Mobile Ad inventory – Should BlackBerry adopt the Android OS?

With news of RIM's recent financial woes, the BlackBerry is a shadow of it's former self. Android and Apple devices are winning the battle for mobile software and the quality of their ad inventory shows it. Clash Group CRO, Tore Erickson looks at how a change in operating system for the BlackBerry could result in a return to the top.

We all knew it wasn't going to be great, but not many were expecting quite the financial results from the makers of the once iconic mobile device – the BlackBerry.

Last week RIM announced profits down a third on last year, delayed the launch of the BlackBerry 10 and cut 5,000 staff. Contrast this with Apple which has recently been declared the third most profitable company on the planet, and are expecting to add to their cash piles with the highly-anticipated launch of the iPhone 5 in the coming months.

We at Clash Group operate across all three popular mobile platforms; iOS, Android and BlackBerry – but it is clear that one of the three is falling severely behind. BlackBerry inventory is lying at a purchase rate of around less than a cent-per-click whilst the cost of placing an ad on iOS and Android systems peak between $1.50 - $3 per click.

There are many reasons as to why BlackBerry's offering is falling so far behind. BlackBerry devices aren't optimized for the consumer, with their routes lying in creating a device for business users. Browsing the web or playing with apps isn't ideal on the BlackBerry, they have smaller screens, and only with their most recent line have they rolled out universal touch screens. A limited app store, sluggish navigation model and uninspiring interface just doesn't compete with Apple's platform that generates $4.1bn revenue just from iTunes downloads alone!

Could a collaboration with Android change all that?
BlackBerry users for business prefer ease of use when receiving and sending emails, a clear and easy-to-navigate calendar and, believe it or not, making phone calls as opposed to playing Angry Birds or watching videos on YouTube! This leaves limited scope for the effective advertising that we've been implementing on competitive devices in the form of rich media ads with RTB across rival systems.

Would an advertiser want to advertise in a space that struggles to appeal to the consumerist instincts of the user? Well...maybe.

Despite Apple's dominance, Google's Android devices are proving a valiant opponent. BlackBerry devices running Android software would mobilize a whole new level of ad inventory that could be tailored specifically for professional BlackBerry Android users.

Despite all the issues that RIM are contending with, the BlackBerry hardware itself doesn't appear to be the issue. Many users are sold by the efficient qwerty keyboard and 'bread and butter' basics that appeal to the professional user. So migrating the device onto Android software would open a world of opportunity for both RIM and Google – let alone the advertisers who would be jumping at the chance to target their ads at a ready-made business audience. Might even worry Apple!

Or just recognize and exploit its USP
It all sounds great on paper – RIM and Android collaborate, creating a product that appeals to business users and could topple Apples dominance. But would either RIM or Google genuinely consider such a move? Personally, I don't think it could happen. I think BlackBerry would be best to recognize their roots as a smart phone for business users. They could tailor an ad inventory production strategy that compliments this.

So instead of competing with the consumer powerhouses of Apple and Android, BlackBerry should take a step back and evaluate how it can tailor its models purely for business users, just as social networks differentiate themselves. Think of the iPhone as Facebook, Android as Twitter and BlackBerry as LinkedIn

It won't immediately yield as much profit for advertisers that they have made from the iPhone or Android ad eco-system, but it could position BlackBerry back in to a market they are comfortable with.

If you are interested in using this comment, or would be interested in speaking with Tore Erickson, please email Leon Emirali at, or call me on +1 561 228 1253.

Kind regards,
Leon Emirali

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