SEO and SEM for Russian search engines

Interview: Oleg Pavliouchenko of WapStart talks mobile marketing in Russia

Oleg_pavluchenkoLast week I had an opportunity to interview Oleg Pavlioutchenko, Managing Partner of WapStart — the largest mobile ad network in Russia and CIS. Serving over 4.2 billion requests per month with a reach to over 25 mln visitors WapStart have been called “AdMob of Russia”.

I am very excited to publish this interview with Oleg here on Russian Search Tips and discuss mobile marketing and mobile apps in Russia.

Oleg, you work with mobile advertising in Russia, but also internationally. Does Russian market differ from US / Europe?

Correct, we work with many leading international publishers and networks and many industry players connect with us when they want to come to the Russian market.

Our focus has always been Russian and CIS audience, we build on the fact that this market has largest population in Europe, one of the largest penetrations of mobile yet less than 2% of digital budgets go into mobile. This is the main difference with developed markets – the prices for advertisers still low, the opportunity is huge.

What Russian smartphone users do on their phones most of the time? Social networking, games, news etc?

According no J’son and Partners research, the large part of Russian mobile audience prefers to use smartphones for such things as emails, Internet browsing, music, search and social networking. Photos and video, maps and navigation, games, blogging and news are also in trends.

Smartphones usage

In general, we could see three main streams here: search, on line video and social networking. I must admit the preferences of our users are slightly different from global trends.

What mobile ad formats are most common in Russia? Do companies mainly advertise apps or mobile sites?

Up to last year the most common formats were banners and text ads but in the last 12 month we are seeing increased interest in a more advanced media. WapStart is the first and only rich media capable mobile network on the Russian market, we partnered with leading Rich Media providers such as Celtra and also have our own Rich Media MRAID based technology. The strategy is starting to pay off – many brands starting to experiment and like the results of being able to interact with the audience in a more visual and sophisticated way.

Because our technology allows to target and display all formats from basic to advanced on all platforms and Apps the choice is mostly based on the campaign goals. Apps traffic is generally more expensive because there are many Apps advertisers looking for a narrow traffic for their apps while large brands get lower prices by covering broad geographies regardless of the hardware platforms.

Is mobile advertising in Russia expensive? What are the average CPC levels for mobile ads?

Its affordable still compared to well developed markets while users ARPU and levels of monetizations for publishers are quite good. That is one of the reasons many advertisers are turning to this market. CPC starts at just $0.03.

In your opinion, what is the best way to promote a mobile app in Russia? What marketing channels are essential?

Our general advice is to use and try as many channels as possible. The landscape is so dynamic that no one can predict where a particular product/app will get the best traction.

However, if you need considerable volume of traffic or leads there are only few players who can readily provide it – WapStart is one of them with over 4bln impressions and 25ml audience monthly. Google and Yandex come to mind also.

Android is by far the most common mobile OS in Russia. Does the performance of mobile advertising differ a lot on Android and iOS devices?

That is correct, Android usage is much higher and a lot of developers target this audience because of that. But with higher usage comes higher supply so it balances the demand. We also know that iOS users still lead in the end ROI so, iOS traffic is always a bit more “in deficit” and more expensive.

Do Russians use English apps (for example, games) or do the apps have to be in Russian language?

Of course it is best to have a localized version of an app for any mass-market and Russia is no exception. However, Russian audience is generally accustomed to the lack of good Russian native publishers and apps so, people are comfortable with western apps.

I’d say that advanced products for audience in large cities being in English is OK but for a true mass-penetration one needs a local version with a good local support.

This is another area where WapStart really shines — we provide a local personal manager for every advertiser. She analyzes the creative and products before campaign starts and provide invaluable consultation based on all of our experience. We actually often produce our own creative and landing pages for such advertisers to get the best results from a given campaign.

Are Russian smartphone users willing to pay for apps? How is the ratio between paid and free apps? And how is the situation with app monetization?

Consumers around the world want products but don’t want paying for them until they decide the app is worth it. That is why the ad-based monetization is more popular than ever and is a critical part of the overall freemium equation. Russia is no different.

What segments are the most active on mobile? Hotels? Dating? Or?

The most active WapStart advertisers at this moment are car distributors, banks and FMCG sector. Most of Wapstart clients are the big international companies.

Recently, Volvo joined WapStart to promote their loyalty program. As well, we a proud to have such a big clients as Volkswagen, Samsung, Microsoft, Google, Coca Cola and Sony.

If you could give one advice to a Western app company preparing for entering the Russian market, what would it be?

1) Make sure you understand local users and adopt product to their needs/habits.

2) try and experiment with as many channels and creative as possible before deciding on the big spend.

Anna Oshkalo

Anna is a blogger and online marketing consultant specializing in SEO and SEM for Russian search engines. To see more of Anna's posts, follow her on Twitter, or LinkedIn.

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