Smart phones: new paradigm for the media

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Tran Thi Lan Thanh, CEO of Goldsun Focus Media. Photo: Nghia Pham

Despite the economic downturn, smart phones are being developed at a speed that has made it a new, powerful communications trend that has brought spectacular changes to the media.

As Ho Chi Minh City hosted the Mobile Marketing Association Forum for the first time last October, Thanh Nien spoke with two businesswomen who joined the new trend early by offering advertisements on mobile phones Tran Thi Lan Thanh, Chief Executive Officer of Goldsun Focus Media, and Bui Nguyen An Phuong, deputy general director of Group M Vietnam, a subsidiary of the leading global media investment management firm based in New York.

Advertisements on mobile phone are still a new concept in Vietnam, where most media companies are putting them on newspapers, websites, or television. Is it too soon for Sosmart (the mobile services unit of Goldsun Focus Media) to invest a lot of money in bringing the Mobile Marketing Association Forum to Vietnam?

Lan Thanh: With the current surge in people accessing the Internet on their mobile phones, I believe that mobile phones will soon become the seventh communication channel. Sosmart wants to be a pioneer in this new market.

As a professional marketing investor, what do you think is the biggest challenge in being a pioneer?

Lan Thanh: It always costs a lot when you invest in something that has yet to happen, and the profits will be low since the relevant consumption habit is not entrenched yet. One shareholder of ours said "Investing in mobile marketing/advertising is like building houses on swamps." Why is that? Because it will surely collapse, but it will make a foundation for the next one, and then another one, until there is no swamp any longer. I like that definition, because with smart phones, the technologies have to keep changing. Our company has built a mobile phone house that is enough for now, but we are ready for it to collapse to make the base for another one. That's the way it works for a pioneer: if you succeed, many followers will succeed; and if you fall, you will be the bridge for others to continue and also succeed.

An Phuong: Most of our customers are aware of the trend of advertising on mobile phones, but 79 percent of the major advertisers have not developed a version for mobile phones. Only around 3 percent of local brands know how their consumers use their smart phones in order to put advertisements at the right place, and 90 percent of our customers have not developed a mobile phone site and have not run any campaigns on mobile phones.

Are you confident of success given that the demand has not yet taken off and traditional means of communications are still dominant?

Lan Thanh: I cannot be 100 percent sure, but I believe that I have more chance to succeed than others.

It is speculated that in the next five years mobile phones will evolve even more than they have in the last 30 years. Thousands of devices and many operating systems are being developed, like a never-ending trend. How do you envision the future of smart phones?

Lan Thanh: That future will belong to a handful of the smartest operating systems, for sure, such as Android or iOS. For example, Singapore favors iOS, South Korea prefers Android but Symbian is the choice in Indonesia. Smart phones have changed the world and brought countries closer together.

With all the potentials, why is it that Vietnam has fallen behind other countries in terms of marketing on mobile phones?

An Phuong: In Vietnam wifi and 3G networks are currently only available in big cities.

Do you think Sosmart will succeed?

An Phuong: Mobile phone is a big cake. Those who can open the door and come first will win big, but those that go in the wrong direction will fall into an abyss. Many companies are just waiting for Sosmart to discover the market, so once Sosmart succeeds and takes the lead in the market, the next pressure is how to protect the lead.

At the Mobile Marketing Association Forum, Sosmart ended the presentation with the impressive depiction of a smart phone as a money-making machine. When can that be reality?

Lan Thanh: It can be right now.

An Phuong: Mobile phone marketing is very close to happening. Some countries in the region such as China, Japan, and Singapore are very successful. In Vietnam, that success will depend on if there are many companies with Sosmart's orientation and the development of mobile network providers.

Does Sosmart provide support to its customers using the new service, given the economic situation?

Lan Thanh: Sosmart is developing an advertisement distribution system, and cooperating with global experts in the field and the Mobile Marketing Association to organize training courses for our customers.

What are the advantages of marketing on mobile phones?

An Phuong: SOLOMO, short for social location mobile, as a trend is posing a big challenge to the traditional media. With the convenience of its technology and applications, mobile phones will start an era of low-cost media and they will hold the power of media.

Will mobile phones replace other media such as print newspapers, TV, and the worldwide web?

An Phuong: Many people are concerned that mobile phones will take over a part of the spending on other media. That is not quite true. Mobile phones will not be able to replace the traditional media, but will be an inevitable part in the overall development of the media. Mobile phones offer connectivity, integrating reading, listening, watching, and also allow interaction. That will help develop other means of communication as well.

Which advertisement campaigns on mobile phones make you believe in the potential of the market?

Lan Thanh: Sosmart has cooperated with several media companies including Group M for a number of mobile phone marketing campaigns for Ford, Heineken, Tiger, Vietnam Airlines, VietjetAir, Sony, Piaggio, Sanyo, VPBank, and Vietinbank. One of the services that satisfied us the most is booking tickets on VietjetAir, allowing people to have a ticket immediately. The launch of Ford's All-New Ranger is also considered one of the most creative and effective marketing campaigns of 2012, which won the corporation nearly 200,000 hits on mobile phones in six weeks, with more than 1,300 booking for a test drive.

Representatives of Goldsun Focus Media and Group M also shared an important message from Ashutosh Srivastava, CEO Mindshare ASIA, a member of Group M, which said that mobile phones have created a world that is brave to take risks with new communication strategies in an open system.

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