There was a time when it was unimaginable for users not to have physical keypads, but fast forward to the present, touch screen is all there is. And just as we have gotten used to the keypad-less mobiles, the game seems to be switching up on us all over again with the entrance of foldable phones. Since news about the Samsung Galaxy Fold (pictured) broke in February, a long list of mobile makers have also chimed in with their foldable phone designs, including Huawei, Motorola, LG, Apple, Sony, Xiaomi, Oppo, Vivo and ZTE. While many teased concepts at the Mobile World Congress, Samsung and Huawei were the only smartphone makers with working prototypes. The foldable phone hype begs the question whether the advertising industry is seeing yet another disruption, albeit a smaller one compared to the consumer usage shift from traditional mediums, such as print and television, to mobile. Will foldable phones be the tipping factor that pull sizeable audience and advertising spend away from desktops and leave almost none for traditional mediums? According to a market research study by mobile attribution company AppsFlyer, the APAC region is predicted to hold the largest quantity of mobile ad spend and the second fastest growth rate, leaping 1.8 times from 2018 to reach US$30 billion in 2020. Mobile users in APAC will account for 50% of global app installs by 2020, which is three times more than in any other region. Industry players Marketing spoke to, such as Germs Digital's executive creative director Francis Tan, think that there will always be a space for digital, mobile-targeted and traditional advertising. Tan said,There might be small shifts here and there, but not major shake-ups like before. Moreover, each platform has its own unique selling point and target audience to co-exist in the market. Rather choosing between one or the other, creatives should be looking at how they complement each other to fill up empty gaps in the communication funnel. While Ydigital Asia CEO Peter Haarmark said that he expects an even bigger shift towards mobile in rural areas, he still believes that traditional media will "always have a seat at the table." Since regular phones boast portability and tablets with flat screens are better for entertainment, Haarmark questioned if foldable phones are here to stay. He said, "Remember how it was hyped to have small phones in the mid-2000s because technology was capable of it and we were used to chunky phones. Then, people found out that it's easier to get stuff done from a medium-sized screen - the same could be the case here. Do people want to carry bigger devices around just because it's technologically feasible or do people want a device which easily fits into the pocket?" Meanwhile, Entropia partner Ramakrishnan CN said that foldable phones will need to solve its utility issues and undergo a few more iterations before it can take off. He added, "Calling foldable phones as a disruption is akin to calling a car, with a new sunroof variant, as a game changer for the automobile buyers. It is a cute and gimmicky add on but it doesn’t impact the landscape." Opportunities for marketers But, the additional canvas space on foldable phones still pave way for new creative manipulation. Jolt Digital's founder and CEO Seb Lepez also expects the invention to make mobile phones even more indispensable than they are today, despite having less implication on advertising than the arrival of 5G, which will allow ads to be served faster. "Where we might see some more disruption will be around advertising formats. Brands and agencies will come with new and fun creatives to leverage the foldable phone. However, like everything in digital, brands should test and learn if [the new formats are] delivering well for them before adoption," said Lepez. On new formats, Tan from Germs Digital said that users can expect to interact with “smart banners” with deep-linking that calls out the phone’s functionalities such as the mic, camera or even drawing pads. Ydigital's Haarmark, on the other hand, suggested a feature where the device is split into two with advertisements or information being shown on the second screen that are relevant to what users read, play or watch on the first screen. While not immediate, Entropia's Ramakrishnan also agreed with the "investment and eventual progression of super flexible smart displays." However, to leverage the development, agencies and marketers will have to continuously keep up with the changes in form and user interfaces, which ultimately affect the key to success in a fast-changing landscape - user experience. The best user experience can only be created with a integrated approach that meshes media, tech and content seamlessly, explained Ramakrishnan. Read more: Singapore Tourism Board takes a cheeky swipe at Samsung’s new smartphone After STB, LEGO next to poke fun at Samsung’s foldable smartphone Domino’s Pizza wants a slice of Samsung’s foldable smartphone hype
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