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Flying With Angry Birds

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After the angry young man of the 1970s and 1980s, India might soon have another obsession in Angry Birds. That is, if the efforts of leading Chinese mobile marketing firm MADhouse come to fruition.

According to Bijay Gurung, key account director at Finnish game developer Rovio Entertainment, the game's creator, the surface has been barely scraped in India. At 6-7 million downloads on the mobile platform and an equal number through Google Chrome, India is far behind China's 70 million and more than 140 million fans in the US.

As Angry Birds, which targets one billion fans globally by end-2012, debuted worldwide on Facebook this Valentine's Day, MADhouse launched its Indian operations in partnership with the largest global advertising network, WPP Group and Rovio Entertainment.

MADhouse's strategy is simple: tie-up with a property that mobile phone users easily identify with and then offer branding solutions to clients on that platform. Angry Birds fits that strategy. The game is played by consumers across age groups — seven years to 50 years — and 25 per cent of children use their parent's mobile phones for playing games, according to MADhouse executives.

But given that there are more than 850 million mobile connections in India, MADhouse India aims to leverage the opportunity of using mobile as a mass media device. "The need of the hour is to unlock the potential and we are determined to change the face of the Indian digital media landscape and grow the mobile media market from Rs 125 crore to Rs 1,000 crore over the next three years," said Vinod Thadani, chief operating officer, MADhouse India.

However, there are barriers to mobile marketing in India. For one, India has 18 mobile service providers and several thousand models of cellular phones with different operating systems and screen sizes. The barriers to mobile marketing are the dearth of scaled solutions in data, voice and text that makes it difficult to answer the question of how this medium can be leveraged by advertisers to reach out to their consumers, acknowledges Joshua Maa, CEO of MADhouse.

According to executives, ad spends in the mobile space are also growing. Thadani says: "Mobile advertising is beginning to transform the way brands communicate with their consumers. On a technical level, mobile advertising can now achieve accurate intelligent targeting and can provide real-time reporting — a very convincing proposition for advertisers."
Apart from Angry Birds, MADhouse is likely to extend its existing relationships from the Chinese market to India.

MADhouse has tie-ups with game developers like EA Games, the makers of Need For Speed, among others, and Outfit 7, the creators of Talking Tom Cat and others. As a Chinese mobile marketer proposes love to the Indian mobile user on V-Day, will the consumer say, "Love you, too"?
(This story was published in Businessworld Issue Dated 27-02-2012)