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Mobile marketing trends in Japan

Akihisa Fujita
Mobile marketing trends in Japan Akihisa Fujita

The mobile ad market in Japan was established in 2000, soon after NTT DoCoMo launched its mobile internet service "iMode" in 1999. The number of mobile internet users here totals 91.6 million people (as of August, 2009) and at the same time mobile ad expenditure has grown to 91.3 billion yen in 2008 (January to December). Mobile is the closest medium to users as it is on their person 24-7, and can be a strong communication tool, which can target users in line with their attributes.


Of late, integrated marketing and cross media communication have become more important than conventional promotions using mass media, due to the segmentation of user preferences and the comeuppance of the internet. Mobile has the power to link with other media as a hub and mobile media is the most easily combinable with other media because of its portability.


Now into its 8th year, the "Mobile Ad Awards" was established in 2002 by D2Communications as the world's first award specifically for mobile ads. There are three categories in this award:



  1. Ad creative" which evaluates creativity of ads including picture adverts

  2. "Campaign site" which evaluates the official campaign site, and

  3. "Marketing" which evaluates overall marketing communication.

The most highly evaluated ad which best symbolizes the year is awarded the "Grand Prix."

McDonald's is 2009 "Grand Prix" winner
In 2009, the Grand Prix went to "Tokusuru Mobile Site / Tokusuru Appli" by McDonald's Japan. McDonald's Japan operates the "Tokusuru Mobile Site" with over 14 million members (as of August, 2009). In May 2008 they launched the "Tokusuru Appli", which offers coupons with a "mobile wallet" function for applications.


Coupons can be used by simply touching one's cell phone onto a reader at a McDonald's outlet. Furthermore, if users have NTT DoCoMo's credit service function, "iD", they can even purchase with their cell phone at the same time. As of August 2009, the number of "Tokusuru Appli" users is in excess of 4.5 million.


Source: Mobile Ad Awards Guide Book


In the case of McDonald's Japan, judges were highly impressed with the overall sophistication of the marketing communication technique that encompasses the whole process from shop invitation promotion to payment, using coupon delivery as a hook to create the opportunity to communicate with users.


Regarding future plans, McDonald's Japan is thinking of providing user-matched information and coupons based on the user's purchase history. It could well be the arrival of "real" mobile CRM.


Overall trends that were observed in this year's winning adverts: Especially in the marketing category, many companies utilized mobile as a matter of course in their integrated marketing, including cross media communication. What also stood out were user participation-type contents that use interactive communication, and the clever use of content for targeting, including games and videos which exploit mobile's trait of "within 30cm reach, 24 hours a day".


For more information on the Mobile Ad Awards, click here.


Akihisa Fujita is president of D2 Communications.

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