InMobi's exit from Africa not surprising

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.”

Ignoring 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!

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13 Thoughts to “InMobi's exit from Africa not surprising”

  1. eye_bee_kay

    whether I click. depends on what i am doing at any point in time.

    if I am NOT doing “focused_wandering” on the net, I would consistently click on what interests me.

    for example, I got to know about mobility blog through the Nairaland website. although, it was not an advert, (it was a link regarding an atticle that’ hugely intetested me). I feel most people would click on what interests them and ignore others that do not.

    I got to know about VConnect and so many online services through Mobile Ads.

    For instance, being a Software Addict, any advert in a Software Class about which. iam passionate , will inexorably get my attention. I would click.

    the other point is whether actual patronization will emanate from the clicking!

    the only reason Mobile Ads would not be effective ON ME is because I am parsimonious as regards data consumption.

    I therefore generally turn off graphics on my mobile phone when browsing, and also checkmate Android Apps that like to go online to pull adverts.

  2. I never click on ads. Mobile or Web. Never. If I am fascinating or inquisitive, I simply type the web address in a new browser tab. 😉

  3. eye_bee_kay

    furthermore, I was wondering if text based ads would be more inclusive (to accommodate data misers like moi.)

    a blog like linda ikeji’s uses lots of graphic ads. all those graphics are wasted on someone who has graphics deactivated in the browser ..

  4. Thanks for the feedback, EyeBeeKay and Oluniyi. Very insightful, and very much along my sentiments.

  5. I seldom click on ads as most of them arent tailored for me (especially those mtn ads), i wish to see more product placement, music concerts, fast food restaurant, cinema ads that’s what gets my attention.

  6. Interesting article. I totally understand what you mean. Company I work for is in the Digital ads space but what I see is more than a trend in mobile ads but generally with online businesses from the west coming to Nigeria with just assumptions and figures.

    I click on Ads and I have been right from time but It doesn’t mean other Nigerians do the same. The % of Nigerians that don’t click on ads are too much , yes I agree there is an opportunity we just need to find our own niche and tailor the mobile ads to the niche.

  7. martinkem, Olammide, again, thanks for the feedback. Hopefully, people are taking notes.

  8. Even the way the ads are smuggled on one is annoying. These ads are more interrupting than inviting. I as a person do not yet know a better way of doing these mobile ads. we certainly frowned at the graphics and kill them. Maybe plain web links with very short phrases will do. Maybe! A lot of work still needs to be done

  9. Harry Echemco

    I only click on ads that are relevant to my interest. Even when doing internet search I sometimes discover valuable links that are actually ads rather than one of the search results, though that is rare.

    Another reason I refrain from clicking ads links on pages I visit is that online payment doesn’t work well here and when a link suggests online business portal where you have to do shopping, I don’t normally click on them. One reason that used to be a serious consideration is the cost of subscription and the meager data allowance offered by our network operators but ever since I’ve been using Airtel BB Social plan, that it no longer a problem.

  10. Austine Ezemelue

    I click on ads when they’re of interest to me. But that’s few and far between.

  11. emmaedeh

    Ads, I totally don’t like seeing them, I see them as an annoyance, I hate that they use out if my data plan. when am on a slow network I hate the fact that ads loads first before the site content.
    I avoid ads, I am willing to click an add if it interest me and am going to be paid to click it. I mostly read the ads then just open a fresh page and go get the info rather than click the ad. if you Bill me to load a ad on a webpage you might as well pay me to click it.
    I know I might just be the only who thinks that way, if Google is making so much from ads I want in on it or else I ain’t clicking no ad.

  12. MOG

    I dont click on ads. They seemed to show up when my intention is to do something else. I agree with @jujukemist. The ads can be irritating because of the “smuggling” in. Maybe there is a better way, but I dont know. Good post.

  13. I do click on add only and only when its necessary to me. I found it annoying at times

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