Archive for June, 2018


The Internet – the mother of all digital platforms – was built with lofty intentions. Academics saw it as a tool of learning for the modern age, perhaps in the same way the ancients viewed the library at Alexandria. Sadly, the web is suffering something of a reputation problem of late, and it has a lot to do with the awful phenomenon of Fake News. Errant publishers serving up a pile of fictitious nonsense in pursuit of that digital holy grail – the click – means consumers, and mobile consumers in particular, are losing faith in the reliability of digital platforms as trusted sources. This is extremely bad news for brands in general and mobile marketers specifically. We need to devote the rest of 2018 to working hard to rebuild consumer trust in this evolving digital landscape that’s having its reputation wrecked by the Fake News brigade. We don’t want to see a mobile Internet already suffering the effects of ad blockers take another knock, this time from content blockers. To rebuild trust, mobile marketers must ensure that their ads fit in. Native advertising has grown so hugely over the past several years because people view phones as deeply personal devices. The phone is not just a mere ‘platform’ to the consumer. Intimate technologies see consumers rejecting interruptive, foreign objects in favour of things that fit in. This is why you’ll never see modern companies like Twitter or Facebook placing a banner ad on their platforms. Interruptive ads, and their Fake News cousins, make people lose trust in brands and the publishers that run these old-school ads. Finally, we need to respect people’s data. Digital and mobile, in particular, brought about an opportunity to understand more about each consumer and with it, the potential to tailor advertising to the individual. Unfortunately, users generally aren’t so keen on all of this. Most people don’t want to be tracked and still find personalised ads kind of creepy. Mobile marketers can help rebuild trust by being transparent about personalised advertising. People want control over how brands use their data, so provide control in a transparent, engaging manner and we’ll go a long way towards rebuilding a trust-driven consumer digital experience.

Mobile search is personal and location-specific

Just this week, I wrote a blog post that referenced the term ‘mobile-first’. We said Africa, in general, and South Africa, in particular, is a mobile-first continent because access to desktop and other traditional wired technologies is extremely limited. It’s interesting to note that when it comes to ICT technologies, Africans have been ‘mobile first’ for quite some time. It’s that ‘leapfrogging’ we hear so much of. Now, I’m seeing the term ‘mobile-first’ popping up almost daily in reference to developed world countries. An article I read this morning says: “Most of the world’s Internet traffic is now mobile with 70% of the dollars spent on digital advertising now spent on mobile.” This all reminds me of the pay-off line from a series of Vodacom commercials several years back: “We’ve been having it!” It’s like the rest of the world just woke up to how cool it is to have your entire life – business and personal – run on mobile! Africans ‘were having it’ out of necessity – but what good fortune for us. Most Africans today are wirelessly connected to the world with scarcely a copper wire in sight. What ultimate good fortune. This all brings me to three things I’ve learnt one has to remember (as a mobile marketer) in a mobile first-world. Mobile marketers need to understand when it is exactly that people use their mobile devices. Apparently, when it comes to the top 100 websites, 58% of visitors are popping in on mobile – but the percentage rises radically when we look at the ‘snackable’ media categories of sports, lifestyle and entertainment news and the ‘vice’ media categories of gambling and adult content. Secondly, mobile marketers need to help consumers go the last mile. This is because as mobile has taken off, mobile-based purchasing has lagged. Here, technical execution is vital. There simply cannot be any loading delays or you’ll lose would-be purchasing customers. Finally, marketers need to understand the unique language of mobile search. Mobile search tends to be more personal, and more proximal in time and place. Think about the last search you did – mine was for closing hours of my local Pick ‘n Pay: while I was in the car, point proven!


