What's coming next at Mobile Interactive Group
Last week, Mobile Interactive Group took top spot in The Sunday Times' Tech Track 100 list, which profiles the UK's fastest growing technology companies.
Earlier this year it was named top of the Media Momentum list of the 50 fastest-growing UK new media firms.
According to the former, London-based MIG is said to have grown 422.3 per cent in terms of annual sales growth and recorded £35.9 million in 2007/8 sales.
Now, many ME readers will look at this and think ‘very nice, but it’s all come from interactive TV voting’. And it’s true that MIG’s foundations have been built on lucrative deals with ITV to power interaction on Britain's Got Talent and The X Factor.
But throughout the glory days of TV voting, MIG was building towards second generation services, towards an age when that first connection between the viewer and the brand would be the launchpad for an array of rich media mobile services.
It’s why the company has launched new units dedicated to creative digital services (Jigsaw), mobile advertising (4th Screen), experiential mobile services (New Toy) and is planning a further spin-off in January. ME talked to MIG’s Barry Houlihan about this and more…
ME: Can you sum up the changes at MIG and the vision behind them?
BH: MIG is going to become the holding company, with MIT (Mobile Interactive Technology) providing technology and platforms for transactions and communications. Then there’ll be Jigsaw for creative, 4th Screen for ads, New Toy for outdoor experiential and finally a new unit come January. The idea is that a brand can come to us and we can provide every kind of creative digital answer.
ME: Why did you launch New Toy?
BH: It’s obvious that so much of what’s happening in the live and exhibition sector involves mobile now. But most of the work is being done by marketing agencies that have the ideas and then hire AV companies to do the work. New Toy does creativity and execution, and can work with the other MIG companies to deliver great new ideas.
ME: How does ‘experiential’ use rich media? Isn’t it just about ticketing?
BH: We’ve seen from our experience at the O2 that it has the potential for so much more than that. We’re only scratching the surface of the potential for user-generated content gathered at events, for example.
ME: Although there have been some regulatory issues, TV voting and such has clearly been very successful. How can the industry build on that?
BH: A brand like X Factor has amazing potential when it comes to digital content. Don’t forget Leona Lewis’s first single was downloaded over 50,000 times in 30 minutes. So that first vote is a huge opportunity and should be the springboard for loads more. The reply message should contain a link to a personalised WAP site and a PIN to access instant wins, or free ad-funded music and games. Christ, mobile gaming needs some help, right?
ME: You mention ad-funded… how do you see the mobile advertising space right now?
BH: It’s not easy, with just one per cent of all brand ad spend going on mobile. There needs to be more inventory, and we need to show that there’s more to it than banners. But the potential is there. We’ll invest £500,000 in 4th Screen this year, and we will continue to incubate it within the group. But I’m sure other companies in the space are going to find life difficult.
ME: How will operators position themselves as the content market moves off-portal?
BH: They have to ask themselves ‘do we invest in content or should we just be a gateway to the net?’ It seems as if Vodafone, for one, is set for another crack at it, but I think that horse has bolted. They’ve missed it. The broadcasters have all the access points. Sky’s on all the decks very much on its own terms. For me, their best bet is to do some massive partnership deals with the online social networks, search companies and so on.
ME: But won’t they always have a role to play through their billing systems?
BH: Well, we were told Payforit was going to be as big as online e-commerce, but how can it be when then operators keep 30 per cent? Do you think Amazon will go for that? It’s just not well-positioned or thought through.
ME: Is MIG in the acquisitions game?
BH: We’ve looked at companies with original content and international presence, and we’re still looking. But we’re not about to buy a company with negative revenue for £3 million in cash and another £2 million next year – which are the kinds of deals we’re offered.