Mobile ad innovation and the Asia challenge

Ganesan Velayathan, CEO, Fun & Cool Ventures Inc., Sid Bhatt, CEO of Aarki Inc

This is a part of our coverage of B Dash Camp Osaka 2013.

In the second morning session on day two of B Dash Camp Osaka, we heard a panel on the latest developments in smartphone advertising. Included in the talk on stage was Ganesan Velayathan, CEO, Fun & Cool Ventures, and Sid Bhatt, CEO of Aarki Inc. Joining the talk via Skype was Brian Wong, the co-founder of Kiip.

22-year-old Wong was an especially interesting (and charismatic) addition to this panel, since Kiip actually refuses to be called an ad company, instead preferring the moniker of ‘rewards company’. He says they are trying to redefine brand engagement, as well as connections that brands have with consumers:

Kiip came from our observation that people were already engaged in ‘moments of happiness’. When people got a high score in a game, there’s an emotion. But that moment of happiness would often be abused by an ad. We wanted to instead acknowledge and reward these moments.

Sid Bhatt, CEO of Aarki

Kiip is currently included in about 1500 apps. They started out in games but they are now in six verticals, including fitness, music, to-do, and food. Many of the ad dollars that come their way would normally be spent on video, he explains:

They want the relationship with users to be a reciprocal one, starting such relationships “with a gift rather than yelling.”

We are now one of Hulu’s top three acquisition partners in the US. […] The bottom line is simple: As long as you have something relevant with a timely aspect to it, people will convert at a higher rate [than traditional ads]

Kiip is currently working with Yahoo Japan as one of their premier partners. They are also working with Lawsons, SMCC, Dell, with many more companies to come later. Japan is an especially fitting environment for a service like Kiip, as Wong explains:

Japan has a great mobile literacy. You can tap your phone and buy something, but that still science fiction in the US. In Japan, that science fiction is a reality. And I felt our platform would be accelerated there.

Like Kiip, Aarki Inc has been getting pretty creative in how it engages consumers on mobile devices. CEO Sid Bhatt showed off some really fun demos, including a rich media ad for Landrover. That ad let the user move their phone around to display a 360-degree view of the inside of a Landrover. Time spent in such rich media ads can be over two minutes, says Sid, and this is what advertisers are really looking for these days.

The traditional format, the banner ad, is quickly becoming obsolete. People still use it but it is definitely not the future.

And then there’s the Asia problem

Sid explained a little about their platform, which allows the creation of complex ads with drag and drop widgets, doing so in a better, faster, cheaper way.

He says that they are considering an office in Japan, but they are still trying hard to understand the market. What we build in the US may not be applicable in Asia.

Ganesan expressed this very same point as well, saying that In addition to the challenges that come with innovating new advertising technology, operating in the Asia region brings a whole new set of obstacles:

In Asia each country has its own style. Agencies still control the market in Japan.[…] Southeast Asia has many languages, many cultures, and different dominant market players. So [the challenge is] how to navigate that, and the agencies, and deliver the best results.

Ganesan, who operates an Asia-focused market place where developers and advertisers can connect, explained the value of their service by pointing out how it lets users choose the app where they advertise, rather than use an algorithm to select.

Moderator Tak Miyata from Scrum Ventures shared some figures to clarify the importance of the innovations these panelists have developed. Mobile ad spend, he says, was only 1 percent of all ad spend in 2011, but by 2017 it will represent about 17 percent – surpassing traditional media.

So while there will certainly be a payoff for companies who can figure out how to best engage consumers on mobile, those who can solve that riddle in regions across Asia have an especially big reward in store.