It’s almost July and that means we are already deep into 2018! There’s no turning back to the ideas of yesterday as we zoom along further into what was a fledging new year just a few months ago. Around this time of year, the usual pundits start putting out content in earnest about what mobile marketing tactics we should already have implemented and what mobile trends are big right now. One, in particular, caught my eye this morning as it hammers home a fundamental of business. ‘Context is everything’, says StartApp’s Co-Founder and CEO, Gil Dudkiewicz, in a recent interview I read on MarTech Advisor. In a business environment where we have heard the ‘content is king’ mantra almost mindlessly trotted out for years now, to hear the focus switch to another, easily digestible action phrase, is simply refreshing. I love the fact that ‘context is king’ immediately resonates because it reminds us of that age-old commercial wisdom: location, location, location! The latter says you need to have your bricks and mortar shop in the right place to sell anything in the street. The former says your mobile marketing campaign better be popping up at the right time to sell anything to the mobile customer. Now, it’s not just about reaching mobile users – we’ve done that – mobile marketers need to start refining their approach to the point where context matters. According to Gil, ‘One major misstep I see is marketers trying to force users into one specific customer experience. Mobile is very contextual. A user could be picking up their phone for any number of reasons: a few minutes’ distraction, to answer a message, to find an address, to send an important email, etc. Marketers need to be mindful of this.’ In closing, my takeaway message for the day is for brands to provide mobile users with different options for interacting with the brand at different times and for different purposes. Context, it turns out, matters!


Just when we were thinking that 1994, the year cellular technology became commercially available in South Africa, was the big one for mobile, the pundits are saying 2018 is the year for mobile. CNBC is reporting ( that viewing time on mobile will be the same for TV this year. The implication, according to the broadcaster, is that new technologies mean marketers can really explore the potential of mobile ads. For mobile marketers in South Africa where mobile has been leading the field since it easily eclipsed the four million landlines we coped with in the 1990s, this news was predictable. Our overseas colleagues speak of the “three screens” their consumers have historically accessed: the cellphone, the office desktop and the television. In South Africa, consumers have been using their scaled-down and advanced smartphones for the functionality offered by all three of the latter. Really lousy local satellite TV where endless repetition is a feature of the drivel served up, means video-on-demand (VOD) services like Showmax and Justflicks are being streamed daily on consumers’ mobile devices. Free Android email clients and word processors built for the small screen mean SA’s mobile consumers are also working on their cellphones and have no need for laptops. And well, who out of the 55 million of us, actually has a formal sector job complete with desk and standalone computer anymore? Yes, 2018 is the year for mobile globally, and in SA, “we’ve been having it”! Let’s get back to basics and remind ourselves of five reasons why mobile technology is so big in SA: Mobile infrastructure run by privately-held companies who care about service and about providing a first-world experience in a developing country mean cellular in SA actually works and it works impressively well! It’s worked ever since Vodacom and MTN put in a lot of effort and money into covering our national network of highways, a world-first at the time. South Africans themselves are mobile. Urbanization is a feature of our country and the pull of the cities means we like technology and possessions that can be easily uprooted and moved to another location. We’re always on the move in search of our first job or study opportunities, and we like to take our cellphones with us on the journey to a better life. Mobile technology is affordable and it’s getting cheaper by the year. The price of handsets fell first, then voice and now data. It really does seem that cellular technology is one of our few expenses that have fallen in cost over the years. This is not something we all want to hear, but it’s true we used to pay R3 000 for a handset 20 years ago, R2.75 a minute for calls, and half a gig of data cost R700 just over a decade ago. Trust me, I was there! South Africa arguably enjoys the best climate in the world but, boy, when it rains, it rains! Add copper cable theft to the mix, and landlines in this country can be unreliable at best. In fact, add the threat of criminal activity, and no-one wants to be alone at home with a landline on the blink. Cellphones make us feel safe. South Africans are upwardly-mobile. How else do you explain that even with the tremendous challenges that face us, and bar one or two quarters, we’re still experiencing the longest period of positive economic growth in SA’s history. Cellphones, and all the value-added services and apps they enable us to access, are aspirational. When we first saw them in 1994, we wanted them, and the love affair continues in 2018.