How To: Set Off In Mobile Advertising in Africa – “Please Call Me”, WAP, Metrics & More

It’s amazing what you can fit into 110 characters or less. I am constantly receiving please call me messages from my cousin who is a university student and on the please call me is a small piece of text based advertising, an insurance policy to be exact.

A please call me (or PCM as they are commonly called) is a service offered by mobile operators that allows a subscriber (Party A) to send a free message to another subscriber (party) asking that person to “please call them back”? In South Africa alone, the Vodacom network has approximately 42 million advertising messages that are received daily via the please call me service. That’s ALOT of mobile advertising real estate that is now available.

An example of a Please Call Me initiation and delivery.


On the other side of the mobile advertising spectrum, we have mobile WAP banner advertising. A WAP banner is a small advertising banner (image) that is displayed on a mobile Internet site or delivered into a mobile application. If you have played the free version of Angry Birds, chances are you have seen an advertising banner pop onto the screen just as you are about to catapult another angry bird. WAP banner advertising is growing rapidly across the continent, with InMobi (the world’s biggest independent mobile advertising network) delivering around 15.4 Billion WAP banners during Q3-2011 across Africa alone.

Below is an example of a banner advert served through the Android version of the Angry Birds game. The Google-Admob mobile advertising network serves the banner.

What are the possibilities for mobile advertising in Africa?

  1. Across Sub-Saharan African traditional forms of advertising are limited or simply not an attractive medium, some reasons include: Lack of actual addressable eyeballs and audience,
  2. extremely costly and
  3. Lack of inventory to generate the necessary ROI that a campaign requires.

Mobile advertising across the continent is providing a medium that allows an advertising to target a larger audience, and not completely relying on a billboard on a busy road to promote a product or service. Africa’s current population is in excess of 1.1 billion people, with approximately 650 million mobile connections in Africa used by approximately 450-500 million unique subscribers. The audience size that mobile advertising can target is exponentially larger that is possible with traditional forms of advertising like TV, Radio and print.

What mobile advertising opportunities are available?

Please Call Me (PCM) advertising and WAP banner advertising are some of the most commonly used mobile advertising channels. In combination, South Africa is still probably the largest proponent of these two channels, but other markets across the continent are starting to take up these services.

Vodacom South Africa has really lead the way in terms of a mobile network operator actively promoting the use of Please Call Me™ as an advertising channel. Vodacom Mobile Media ( allows an advertiser to book please PCMs based on a standard rate card. With the success of PCM™ in South Africa, Vodacom will more than likely begin rolling out similar opportunities into its international operations in Africa allowing brands to start utilizing this medium in other parts of Africa.

For advertisers who prefer a richer media engagement WAP banners provide an opportunity to promote, push and engage with consumers via WAP enabled feature phone right up to and including high-end smartphones. Two of the biggest players in this space in Africa are InMobi and Google-Admob. There are other players in the market as well including Buzz City, Ad Dynamo and Pollen8. The mobile advertising networks allow for semi-targeted advertising, example: By country, by handset type or in some cases like Pollen8 by demographic. To the right is an example of a WAP banner served into the BBC mobile site.

Tips and tricks on using mobile advertising

(1) Response rates

Currently mobile advertising is still a shot gun approach medium where the response rates to adverts can vary greatly based on variables like (1) the product / service being advertised, (2) the word or artwork of the advert, (3) The call to action on the banner, (4) The incentive for the customer to engage and (5) The theme of the advert

If you are an advertiser wanting to use mobile advertising you should be aware of the response rates for a respective campaign and align those from the out set with your goals for the campaign. In some cases a ROE (return on engagement) vs. ROI (return of investment) mind set needs to be used.

(2) It’ a blind network, for now

blind network is a mobile advertising network that doesn’t really know who the end consumer is that is receiving the advert. WAP banners are published onto thousands of mobile Internet sites (publisher sites) in a shotgun approach. On one day, your mobile banner could appear on a sports mobile portal and the other on a news and lifestyle portal.

When booking a mobile advertising campaign, there are a couple segmenting elements you can apply to increase the possible response rates of your campaigns. Some networks allow an advertiser to target based on handset type, example: only blackberry users. Other networks allow an advertiser to segment what publisher portals (the actual mobile internet sites) their banner could appear in, for example: A sports show brand having their banners served into sports portals.

Mobile advertising networks are becoming more sophisticated and increasing their targeting capabilities. When booking a campaign, always keep this in mind.

(3) Understand the medium

It’s important to always understand the medium and how end users will engage with the advert being displayed. PCMs lend themselves in most cases to responses using a premium rated SMS or USSD service with a low end user charge. Generally the subscriber sending the PCM request (Party A) has no (or low amounts) of airtime and might not necessarily have a WAP enabled handset. However the subscriber receiving the PCM (Party B) might have a high-end handset and might be interested in the service being advertised so a mobile site might be a good option to explore (where possible and appropriate). PCMs only have 110 characters so an advertiser really needs to be creative with the limit space available.

WAP banner advertising on the other hand, allows for richer engagements as only a subscriber with a WAP enabled handset or smartphone can view the banner. The one tip I can give any advertiser, if you are going to execute a click through campaign from a WAP banner please direct the subscriber to a site optimized for mobile devices. Majority of devices that engage with WAP banners are feature phones that cannot display a normal web site like an iPhone or Galaxy SII.

(4) Campaign reporting

It’s important to understand and track the success of a mobile advertising campaign. WAP banner advertising lends itself to more granular reporting. So when analyzing your campaign especially when you as an agency are presenting the reports to a client, provide an understanding of the actual handsets that engaged, date stamps of engagement activities and so on. This data will assist in planning the next campaign so more targeted techniques can be applied to the campaign.

(5) CPM vs. CPC vs. CPA

A challenge for any advertiser using mobile advertising is understanding the pricing and costing models to be used, i.e.: CPM (Cost Per Mille (per thousand), CPC (Cost Per Click) and CPA (Cost Per Acquisition). The mobiles ultimately affect the execution and in turn the budgets that can be assigned to a campaign.

(a) CPM, or cost per Mille, is the charge that is assigned for the delivery of 1000 adverts via the particular ad network. For example, PCMs on Vodacom SA sell for R6 per 1000 adverts delivered (CPM). CPM type campaigns work well for campaign where you just want to get the word out without any “call to action”?

(b) CPC, or cost per click, is the charge assigned when a subscriber actually clicks on a WAP banner. So if you have a CPC of R2 per Click, you can stipulate that you would like 20,000 clicks. The ad network will continue to serve your banners until 20,000 clicks are actually completed.

(c) CPA, or cost per acquisition, is the charge assigned to an actual lead that was generated from the campaign. For example, a user clicks on a banner and is directed to a mobile site. The user then actual engages on the portal and a sale is made (depending on the product / service being sold).

Mobile advertising is growing across the continent. With more and more inventory being discovered and utilized by mobile operators, media owners and third party ad networks, the scope and demand for this medium is going to explode in 2012.