it’s developing markets that are really powering ahead. Four out of five mobile users are in developing markets. Half of all mobile service revenues are in developing markets, and half of all smartphones sold today, are sold in developing markets.

The point was made by Rahul Welde of Unilever, that mobile is the great democratising marketing channel. It doesn’t matter if someone is personally wealthy, living in an affluent country, part of an emerging middle class, or poor and disadvantaged – they are likely to have a mobile, (and in developing markets these are overwhelmingly likely to be a cheap local Android packed smartphone).

This vast reach between the 'have lots' and the 'have nots' is unique. Sir Martin Sorrell noted that fast developing countries in our region such as Indonesia, Philippines and China have leapfrogged the PC stage of web adoption, going straight to smartphone, which is fuelling take up. Tomi Ahonen the author, scholar, luminary and dapper hat sporter, added insight to Mary Meeker’s global data point that received a lot of coverage this year, that the average mobile owner uses their device 150 times each day. 

Tomi unpacked it as follows; used one every 6.5 mins, split into 30% communication (voice, text), 20% (clock, alarm, calendar), 40% media, and 10% other.  If you go onto Tomi’s site it’s split out more (


I’ve never seen the divide between the skill of story-telling (the art), and the ability to reach and transact effectively (the science), so exposed. It is a divide because the business models prosecuted by the protagonists that sit in each camp are at cross purposes.  “What’s new?” I hear you say. 

Well, sheer scale through rampant over-supply, and the velocity and adoption of platform based trading and creative generation, as conventions that seem to be taking hold, is seen as injecting remoteness between end user and brand owner. 

This just at a time where thinking and ingenuity is needed, and the request from top advertisers is to find way to tell better brand stories in this maturing channel.  As one delegate commented, it’s man versus machine, a balance needs to be found quickly as a mighty channel is under construction, but we might not like the look of it before it’s too late. 

Martin Sorrell made the point that post GFC, marketing organisations had focused too heavily on cutting costs and not investing in topline growth, which is right, and not un-connected here I think and not investing in topline growth, which is right, and not un-connected here I think. 

On the programmatic side, Sociomatic believe one in three mobile impressions will be RTB traded by 2016, if that’s the case, we must have insights about that impression through data, so it’s worth what it should be. Michael Hawkins of  Beyond Analysis threw a spanner in the works saying that let’s face it, most companies are “wallowing” in data. So the call was, let’s simplify and get data actioned. Easier said than done I know.


As the ‘D’ word has come up, SingTel shared some information, let me relay. They conducted a survey amongst customers which was positive, recording that 77% of people are accepting of a commercial message but only if relevant (through data intelligence), more interestingly a whopping 33% downright expect to get a relevant message, with the inference made, that it had better be relevant – or else.  

Notice they called it a ‘commercial message’ but not ‘advertising’, apparently this makes the subject a lot more palatable. This is logical. After all, advertising’s foundation was a mass message – mass medium model, and folk get that.  So as Leonardo O’Grady of Coca-Cola (ASEAN) put it, we’ve moved from Mass in the 80’s, to Segmented in the 90’s, Targeted in the noughties and now, Networked in the 2010’s. I personally think it’s fair for consumers to feel this, and challenge us to make the distinction.  BTW, an aside, the area of user acceptance is just one hot topic covered in Australia’s AIMIA’s annual AMPLI (Lifestyle) longitudinal study that’s in-field right now. We can all participate, so jump onto the AIMIA site.


This is a known problem of course but anxiety is on the increase. If fact Sir Martin calls it a "War On Talent", adding that smaller more entrepreneurial companies are becoming magnets for expertise. The problem is there are capability gaps everywhere. On the supply side, with publishers broadcasters and other audience owners, and also within marketing departments, with surely this issue being towards the top of CMO’s lists. On the service side, agencies have to deal with this talent issue at the same time as reconstructing their business model to maintain a decent P&L and margin, not an easy juggling act. 

There’s only one way to build capability, and that is through experience. Experience isn’t just doing the same thing as before, or the same as others. Over-investing in mobile through testing, training, making valuable mistakes, collaborating, and partnering, is a safe bet for good ROI down the line, and a generator of talent and capability.


Lastly, there was good work on show, from Australia and really every market in the region. The standard has substantially and markedly improved.

Coke’s ‘A Million Reasons To Believe’ project in Thailand was impressive, as was Prudential’s Cha Ching App for children that ran across a few markets, and I personally loved Kontor Records office turntable B2B campaign using a vinyl record DM piece and a smartphone app.

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