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As Mobile Gains Ground in Mexico, Advertisers Take Note

Mobile advertising represented about 7% of digital ad spending in 2011

New York, NY (December 5, 2012) – Mobile phone adoption in Mexico has been slow, hobbled by general economic conditions and by a lack of competition in the mobile space, which has kept prices high for advanced mobile devices and for data plans. Compounding the situation, cultural preferences have helped hold back widespread adoption of postpaid phone plans, which tends to be a bellwether for increased mobile use. But a new eMarketer report, “Mobile Mexico: Overcoming Obstacles to Growth” finds that there are clear signs of mobile growth on the horizon.

The report answers key questions for brands looking to explore Mexico’s mobile advertising market, including:

  • Why is Mexico’s mobile market lagging behind those of similarly developed countries?
  • What is the profile of the typical mobile user in Mexico?
  • When will Mexico’s smartphone user audience reach critical mass for marketers?

The nation’s two largest mobile carriers, which provide service to roughly 90% of Mexico’s mobile lines, have launched limited 4G-LTE services and are expected to continue expanding those networks. They are also offering aggressive subsidies for advanced mobile devices in order to lure prepaid plan holders into more lucrative and longer-lasting postpaid data plans. These strategies could mean lower price points for entry-level and lower-income consumers interested in acquiring 3G devices, and further growth among early 4G adopters with higher incomes.

Growth can’t be taken for granted, though. eMarketer estimates the number of mobile connections in Mexico at 98 million for the year 2012, equal to 85.2% of the total population. By comparison, the number of mobile connections as a percentage of population in Brazil is 134%, according to eMarketer’s estimates.

Perhaps the most telling statistics about Mexico’s mobile market have to do with its notably slow adoption of postpaid mobile plans, which are typically key drivers of increased use of more advanced mobile platforms. According to GSM Association and A.T. Kearney, 86% of Mexico’s mobile subscriptions last year were prepaid.

But advertisers in Mexico are not necessarily waiting for extensive smartphone and postpaid plan uptake before forgoing ahead with mobile efforts.

This year, IAB México and PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) released 2011 mobile ad spending data for Mexico and estimated that mobile advertising represented about 7% of digital ad spending that year. By comparison, the local branches of the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) and PwC in Spain, the UK and the US estimated that mobile ad spending in those countries represented only 2%, 4% and 5%, respectively, of digital ad spending in 2011.

And SMS marketing and advertising are still popular as well. According to March 2012 data from IAB México and Millward Brown, SMS ads were the type of mobile ads most commonly recalled by Mexico’s mobile device owners.

As Gerardo Fernández Velarde, head of marketing and operations at C-MOVIL, the mobile subsidiary of Corporación Interamericana de Entretenimiento (CIE), explained: “Many marketers think they need to build an app or something similar for smartphones, but that is not actually true. In Mexico, 80% to 85% of [mobile] users have feature phones, and the marketers can begin by campaigning with SMS, mobile sites, etc.”

Posted on December 5, 2012.