Five-minute interview: Dr KF Lai, CEO of BuzzCity
BuzzCity has grown into one of the largest global mobile ad networks by focusing on the vast Asian mobile market, before tackling the crowded US market. Few people have a better view of the largely untapped potential of the mobile Web audience in developing countries such as India, Indonesia and China. Dr Lai shares his tips and insights on the worldwide mobile Web.
In 2010, there were a whopping 52.8 billion mobile ads served on the 2,500 mobile sites on the BuzzCity network – that’s an increase of 93 percent compared to banners served in 2009. Top countries for ads served for Singapore-based BuzzCity in 2010 were India, Indonesia, USA, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, South Korea, Kenya, China, Turkey and Vietnam. This gives BuzzCity – and company CEO/co-founder Dr Lai Kok Fung – a more objective perspective on the global state of mobile than networks that are mostly focused on the US.
• Catch Dr KF Lai at Mobile Marketing Forum: APAC (mobiThinking readers can claim a 10 percent discount for MMF using the code: MMAF/mobiThinking10).
• Download for free the latest BuzzCity Report.
• See the mobiThinking guide to mobile ad networks, for a full profile of BuzzCity
Q1. What is the one thing that gets you most excited about mobile Web, mobile services and/or mobile marketing?
This is just the start of it. There’s so much more that can and will happen in mobile as more types of devices get connected to the Internet – i.e. more than just phones, tablets and e-book readers. As price wars continue in key markets, usage of these devices will create a new always-on reality – it will be a significant cultural shift.
Q2. What are your favorite (and least favorite) mobile Websites? What can the rest of us learn from these?
There are too many bad mobile sites because companies do not put enough thought into their development.
An example of a good site that has been adapted to suit the mobile audience is The New York Times mobile site. The New York Times has done its due diligence to ensure that its content is served in a way that suits the audience whatever medium they are using (Web, mobile Web, apps). This has been achieved without removing or editing down the original content – it’s more a matter of adjusting the way in which that content is presented.
The take-home point is that you need to have a proper strategy to address the requirements of your customers. The mobile Internet attracts a wide variety of user groups, who all exhibit different types user behavior.
Q3. Who is the new kid on the block – the mobile site/business to watch for the future?
Cell Bazaar has been around for a while, but doesn’t quite get the recognition it deserves. It’s a classified adverting service, a bit like Craigslist in the US, for Bangladeshi mobile users. Mobile services such as these will surely change the way smaller companies in all countries conduct business in the future.
Q4. What (vertical) sectors would you say is furthest ahead in mobile Web/mobile marketing? Please give some examples.
The financial and travel sectors in particular have responded well to the opportunities mobile has presented in reaching to underserved markets.
• Crédit Agricole launched the jeunesactifs.mobi mobile site in 2009 to promote financial services to the youth market in France. The site generated sales leads, as consumers entered their details to take part in contests and opted-in to find out more about Crédit Agricole services.
• Sri Lankan Airlines ran a mobile ad campaign in India in between December 2008 and January 2009, featuring the text banner ad: You visit SriLanka. Kids go free!. Initially, the ads attracted 700 – 800 clicks per day quickly rising to 1000 clicks per day. The campaign experienced a click-through rate of 4.3 percent – that’s more than double the typical click-through rate for an Indian mobile campaign.
Q5. What’s the most exciting/inspirational country/part of the world for mobile Internet/mobile marketing? What can the rest of us learn from there?
Indonesian consumers demonstrate an insatiable demand for content and services, but this demand isn’t being met by local companies. In the absence of local services, international sites such as Twitter and Facebook are meeting the demand of a huge blogging culture.
Mobile Internet usage is growing rapidly in Indonesia, even outside the main urban centers such as Jakarta – Indonesian companies need to wake up to the potential of one of the world’s largest mobile markets.
Similar lessons need to be learned in all under-served markets, including many countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America. The mobile Internet provides a way to engage a huge demographic group that previously was unreachable via mainstream media. Companies need to repackage product information to make it easily accessible via the mobile Web. One of the first sectors to address this is Financial services, for example, the insurance company Old Mutual ran a mobile campaign to promote their insurance plans in South Africa last year.
Q6. What technology or initiative is most likely to revolutionize mobile Web/marketing?
This would have to be the mythical technology that will magically bring to an end the increasing fragmentation in mobile… the fragmentation of mobile platforms that makes it harder for companies to develop an all-encompassing mobile-marketing strategy. The problem is that for now this technology remains mythical, and the reality is that fragmentation is here for the foreseeable future.
Q7. If you could wave your magic wand and change one thing, what would it be?
Before I end fragmentation, I’d be sure there’s only one charger for all cell-phone batteries!
Q8. What's the biggest mistake in mobile Web/marketing?
Mobile marketing is not just about reaching the youth market. Mature users make up a substantial and active demographic, too.
Q9. What are the most useful resources – sites, must-read books, associations etc for mobile marketers?
Textually.org has been around for a while and documents all the different ways mobiles are used. Plus, it’s easy to read.
Q10. Which mobile-marketing guru would you like to do our five-minute interview next?
Emily Turrettini, Textually.org - I don’t think she’s fashioned herself as a mobile marketing guru, but she obviously has a deep interest in how mobiles affect everyone’s lifestyle.
Comment below or email editor (at) mobiThinking.com.
Previous mobiThinking five-minute interviews:
Carsten Frien, Madvertise • Pam Horan, Online Publishers Association • Barney Loehnis, OgilvyOne, Asia Pacific • Tom Eslinger, Saatchi & Saatchi • Jonathan MacDonald, JME.net • Edward Kershaw, Nielsen Online • Rory Sutherland, Ogilvy • Juston Payne, Wiley • Tomi Ahonen (consultant, author) • Alexandre Mars, Phonevalley • Rob Lawson, Limbo
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Follow mobiThinking on Twitter: @mobithinking
Dr KF Lai, CEO of BuzzCity.
Crédit Agricole: mobile campaign banner and youth orientated site at jeunesactifs.mobi.