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Mobiles to ‘replace TV as prime ad medium’

Financial Times | April 6, 2005
By Gary Silverman

Mobile telephones and other wireless communication devices will soon become the most important medium for advertisers to reach technology-savvy consumers, one of the world's leading advertising executives said on Wednesday.

The forecast by Andrew Robertson, chief executive of Omnicom 's BBDO advertising agency, the world's third-biggest, underscores the uncertainties facing advertisers in developed markets as they shift from their traditional dependence on television.

The problem for advertisers is that technological developments such as the spread of digital video recorders are giving consumers the ability to avoid TV commercials.

Mr Robertson said he believed the way forward for advertisers to reach consumers would be to use wireless devices such as mobile phones, laptop computers and the BlackBerry e-mail devices favoured by travelling corporate executives on the go.

“We are rapidly getting to the point where the single most important medium that people have is their wireless device,” he said. “It's with them every single moment of the day. It's genuinely the convergence box that everyone has been talking about for so many years.”

Mr Robertson, a 44-year-old native of Zimbabwe with experience of the London advertising industry, was named chief executive of BBDO last year in what was seen as an attempt to shake up an agency known for its TV commercials.

While stressing the importance of reaching consumers on wireless devices, Mr Robertson was open about the difficulties this will create for advertising agencies.

Unlike television viewers, mobile phone users are unaccustomed to commercial interruptions. To reach them, agencies will have to develop content so engaging that mobile phone users will it seek out - a tall order.

“You have no way to interrupt because they can choose what they can do,” Mr Robertson said. “The opportunity is if you can create some content that they want to engage with, they can do that all of the time from anywhere.”

Mr Robertson spoke as BBDO released a report that said consumers are now more willing to live without television than without mobile phones or home computers.

The agency asked nearly 3,000 typical consumers in 15 countries to choose the communications device they would most want to keep. Forty-five per cent said their home computers, 31 per cent their mobile phones and 12 per cent their televisions. In China, 61 per cent opted for mobile phones, compared with 30 per cent for home computers and 4 per cent for televisions.

The survey found that mobile phones users like to stay connected even while they are asleep. More than 60 per cent said they kept their phones on and within reach 21 to 24 hours a day, and 15 per cent said that figure was 16 to 20 hours a day.

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