When I first heard the news of InMobi exiting Africa and Russia, I must say that it didn’t come to me as a surprise. Anyone who has been around me close enough knows that I do not share the same excitement that a lot of people do about mobile ads in our environment the way they currently exist. Our experiences here at MOBILITY and the experiences of a number of other businesses that we know have informed this wary attitude of mine.
PS: For the purpose of clarity, this article focuses on internet-based mobile ads, so do read with that context in mind. SMS-based mobile ads and others are not within the context of this article.
TwinPine, a player in the African mobile ads landscape, has responded to the news of InMobi’s exit with the following statement:
Nevertheless, there are many growing local ad networks that are setting the standard for mobile advertising across the continent. These ad networks, like our own, are driven by a deep knowledge and understanding of the local market and a passion to engender social change through mobile.
Personally, I am not convinced. TwinPine’s operations do not suggest that they are doing anything different from what other ad networks are doing. At the last count, here on MOBILITY, we have played with all of Google Ads, TwinPine, InMobi, and ZeeAdSpace. All of them produced very insignificant results. It is why MOBILITY does not feature any ad network anymore. It has largely been a waste of our time and resources. Now, before you start screaming, do read on for some vital insights.
A Market Or A Viable Market?
Sure, there is a market for mobile ads in Nigeria and emerging markets in general, but how viable that market is, is the real issue. While InMobi is closing offices on the continent, the company says that it will continue to serve the market. In other words, there is a market, but it is not viable enough to warrant the costs of running operations here.
There is no other plausible business reason for this exit from a market as large as Africa. Whatever technicalities are involved, it boils down to this – the market isn’t viable enough to sustain operations here. Nobody shuts down viable operations. Sell? Possibly. But exit? No.
Mobile Ads For A different Market
Here is something else that I have taken time to contemplate: the current click-banner format of mobile ads as we have it does not seem like a concept that sits down well with users from this part of the world. In a MeMeBurn article about InMobi’s exit, one reader made the profound statement: “We all totally ignore ads.”
I take it that he did not mean “ALL” literally, but was merely emphasizing the point that these ads are largely ignored (or not clicked on, even when seen), compared to the huge number of viewers. And I am firmly convinced that his assertion is correct. It is like the average blog: the huge majority of readers do not comment. Yet, they visit daily.
There may be exceptions to these general trends, but then, exceptions are just that – exceptions. It is a waste to build plans around exceptions.
A Different Model/Format Needed
Mobilists and mobilettes, how viewers respond to mobile advertising in the West is not how viewers here respond to them. User patterns are different. It is the same old error of importing solutions from outside the continent wholesale without adapting them to our local peculiarities. The current format of ads means that many viewers from these parts will ignore them or not click, even if they see them.
We may be one global market, but there are regional characteristics. I am yet to see one local mobile ad network that operates with our regional characteristics taken into consideration. I agree with TwinPine’s CEO when he says that “InMobi’s exit from Africa presents us all with a great opportunity.” However, that opportunity is not likely to be harvested if ad networks targeting Nigeria and other emerging markets keep aping the models of Google and InMobi.
Those models are largely nonviable here. At least for now.
To demonstrate my point, here is a quick question to our readers: How often do you click on a banner ad on the websites you visit or in the mobile apps that you use? Please answer using the comment box below.
Yes; There Is A Future For Mobile Ads Here
I believe that there is a future for mobile ads in this region, but I dare say that it will not largely be the model and format that the service currently exists in. The current model and format is not viable enough. I am certain that not a few readers are waiting for me to elucidate on what formats/models I believe will work here. Perhaps, in another article and at a later date, I shall share my thoughts.
Don’t forget, I will appreciate everyone’s response to the question, “How often do you click on a banner ad on the websites you visit or in the mobile apps that you use?” Thanks!
Founder of MobilityArena. Yomi’s journey in mobile started in 2001. Besides obsessing over mobile phones, he also started creating WAP sites (early mobile-friendly websites created with WML). He began writing about phones in 2004 and has been at it since then. He has owned over 200 devices, from Symbian, Palm, PocketPC/Windows Mobile, BlackBerry/BB10, webOS, Windows Phone, Firefox, Ubuntu Touch, to Android, iOS, and KaiOS operating systems.