How the other half live – offline

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As connectivity becomes more widespread and increasingly faster, many of us are clamouring to secure mobile phone or tablet tariffs which include endless data bundles. Habitually we find ourselves complaining if we stumble in to an area lacking in 4G, or are forced to use a venue which doesn’t offer high speed Wi-Fi.  68 percent of US adults don’t go an hour without checking their smart phones, while 75 percent of millennials are disconnected for only an hour per day.

In highly connected environments advertisers use connectivity to their advantage: displaying a short video clip or image keeps a viewer’s attention; a URL invites the audience to click for further information; buttons for sharing content are featured to ensure content is shared socially with other audience members. All of this activity is intended to encourage the audience to interact with, become more aware of, or purchase from the advertiser’s brand.

Do any of us ever stop and think about the real cost of each megabyte, outside of our inclusive bundles? Probably not… unless you’ve gone over your data allowance for the month, or you’re travelling abroad, at which point you realise how badly you rely on data day to day, and how difficult life becomes when you’re disconnected or rely solely on Wi-Fi.  

Only ten years ago we were largely unconnected, most of the time. We had mobile phones but they weren’t ‘smart’. Our desktop connections were wired. Facebook wasn’t yet an open system. Now, nearly half of the global population is online, with almost a third on social media.

What is life like for the other half of the population, who remain offline?

As well as the debate about the positive or negative social impact of being so connected, of which there are already many articles written, another difference between online and offline cultures is the influence advertisers hold. Brands and online platforms aren’t having the same impact (especially in the same way) in offline environments, and aren’t making as much money as they would like. They are not able to utilise the same practices which are working so well online.

Some are adapting to the different environments, for example Twitter’s acquisition of ZipDial – a mobile phone marketing start up. The popular South Asian practice of ‘missed calls’ is used by marketers to connect with people who are much less likely to visit a website – due to high costs and limited connectivity. By sharing a unique phone number (as opposed to a URL) on print or TV advertising, the call to action is to call the number but hang up before connecting, meaning the ‘enquiry’ is free of charge. The brand can then send out relevant information at no cost to the enquirer.

What are the barriers to connectivity?

The ‘missed call’ solution doesn’t seem to be sufficient for Mark Zuckerberg. The biggest barrier to online brands reaching people in third world countries may come as a surprise to many; it isn’t a lack of infrastructure which is the main hurdle, instead it is the cost of data. Facebook founder, Mark Zuckerberg, has announced he is going to bring free internet connection to countries who are currently offline through the internet.org project, which will pave the way for online brands and online platforms to reach the half of the population who are currently (perhaps blissfully) unaware of the extent of marketing they are potentially about to become subjected to.

We look forward to seeing the extent to which Mark Zuckerberg’s initiative changes global connectivity, and the resulting changes to the way we communicate with each other and are marketed to.

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