Day 1 at Mobile World Congress 2016


Mark Halliday, Head of Airwave APAC, gives us the top news, views and insights from Mobile World Congress 2016 in Barcelona 

Day 1

It has been three years since my last Mobile World Congress and after day one, I can confirm that it is bigger than ever and this time with more brands, more agencies and more ad tech. At my first MWC in 2010, the audience was around 90% male and 90% suits. Today, the gender balance is much closer and attendees are a blend of hipsters, business casual jeans and blazer combos (myself included), but the men in suits tip the balance in their dominance – it’s still a long way from the shorts and flip flops of Cannes.

What I’ve learned from previous visits is that I’m not here to learn about specific devices. The wow factor of seeing the latest handsets from Samsung, LG, etc. is not particularly motivating anymore.  It’s only semi-interesting if a manufacturer has developed a phone with a 20 mega pixel camera, or an HD screen. That said, the new waterproof Samsung is pretty cool for people who like to watch YouTube from the shower. This year, I’m more interested in how mobile impacts consumer behaviour. I also want to see how mobile powered technology can make a difference to our clients with tangible solutions in the imminent future – less about the trends, more about the possibilities for today.



This morning, I attended a great session on mobile data hosted by the Mobile Media Summit with a guest panel including OMD EMEA’s Head of Mobile. The outtakes from the panel was that data is the key to unlocking advertiser interest in mobile as a communications platform. The trinity of media, creative and data is and will lead to much more tailored and relevant advertising. We must also measure everything we can and ensure that our analysts are deeply involved in all our planning.

There were many experts arguing that mobile, as a platform for advertising, is not being used effectively. The analogy was that it’s like placing really bad radio ads on TV. I like to think that the Airwave teams help navigate our clients to great experiences (!) but it’s an interesting point.

Another panel asked why is mobile video not bigger than it should be? Apparently it’s the next $50 billion industry, so why is there so little investment? The arguments included lack of innovation from the likes of Facebook and Google. We also need to be tailoring bespoke mobile video content for platforms such as Snapchat. Given attention spans tend to be shorter on mobile, we should also look at how we can make video have more impact in a shorter amount of time. One suggestion was that creative agencies should primarily be presenting their scamps and concepts to show clients how it would appear on a mobile device before a TV set. Don’t forget that you can’t watch your TV in the shower…


I was lucky enough to spend time with the Israeli Trade and Commerce team who gave the Global Omnicom team a tour of 10 of their mobile-first companies. Israel are notorious for the quality of their tech startups and this was no exception with several companies we could potentially work with. Of note, there was one vendor who supplied electronic buttons consumers can place on their fridge which connects to mobile phones, allowing users to auto-order anything from an Uber to a pizza delivery. Another company was an open-source augmented reality and virtual reality platform which almost all brands would find interesting. Finally, we met an app which automatically converts your long form video into much more engaging content by identifying the most interesting aspects and adapting it into a number of templates from “romance” to “adventure” along with funky music and editing.

Day one has been a really interesting blend of seminars and start-ups with more focus on the opportunities and issues for the next 12 months. Tomorrow I’ll be getting a guided tour of the “best of MWC” from the editors at CNet, so perhaps more future facing. Arguably planning for the future is easier than planning for today. I’ll see how true that is by the end of the week.


Author: Mark Halliday
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