Mobile phones are "the most popular thing on the planet", but so far advertisers have failed to capitalise on the market of four billion users they offer, an advertising executive said yesterday. Speaking at the opening day of the Dubai International Advertising Festival, Rob Belgiovane, the executive creative director and partner at BWM in Australia, said he had tried to find examples of creativity in mobile advertising but came up nearly empty-handed. "A lot of people are talking about marketing on mobile, but not many people are doing it," he said. The potential in the market is so great that he believes some smart marketers must step up soon. He pointed to recent statistics showing that there were now four times as many mobile phones in the world as televisions. "In Aug 2008, one in four internet page hits were made from smartphones," he said. "Around four billion people were mobile phone users at the start of this year. The number of people on the internet only surpassed one billion in Aug 2008." With the number of mobile phones increasing by 1.8 billion last year alone, he said: "The growth in the market is astronomical and, hypothetically, you could reach all of it with the same message at the same time, which is a challenge and an opportunity for marketers." The main problem so far, he said, has been that mobile advertising has been mostly dull and intrusive. "Not long ago, only a year or two ago, it was mostly statics display ads given away as a bonus for buying an online package or similar." But a burst in creativity in what can be done on mobile phones - from making short films to playing in a band using one of the latest iPhone applications - pointed a way towards a new kind of engagement, he said. So, too, does some of the latest technology, such as a device that turns a mobile phone into an interactive projector reminiscent of the holographic graphics in the film Minority Report revealed at last month's Technology Entertainment Design (TED) conference by Pattie Maes, a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. On top of this, mobile phones provide advertisers with access to vast amounts of personal data about their users, including their gender, age, salary and profession - usually provided as part of the detailed applications for a phone plan. "A lot of the telecoms don't like talking about how much they know about you, especially that they know exactly where you are," he said. Also, the opportunities that GPS (Global Positioning System) technology on mobiles afforded marketers were too great to ignore, he said. He pointed to iPhone's AroundMe application, which allows users to get instant access to restaurants or other shops in their vicinity, as an example. "We need to send people something they can interact with," he said. Mr Belgiovane believes Facebook's popularity provides a blueprint for the kind of engagement people should have with brands through their mobile phones. "If I was managing a global brand, I'd say 'how can we be the first global brand to put something on mobile phones that makes people want to go there again and again, on a daily basis, and all at the same time?'," he said. "It's possible. The technology exists. We just haven't come up with an idea for it yet." firstname.lastname@example.org
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