Mobile - what can we do with it in MENA?

Ahead of Mobile Monday tomorrow I thought i would scribble some notes on Mobile in the Middle East based on some recent news stats and other global reports:
  • The Middle East’s mobile-subscription rate is 96 per cent, according to a report by Ericsson. (global average is 87%)
  • The number of Middle East mobile lines hit 266.3 million in Q1 2012
  • (Some consumers have more than one line, meaning the number of individual customers is lower.)
  • Globally about 10 - 15% of mobile subscribers are using smartphones
  • That figure is lower in the Middle East where it stands at around 6 - 7%

More than 69,000 mobile lines are being added each day in the Middle East

To recap - we have one of the HIGHEST global mobile penetration rates at 96% -

We have a BELOW global penetration rate of SMARTPHONES at 6 - 7%

A 6.5% of 266,3 million phone lines would equate to 17 million Smartphones in MENA

Again - many people have more than one phone, so the number of INDIVIDUAL customers may be more like 10 million for smartphones

Frequently we see few or no mobile campaigns that deliver content or marketing messages using this medium, even though adoption rates are some of the highest globally.  Advertisers may be concerned that lack of familiarity with engaging in branded content will reduce the impact of a campaign - this can be solved by experimenting with retail first, rewarding those who use their smartphone to receive discounts.  

The more advertisers can incentivize usage of smartphones by providing better content and financial rewards, the more people will get used to using them and will be able to respond to marketing messages when done correctly.  Often the decision is between making some sort of app or not, which is surprising given the amount of emphasis advertisers usually place on the sales or marketing “funnel”.  

No thought is given to how the app will sit in the different stages of the sales funnel, will the app be used to drive awareness?  If so - how will you market that app?  will it be used to drive sales? If so is there the opportunity to buy? The following graph shows how mobile can act in each stage of the funnel:

Mobile Devices: 

Millenial Media - the mobile advertising and data platform, has a series of nice reports and analysis.  The device mix shows Android is the most used OS for phones…

Whereas for tablets, Apple’s iPad is the most used… 

Advertisers Goals:

How might this be useful? (note these are not MENA specific). Depends on the behaviour of the person.  Whilst at home, people may be watching the TV but using their iPad, whereas in transit they might be using their phones to perform searches and when in retail environments.  Therefore, simply developing an app isn’t enough.  One has to think about multiple types of mobile presence.  The following chart shows the main drivers of mobile presence for advertisers:

These campaign goals can be achieved in a number of ways. Interestingly the following graph shows what happens “post click”.  Whilst app download is the number one activity, it should be taken into account that the ecosystem for apps in America is robust.  There is easy access to the app platform (both iOS and other) and payment systems to facilitate purchase where requires are much easier than here (maturity of ecommerce market and penetration of credit card).  

Additionally advertisers touchpoints across different media such as print, outdoor and online are much more integrated and can all promote the app.  Finally, the number of potential users for any app is significantly higher than the fragmented markets of MENA, which can justify design and development in an app. Also of note is the percentage of “enrolling” and “store locator”.  
In MENA we do not generate enough opportunities for people to give more data to us to facilitate continued communication and to contribute to CRM.  Store location activities can be addressed by optimizing presence on Google Maps and ranking highly on SERPS.
If we compare the post click activities with the top advertising verticals, the way in which each industry uses the mobile actions to generate engagement make sense.  For example the Travel vertical was one of the top verticals creating applications that allowed customers to easily book travel on mobile devices.
The Entertainment vertical also leveraged Application Download as a Post-Click Campaign Action to drive downloads of branded applications that allowed customers to watch on demand television on their mobile devices.
In Q1 2012, advertisers on the Millenial Media platform focused on reaching real-world audiences, utilizing a variety of audience targeting techniques.  The chart below shows which segments were the most targeted.  This may be a response to a dip in the auto segment.  Similar priorities could be given to customers here given that DSS and Ramadan, traditionally key times for promotions,   are so close together this year. 

Online Video:

Nielsens latest stats for online video views in May 2012  shows that there were 163 million unique US video viewers who streamed over 26 billion videos and spen about 5.8 hours on average watching video online.  Youtube was the top online video destination with more than 4 out of 5 viewers streaming videos from their site.  (top measurement in Unique viewers)
When it comes to total number of streams though, Hulu (ranked 8th in number of unique viewers) jumps up to number 2, just behind Youtube, with almost 1 million videos streamed on the platform.  This is interesting for advertisers because it suggests that branded video messaging or other calls to action might be seen repeatedly by the target audience and therefore a better and more impactful story could be told. 
Here in the Middle East,  the Cinemoz platform which has been around for less than a year already has over 100,000 fans on facebook and has now exceeded 100,000 views a month.  MENA advertisers should look to create good partnerships there. 


With the Euro 2012 and upcoming Olympics, I’m surprised we haven’t seen more mobile campaigns from advertisers in MENA to take advantage of large segments of audience who are really into sports.  Football is huge here.  A good example of reaching the target segment of sports fans is given by Pandora:
Another set of examples about how consumers engage with their mobile phones during large sporting events is given in this infographic by Millenial and Harris Interactive regarding the Basketball games as part of the NCAA (National Collegiate Athletics Association):
Mobile Advertising

source: Mobile Marketing Trends from the Millennial Media April 2012 S.M.A.R.T.™ Report


To sum up, there is certainly much more thought that can be given to engaging consumers on mobile.  This year should have been a bumper year for mobile campaigns given the mix of retail (DSS), travel (summer holidays), Ramadan (food and cooking related) and sports events that occur in such a short period of time.  

For retail promotions, store location and geo fencing (letting consumers know when they are in the vicinity of an offer in the mall for example) would have been useful, as well as tying up with the hotels to offer shopping apps in different languages for visitors. 

For travel - campaigns that drive download of travel apps or that deliver travel related video content that can sit on sites such as Cinemoz or ipad magazine type apps would have shown off destinations in a unique way and driven people to start booking.  Special promotions could also be run within these different platforms

For Ramadan, discounts are the biggest incentives driving consumers in store to promote larger bulk item purchase.  Pre ramadan campaigns that encourage enrollment or signup to receive even better offers if they redeem on the mobile, or to perform some action whilst in store could work nicely.  Additionally health related apps and content such as recipes may not need to be created from scratch by advertisers, there are existing platforms such as Zaytouneh,, and that have large audiences interested in these topics, and multiple types of media (microsites, facebook, mobile apps, ipad magazines) to deliver the message.  Working with these platforms to deliver mobile optimized content rather than just banners on the website would provide an excellent way to keep a sustained in market presence. 

For sports - well i’ll leave that to the football fans to decide :)

Dont forget to attend Mobile Monday June 25th at Media One Hotel