Turkcell is a mobile operator with a reputation for innovation. David Murphy talks to Head of Mobile Marketing & Advertising, Melis Turkmen, to find out why the company seems to be so far ahead of the game when it comes to mobile marketing
MT: Sure. Turkcell operates in eight countries, and we have 62 million subscribers. In Turkey, we have 37 million subscribers so we are the second-largest operator in Europe and the 13th largest in the world.
DM: So, mobile operators do not have a great reputation. People talk about them as the ‘dumb pipe’ and say they are very slow to innovate, but whenever I hear Turkcell speak at conferences, or when other people talk about you, you seem to stand out from the rest, and you also seem to be very keen to share your experiences.
MT: Well we have more than 20 mobile marketing products and we are keen to give more information about them to people from other countries. We believe we are a leader in the sector, and the job of a leader is to educate and share best practice.
When we talk to some other operators, most of them hardly think about mobile marketing, but we see mobile marketing as a huge opportunity. Therefore, we have been active on new products and services since the beginning. Our database of 7.6 million opt-in subscribers that we can use for mobile marketing and advertising is a healthy revenue generator. This is one of the largest databases of its kind in Europe, possibly in the world, and we know a lot about them, including their location, demographics, and their data usage that we target subscribers accordingly
DM: That’s an impressive number. Do you give these people any incentive to opt in?
MT: We give up to 20 credits (which equals 10 texts) for pre-paid and 10 texts for post-paid, as they opt-in to the database. But the main incentive that we offer is to tell them that the mobile marketing that they will receive on their phones will be targeted to their needs and interests. So the youth segment will get texts offering discounts off Adidas equipment, and housewives will be targeted with offers for things they can use around the house.
DM: And when did you first get in to mobile marketing?
MT: We started in 2002 started with a Sweepstakes campaign for Lipton Ice Tea. We used a keyword and a Shortcode on the packaging that people could text in to in order to win a brand new car!
DM: So what sort of campaigns do you run?
MT: We try to reach our opted-in database via many different channels, SMS, MMS, WAP Push, video, even IVR (Interactive Voice Response). So a customer might get a call asking if they have any Olive Oil in the house, and they are asked to press 1 for Yes and 2 for No. If they press 1, then we send them a gift. If they press 2, then we tell them, if they buy the brand today, we will send you a gift, maybe something you can use in the kitchen.
Credit and airtime campaigns are also very popular. In fact, campaigns account for more than 60% of our mobile marketing revenues, with the rest coming from advertising. We sell credit and airtime to brands, in millions of units, that they can then give away for free to their subscribers
In May 2007 for example, we ran a campaign for Pepsi, where consumers had to text in to a Shortcode printed on cans of Pepsi. This was charged as one text message, but by texting in, they were guaranteed five credits, which equals two and a half texts or two minutes talk time. That was an enormous success. We received 13 million texts from 1 million people in three months.
The great thing about a campaign like this is that the consumer can’t lose. Everyone gets the guaranteed minimum, but you may get more. In this campaign, for example, we gave away 2009 credits and 500 minutes of talk time every hour.
DM: And what sort of revenues are you generating from mobile marketing?
MT: We estimate that in 2009, there will be $91 million (£55 million) of revenues from mobile marketing in Turkey, and we will take a 70% share of that. Next year, we are forecasting $125 million, of which we will take 69%, and in 2012, $260 million, with Turkcell again taking 69% of those revenues. These revenues are made up of all three operators in Turkey, plus the agencies. We have around 20 agencies who are selling our products to advertiser brands.
We are also now selling advertising on other publishers’ sites, and within iPhone applications, as well as our own mobile portal. We have set up a mobile advertising sales house to do this.
DM: And of course, many people will associate Turkcell with the Tone&Win campaign, where Turkcell subscribers get credit in return for using advertising messages as a Ringback Tone that their friend here when they call them. We came out and criticised the idea when you launched it, but it has been winning awards, so I guess you must be doing something right.
MT: Yes, Tone&Win was selected as the best mobile marketing and advertising service in the GSMA Global awards, Visiongain’s Mama and the Meffy Awards. This could only be explained by a technically well-powered service which is built on a good business model. Tone & Win is now hitting record levels with Pepsi’s new promotion in Turkey. Earlier this year, Turkcell cooperated with Pepsi for the brand’s summer promotion. Although the promotion mechanic is a typical text & Win, consumers are experiencing a one-of-a-kind interaction throughout the campaign. Pepsi’s new viral advertising on mobile has been so unique and well received by the consumers that 3.8 million consumers took part within the first month, outperforming all previous promotional campaigns.
DM: And what else are you planning?
MT: We have recently launched mobile surveys. It’s like a ‘fast-food’ survey service. The market research firms are still trying to do surveys on the streets, but you need a lot of people for that and it costs a lot of money. But with a mobile survey, we can profile the database, send them a WAP Push link to the survey and they can answer it right there on their phone. We are also talking to the big research firms about the service.
DM: Is anyone using it?
MT: Yes. One client, Garanti, has a credit card called Flexi. When they run a TV ad, we send out a WAP Push link to a mobile survey asking people what they thought of the ad, whether they liked it, whether it would make them want a Flexi credit card.
For the future, we are launching 3G this summer, so we will have new products like Mobile TV with advertising, video calls and ad-funded video, so there will be even more mobile marketing and advertising products. We are also giving out information for free to subscribers in the form of ad-funded text messages, things like weather updates, lottery results. For the Weather service, we have 2 million subscribers, and Pepsi have bought the entire inventory for June, July and August. In fact, the whole year is sold. And when 3G arrives, we will offer video versions of these services.
DM: You have won lots of awards this year for mobile marketing and advertising, what is your secret?
MT: As I said, we are a leader in the sector, and the job of a leader is to educate and share best practice. So that leads to appreciation in the local and global arena not only in mobile marketing articles and research studies, but also reputable awards. Tone&Win was selected as best mobile ad
vertising service by the GSMA, the Mobile Entertainment Forum (Meffys) and Visiongain, and Visiongain also named our permission database as the runner-up for the best network for delivery of mobile marketing and advertising.
DM: Good stuff, keep us posted on what you’re up to, sounds like there’s plenty to talk about.
MT: Will do.