TDDD Interviews: Mobile Marketing Association SA and MaxAxion
With the help of SilverstoneCIS and the Mobile Marketing Association of South Africa (MMA SA), my featured story for the week revealed why mobile marketing is the closest marketers can get to consumers in South Africa. With many of the infographics and insights still fresh in my mind, I was fortunate enough to sit down with a professional in the field to further my mobile marketing adventure for the week.
Introducing Nicolle Harding, chair of the MMA SA and CEO of MaxAxion, a mobile media supply specialist company. Nicolle’s experience in media has spanned a number of roles and platforms, both internationally and within South Africa. She has worked with the likes of Haymarket Media Group, Primedia Online and Ad Dynamo, before finding her footing in mobile marketing, becoming CEO of her company MaxAxion and appointed chair of the MMA SA. Nicolle’s knowledge and experience in media and mobile marketing provided me with an insightful interview that I’m glad to share with my readers.
TDDD: What was it that sparked your interest and first got you into mobile marketing?
Nicolle: Well to start with a bit of history about where I came from; I first got into media in the UK and worked for a magazine called Stuff Magazine. Then I moved back to South Africa and worked in many different types of media. My interest in media evolved into an interest in mobile marketing. This was mostly because, in Africa and South Africa, mobile is where marketers can reach the most users, and also due to the many unique facets of mobile. I find mobile interesting because cellphones are on the user at all times and are a more personal platform, allowing for so many great marketing opportunities.
TDDD: You’re CEO of a mobile marketing company called MaxAxion, could you tell us a little bit about what sort of service MaxAxion offers to marketers?
Nicolle: We position ourselves as a mobile media supply specialist company. Although our product offering is based on a certain set of criteria, it’s subjective to us and we enjoy bringing a creative flare to solve the needs of our clients. Our core products include our mobile demand side platform, where we specialise in real time bidding (RTB), involving media buying of a user and the user’s experience rather than just a position on a mobi-site or application. We’re a performance partner for MXit, where we offer performance marketing. We’ve also been working on a product called “Money For Jam” (M4Jam), which is essentially a micro-jobbing platform, where users can make cash by completing specific tasks for various brands. Then we also offer an SMS based marketing product for advertising on Please Call Me messages, end of call notifications and recharge vouchers. So those are our main offerings, but we have a lot more to offer depending on what our clients needs are. We’re also able to supply all the tech in the background in putting together mobile strategies, mobi-sites, apps, surveys, shortcodes and USSD codes through our group company, SilverstoneCIS.
TDDD: As chair of the Mobile Marketing Association of South Africa, what sort of role do you play in overseeing the Association?
Nicolle: It’s very hands on! My role involves putting together strategy with each of our 7 committees, ensuring good communication between each party, identifying opportunities and potential collaborations and overseeing the association as a whole. We’ve also developed an SA mobile awards event called Smarties, based on the MMA global event. We’ll be launching this year and I have a big role in putting the event together, working with Standard Bank our sponsor and developing a mobile digest. All together, it’s a mixture between an operational role and an industry thought-leader role in building the awareness of MMA SA.
TDDD: I wrote an article this week based on the #MobileRocks report by SilverstoneCIS and MMA SA that helped to highlight the importance of mobile marketing in SA. Do you believe that mobile marketing has a bright future and will continue to grow in South Africa?
Nicolle: Definitely, but the sad fact of the matter is the ad-spend side. The IAB SA and MMA SA are working together on a report through PWC on digital ad revenue, and if you look at the numbers, SA ad-spend on mobile is sitting at around 4% of total ad-spend. But then if you think of the numbers for mobile penetration, it’s sitting at the other end of the scale with 97% of adults reachable through mobile. There are a bunch of different reasons for this, but the MMA and the industry needs to work on improving this situation for mobile marketing. There’s definitely a bright future, but it rests on brands and marketers shifting to use mobile as a marketing medium.
TDDD: MMA SA represents a large body of marketing entities and consumer brand members. How has the growing community of these mobile attentive companies played a role in the shift towards mobile marketing in SA?
Nicolle: This is the first year we’ve had a lot of big brands on our Advisory Board. Usually, it’s the same mobile companies and people who are interested in and excited about mobile. But now with the likes of Coca-Cola, Nokia, Standard Bank and Unilever on our Advisory Board, it has definitely helped to build visibility and credibility of the Association. It’s great to see big brands that are investing in mobile and recognising its importance. As an Association, we grew 16% last year.
TDDD: The #MobileRocks report showed that a significant 39% of adult mobile phone owners only have access to basic cellphones that support voice, SMS and USSD functionality. Can this be a limiting factor for the creativity of marketers when compared to mobile data and smartphone marketing opportunities?
Nicolle: It’s an interesting question considering the constant talk of smartphones in marketing, but these basic phones still need to be taken into account. Studies have shown that many users with smartphones and data enabled phones don’t necessarily turn on their data, making their marketing options similar to the basic 39%. So for that reason, it’s important for brands to have a plan to reach specific users whether or not they have data. There are some great examples where brands combine USSD with display to ensure that they reach the user and optimise this depending on what sort of phone and data availability the user has. So it’s definitely possible for brands to develop creative solutions that aren’t limited by the type of phone or data availability.
TDDD: Personally, what is your favourite aspect about mobile that helps marketers to connect with consumers?
Nicolle: The fact that you can reach a consumer on the right device, in real time. Instead of trying to reach an audience on a computer or as they drive past a billboard, you can reach specific users directly and immediately. There are so many great things happening with mobile, I recently read about a company in America that combines the TV experience with a mobile experience. So while the user is watching a TV ad, there’s an interactive element of the ad that they receive or engage with on their mobile device. With the direction mobile marketing is going, the opportunities seem endless!
TDDD: Has your work made you more aware and tuned in to mobile marketing messages that you receive from brands?
Nicolle: I’ve noticed that I’ve become a lot more involved, signed up to a lot more databases and opted into mobile marketing campaigns. I think it’s made me a lot more aware when things don’t work well in mobile marketing. So sending someone a direct message every single Friday at 1pm doesn’t necessarily work if that person isn’t at all interested in what’s being marketed to them. I’ve started to notice what I think would work better in many situations and I think my awareness is partly due to the mobile industry but also due to my experience in other marketing and media fields and trends.
TDDD: What are some of the apps on your phone that you can’t do without on a daily basis?
Nicolle: I’m more of a utilities app person, so anything that’s useful or gives me information that I need. XE.com, because my business works between Dollars and Rands and I’m constantly doing Forex conversions. I’m a big fan of Gumtree and enjoy seeing what’s for sale, my husband and I have a property portfolio so I often keep an eye on the Gumtree app. Twitter, because I use it as a work tool and a newsfeed. I’ve just downloaded the Bloomberg app that I’ve been enjoying too. Snapscan and Uber are also great apps.
TDDD: Do you have any advice for young marketers looking to get into the mobile realm?
Nicolle: The best advice I could give is not to be lead astray by the big bright shining lights of TV, radio and traditional advertising. A lot of talent seems to go that way with digital and mobile as an afterthought. Globally, it’s starting to shift the other way and traditional media is looking for ways to reach the mobile audience. Other than that, just to keep yourself educated with what’s happening in the marketing and media environment around us, because things change all the time. Always remain curious, adventurous and keep learning instead of sitting back complacently.