The St Petersburg Times
By Yuriy Humber and Angelina Davydova
Leading mobile phone operators are vowing to concentrate more on image advertising than tariffs in order to maintain customer loyalty. Also, with St. Petersburg and Moscow markets being near-saturated (70-90 percent), operators will switch to increased advertising in the regions to follow up on their regional expansion.
Meanwhile, an emergent key factor for attracting and keeping clients through advertising is the explanation and promotion of new technologies and extra services for mobile phone users.
Most mobile networks would like to see customers choosing an image they associate with, so as to move advertising emphasis away from competition on figures.
"Operators will have to attract people by some kind of image objectives," said Timofei Vashchilin, Beeline's marketing and advertising manager for St. Petersburg, noting the difficulty in finding new customers in a city market with a 70 percent saturation. "Whether it's sports, arts, love, or humour - customers should associate with something, and it should mean something."
As an example of image politics, Vashchilin names Beeline's posters with Andrei Arshavin, the Zenit FC striker - a summer advertising campaign in St. Petersburg which marked company subscriber number reaching half a million.
"We are associating those who came to Beeline during that time with a team - because they also played well," he said, adding that the campaign portrayed Arshavin's personal viewpoint, and was not an official link with the football club.
If Beeline advertises an image of confidence and convenience, the other market players are also carefully carving out a niche for their image, said Vashchilin.
"I think, MegaFon are basically working on the emotional side, building an image of heart; and MTS are projecting an idea of team spirit," he said.
Most operators agree that price wars are unlikely to disappear, and that informing about costs and services is one of the main objectives of their advertising.
However, with the high chance of a new law allowing customers to keep their number even if they change operator, as reported in Kommersant last Wednesday, building loyalty in the increasingly flexible mobile phone market will depend on more than offering limited-period discounts.
"First on our agenda is image advertising," said a member of the MegaFon Northwest press service in an interview last week. The press office added that increased focus on product placement, PR, and marketing strategies such as BTL (Beyond The Line) will combine "to promote the image of MegaFon as a national operator".
Vadim Zlobin, MTS's head of marketing in St. Petersburg echoed the trend, saying his company "was very interested in image credibility". Even the new operator on the city's mobile market, Delta Telecom (brand name Sky-link), forecast tariff-based advertising playing a limited role in the future.
"Next year, we see that tariffs will kind of stabilize, and there will be little effect to pitch adverts on a tariff basis," said Maxim Chernyak, head of Skylink advertising in St. Petersburg.
"People are still looking for offers, but that will end sooner or later. Then, advertising should become more aggressive, in a good sense, more interesting and with more humour," Vashchilin from Beeline maintains.
While tariff ads will not completely disappear, Chernyak adds that in the future the company will create advertising to "establish our position as a provider with a solid high-tech base," emphasising Skylink's anti-fraud technologies, mobile internet services, and low radioactive emissions from handsets.
The ads will be aimed mainly at the bigger-spending middle and top managers, Chernyak said, noting that already more than half of Skylink's 80,000 subscribers in the city and Leningrad Oblast fit in to that category.
With mobile networks' advertising often turning up side by side in the metro, on opposing pages of the same newspaper, or in closely following TV and radio slots, only one operator - Tele2 - said that image advertising was inconsequential at present.
"Our adverting is very largely tariff-orientated. We don't feel the need to position ourselves or our image too heavily," said Ilya Chernetsky, marketing manager of Tele2, citing, nonetheless, that spending on advertising was most definitely up.
Yulia Fesenko, the general director of Fusion media advertising company, confirmed that mobile network operators stand out among other advertisers in their will to cover all available advertising slots.
"A company deciding on its advertising television campaign usually sticks to one main channel, and then one or two smaller channels. In contrast to Telecom firms such as Tele 2 or Megafon, very few advertisers can cover all advertising vehicles".
Still, it is unlikely that in general the volume of mobile operators advertising will keep increasing significantly. "I don't think there will be either more and less advertising of mobile phone operators in St. Petersburg or Moscow," Leonid Konik, editor-in-chief of ComNews Group said in an interview on Friday.
"Marketing and advertising budgets will be aimed mainly at regional development now, where the market is far less saturated - say, at the Far East of Russia," he said. "Another important factor is that in every region mobile networks have their own tariffs and promotion - that's why they have to develop specific campaigns for each region of Russia."
THE EXTRA DEAL
According to Konik, along with image promotion most mobile phone operators will have to tackle the question of promoting new technologies and news services. "As in other segments of telecommunications sector, new technologies appearing require to be thoroughly explained, clarified and promoted, because it is mainly because of them that the market will continue changing and growing", he said.
News source: times.spb.ru
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