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BW Businessworld

Dial M For Media

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It was raining ads on 20 January. The landmark day for mobile telephony in India that saw the national roll out of mobile number portability (MNP) — a facility wherein subscribers can switch telecom service providers without giving up their mobile number — saw the leading mobile telephony brands splurge on the media like never before.
Just one media vehicle, The Times Of India, the country's largest English daily, is said to have raked in advertisements in the range of Rs 5 crore from campaigns of mobile phone service providers on a single day.

And it was not the only media vehicle to have carried MNP ads on that day. Just to put the scale of that marketing expenditure in context, that is the kind of money that companies have spent on everyday average across media channels (print, television, outdoor, radio, digital and others) in 2010, if one considers that mobile phone services industry had a combined ad spend of Rs 2,000 crore (a higher side estimate) in advertising last year.

The advertising burst behind MNP is not likely to sustain its momentum, though. Vidyadhar Kale, client leader at Maxus Global that handles the Vodafone account says, "MNP is not an offer that is going to lapse in the near future, but is a permanent feature of the category. So it is unlikely to be an activity of the size of the World Cup."

But telecom service providers are unlikely to curtail spends. With cricket set to dominate consumer mindspace from the middle of February all the way to April (the World Cup and the Indian Premier League, or IPL, are in quick succession), this could be the best year for mobile services advertising that the country has ever seen.

Media experts estimate that the mobile services industry will pump in Rs 250 crore on advertising on cricket alone in these three months. Advertisement spends are projected to go up by 20 per cent compared to the previous year. Add the expected roll out of 3G services to that plan and media buyers as well as owners could be seeing the brightest summer of their lives.

(This story was published in Businessworld Issue Dated 31-01-2011)