Mobile advertising may be the panacea to the corporate marketing department’s woes, as Turkey’s large young population readily adapts to this medium.
With 63.7 million mobile subscribers as of September 2009, the ratio of mobile subscribers to the total population is only 89 percent, a relatively small market compared to the 189 percent rate of Greece -- or nearly two mobile phone lines per person. The EU average is 125 percent, illustrating that Turkey may not be as big of a mobile market as it might seem. Being the second most populated nation in Europe, however, with 71 million people -- next only to Germany’s 82 million -- means that companies like Turkcell can become the third largest mobile operator in Europe without having to aim for above-100 penetration rates.
A youthful potential
The amount of young people, the quickest adopters of new communication technology, in Turkey easily trumps the youth population in aging Europe. With 19 million young people between the ages of 15 and 29, Turkey is second only to Russia’s 34 million. This youth population towers over the entire population of many European countries and is attracting the attention of new-age advertisers looking to improve their advertisements to users’ lifestyles while connecting with them through the device youths use to connect with each other -- their mobile phones.
“Turkey is especially important for its vibrant youth markets, who tend to be early adopters of technology and media, so we find it a very exciting market to be involved in,” said Russell Buckley, vice president of Global Alliances at AdMob, one of the world’s largest mobile advertising networks. Speaking to Sunday’s Zaman, Buckley expressed his enthusiasm for the Turkish mobile advertising market, revealing that Turkish mobile phone users view 33 million ads per month through AdMob’s network alone and has grown “organically with very little focus [by AdMob] to date.” Although Turkey is a small part of AdMob’s total business -- receiving a staggering 5.6 billion ad hits from the US monthly and 627 million from customers in India -- Buckley sees promise in this young market. “Our commercial team has more recently been investing a lot of time in this thriving market, so look out for some partnership announcements in the near future.”
The growth of Turkey’s mobile advertising market came about through the use of mobile Internet portals, according to Ayhan Çobanlıoğlu, project and business development manager at Dataport, one of the main advertising service providers for operators. The three main operators, Turkcell, Vodafone and Avea, use such mobile portals to provide quick access to services such as email, instant messaging and social networks, an attractive service for youths looking for quick access to their virtual presence. According to Çobanlıoğlu, these portals paved the way for the development of Turkey’s mobile advertising industry. The ability to target advertisements according to user types and the capability of measuring responses hold the key to realizing the potential of the digitally connected youth of Turkey, Çobanlıoğlu highlighted.
Cashing in on ring tones
One of the most successful implementations of mobile advertising in Turkey is Turkcell’s TonlaKazan service, which allows subscribers to select branded, ad-funded content as their Ringback Tone (RBT), or a replacement to the regular ringtone that callers hear, and provides them an opportunity to win prizes depending on how many people listen to the tone. This “WinBackTone,” which is popular among young people who opt for songs by their favorite artists as their RBT, was developed by the İstanbul-based mobile advertising solutions firm 4play. The service gained global recognition with Turkcell winning the Best Mobile Advertising Service for TonlaKazan at the 14th Annual GSM Association Global Mobile Awards in February 2009.
The service also drew the attention of the mobile Internet-focused AdMob, with Buckley noting that Turkey is quickly becoming a leader in innovation in this blossoming field. “Turkey is a true global thought leader and consistently impresses other international carriers with their mobile marketing initiatives such as Turkcell’s huge 7.5 million opt-in SMS database and more recently, the ad-funded world first Ringback Tones.”
Internet and electronics giants are also seeing the potential of mobile advertisements, as firms deeply rooted in the industry are being bought up by the likes of the targeted advertisement leader Google, which is in the process of acquiring AdMob for $750 million. Apple acquired Quattro Wireless for $275 million, a competitor of AdMob, in a near rebuttal to Google’s aggressive entrance into the industry. Buckley highlighted that such an interest in the market would bode well for emerging markets, receiving investments into the sector. “Emerging countries, like Turkey, that are helping to drive the rapid growth in mobile usage worldwide will benefit from increased investments.”
It is clear that Turkey’s vibrant mobile advertising industry has as much homegrown interest as it does international. What new services and solutions will develop in this rapidly growing industry is yet to be seen, but Turkey, already well into the playing field with its innovative mobile advertising strategies, will create ripples in this new wave of advertising.