Mobile is fast growing across Africa, with a staggering 614 million people in the region predicted to be mobile subscribers by 2025. Not only is mobile technology already one of the largest digital platforms in Africa, but it’s clear that this is a sector that will experience continuous and rapid growth, used by almost anyone and everyone, regardless of gender, age or socio-economic background. With that comes new opportunities, especially where advertising is concerned.

For brands, advertising remains the number one way to reach their customers. But doing so is increasingly challenging, especially when everyone is vying for consumers’ attention. Even traditional advertising giants like Google and Facebook are showing their flaws when it comes to engagement and click-through rates. So, with Africa being a mobile-first continent, how can brands leverage the power of mobile to better engage with their audiences?

Leveraging telcos to place brands in the hands of consumers

A key part of brands’ strategy when it comes to consumer engagement is understanding their customer. While many brands have adopted a ‘one size fits all approach in years gone by, increasingly, consumers want to receive adverts that are relevant and personal to them. However, knowing customers on a case-by-case basis is simply impossible, so brands need an alternative.

That alternative lies in telco-driven mobile advertising.

Telcos form a key part of consumers’ lives; in providing mobile connectivity. Telcos also collect anonymized data about their subscribers, for example, which handset they use, and where, when, and how much they use it. Or even what additional over-the-top (OTT) subscriptions they pay for, as well as subscribers’ age or gender. This can prove to be a powerful asset for brands hoping to move away from ‘generic’ advertising. And it doesn’t stop there. Telcos also have significant reach, with millions of subscribers in every city, country, and continent across the globe. In South Africa alone, Vodacom for instance counts around 40 million subscribers across the country and MTN has 26 million subscribers. Compare that to the 22 million Facebook users in South Africa, and MTN far surpasses the reach of the social media platform as well as Vodacom alone having double the reach.

In addition to data and reach, another significant advantage of leveraging telco-driven mobile advertising is that it requires no app downloads—instead brands can leverage native messaging channels that are already on users’ devices. This means they can benefit from different messaging technology formats, such as SMS, MMS, Please Call Me (PCM), or Rich Communication Services (RCS). This places brands directly in the hands of the consumer, and allows them to reach all mobile users—regardless of whether they own a legacy phone with limited SMS functionality or the latest smartphone with full, rich media RCS capabilities.

"A significant advantage of leveraging telco-driven mobile advertising is that it requires no app downloads—instead brands can leverage native messaging channels that are already on users’ devices." - Donald Mokgale, Out There Media (Tweet this | Share this via WhatsApp)

For price conscious nations, such as South Africa, telco-driven mobile advertising is also an enticing alternative from an economics point of view. Brands can collaborate with telcos to offer zero-rated campaigns, which means that telcos can offset the cost of using internet data from the consumer to ensure that they are able to interact with the campaign (watch videos, access webpages, and more) without eating into their data allowance.

The time is now

Brands and agencies are staring in the face of a huge opportunity to leverage the scale and reach of global telcos to launch targeted mobile messaging advertising campaigns. In doing so, they will be able to engage with their audiences via different telco-owned messaging formats, resulting in higher engagement levels and click-through rates. At the same time, telcos will become substantial players in the digital advertising space, driving new revenues and delivering better experiences through brand partnerships for their subscribers.

South African brands are faced with an increasingly competitive market, and they can’t afford to invest in digital channels that deliver poor returns on investment. While South Africans continue to enjoy being advertised too, their requirements and needs are changing, and fast. It’s time for brands to understand how best to reach their evolving audience to deliver advertising content that is engaging, targeted, and personalized.

Brands can’t go at it alone, and they will need to employ the right tools, and work with the right partners that have the contacts into global telco groups to ensure they can leverage telco-driven data to launch effective mobile messaging campaigns that resonate and cut through. The time is now for brands to think beyond the 3rd party cookies and take advantage of 1st party telco deterministic data to drive results for their businesses in an increasingly competitive market.

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