Saturday, December 09, 2006

Ericsson and NRK, the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation, have launched a two-month trial of mobile TV advertising across three of NBC's channels, including a 'made for mobile' programme based on a popular Norwegian TV show. Twenty local and national brands are participating and advertising will be provided by Proximity Oslo, part of global agency BBDO. The promise is to deliver highly personalized, interactive advertising formats which the parties are hoping will provide value, win acceptance and in some cases be offered in return for discounts.

The momentum behind mobile advertising is growing and there has been a flurry of announcements and trials by major operators, including 3, Orange and most recently Vodafone with its headline grabbing deal with Yahoo! for display advertising. Mobile operators in mature markets see mobile advertising as a potential new revenue stream in a scenario where money from voice services is declining but revenues from data services are not growing quickly enough to compensate for this.

Most advertising initiatives we've seen so far have been driven by mobile operators and specialist mobile advertising intermediaries, rather than by a national broadcaster and major infrastructure and solutions vendor. But what makes this trial more significant is the fact that NRK and Ericsson are promoting interactivity and personalization as a key feature. This is a bold move as this kind of promise is often made but rarely delivered when it comes to mobile advertising. It is particularly difficult for mobile TV, where viewing sessions are very short - typically around three minutes. In this context, interactive advertising could be very intrusive. But we think NRK and Ericsson stand a good chance of getting it right as they have a track record in working together on mobile TV projects, particularly interactively.

NRK and Ericsson held a nine-week trial in February of this year to test interactive services for mobile TV, which they claimed was very successful and doubled the average viewing time to just over five minutes. The interactive mobile TV solution is based on a platform developed by Ericsson with conVisual and Communology. The current mobile TV advertising trial builds on this, and likewise requires a downloadable Java-based client. The current trial will use a range of advertising formats, including videos, banners, ticker texts and branded downloadable content. Adverts will be customized according to individual users based on age, gender, location and personal interests. Presumably much of this detail is gained on registration to the service. Interactivity is particularly valued by advertisers as it is high involvement marketing tool and useful metric for mobile advertising - a user clicking on an interactive advertisement is a tangible measurement. Of course, what they do after that is another matter. NRK and Ericsson are hoping the trial will not only test user acceptance to different advertising formats but also help set the foundations for mobile TV advertising business models. The lack of clarity over business models is a major challenge for mobile advertising, and if Ericsson and NRK can do anything to help then the whole industry will benefit. We won't know the outcome until the trial concludes, but we wish them luck in a very challenging task.

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