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Millward Brown's POV, November 2007

Advertiser, Forget the PC, Pick Up the Phone

It has been predicted that by 2008 more people around the world will access the Internet by using their mobile phones than by using computers. While this may already be the case in Japan, other countries such as the United States lag far behind. Will the mobile phone really come to dominate the PC, and if it does, what are the implications for advertising?

A recent study conducted by AVENUE A/Razorfish in the United States interviewed Web 2.0 super-users who sought out content that was edgy and personally relevant on video sites, social networks and blogs. In contrast to their intensive use of the computer, these tech-savvy, connected consumers made little use of the capabilities of their mobile phones. Just over half of those interviewed had taken photos with their mobiles and shared them online. The majority, had never used their phones to watch video, listen to music, or check weather, news or sports headlines.

Texting is also less prevalent in the United States than elsewhere. A 2006 survey by the Pew Internet & American Life Project found that just over onethird (35 percent) of U.S. cell phone owners use text messaging. This picture is very different in other countries. In the U.K., a mobile is as likely to be used to text as to call. In Japan, where the mobile phone is THE communication device, e-mail, not SMS, is used for messaging within the country.

Depending on where you sit, mobile advertising seems to have the potential to become either a minor sideshow or the future big top. Which one will it be? To help answer this question, I asked three experts, Melissa Ross, Peter Foster, and Jorge Alagon to review the state of the art in their regions (Asia Pacific, Europe, and Latin America, respectively). Their feedback gives some clues to the future of mobile advertising.

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