2growthOpera, the Norwegian software company, seems to take off in Asia Pacific, considering the company’s current activities and success messages in the region regarding its mobile web browser Opera Mini. Officially launched in 2006, Opera Mini was designed for mobile phones, smartphones and personal digital assistants, and this year the company reported there were 251 million users of Opera Mini, Opera for Android and Opera Mobile Classic, of whom the Opera Mini users viewed over 170 billion webpages.

Just recently, Maxis, Malaysia’s only integrated communications service provider, launched unlimited web browsing via the Opera Mini browser in partnership with Opera, for as low as RM1 a day, providing good value for money with speed, flexibility and simplicity when surfing the mobile web. Indeed, mobile users simply need to run the Maxis/Opera Mini browser, click the "RM1/DAY" the web pass icon, pick the one-day, unlimited data plan and confirm the purchase to experience the great offer.

Or let’s take a look at Indonesia, where in recent years, the number of Opera Mini users on smartphones increased more than 180% year over year from May 2012 to May 2013. Besides, Android users make up the second largest platform demographic surfing the web with Opera Mini in Indonesia today. And according to Opera’s recently published State of the Mobile Web report, Opera Mini experienced a 190% hike in Android usage last year, the highest growth rate among all other platforms. Thus, the company’s vision to “deliver the best Internet experience on any device" really seems to shape up.

The brisk activity of Opera in the region got our attention, provoking us to find out what’s driving the company’s success. Thus, Asian eMarketing met with Fabrizio Caruso, Senior Vice President Asia at Opera Software during CommunicAsia 2013 to get some answers.

According to Caruso, Opera Software has a great success story globally, not just in Asia, “We had a very, very strong vision from the very beginning, which was to make the Internet available to anyone across all devices, and we have a very strong execution of that vision that makes Opera the best browser.”

When asked why Opera is the No. 1 browser in Indonesia, he replied: “We are extremely strong in all the developing countries, because Opera offers a good browser for all mobile phones, no matter if you have a very basic feature phone or even a tablet. As long as there is data connectivity, you can use an opera browser to experience very good and fast browser speed. That is the number one reason. The second one is Opera Mini’s technology. In countries where the infrastructure is not that good, or data is expensive, or both, the powerful compression technology makes the web accessible on even the simplest handsets with small screens and limited memory. And that has made Opera so popular.”

Caruso elaborated on Opera driving brand engagement and their strategy to reach the mobile consumer, saying: “Each advertiser has different marketing objectives. If you are P&G, Unilever or Coca Cola and you are launching a new product, you just want people to be aware of it. This is a very different objective than being BMW and launching a new car, or Singapore Airlines wanting to reach frequent travellers, as in that case you intend to reach a certain niche, and not everyone. So it really depends on what you want to achieve. Mobile offers all capabilities today and it’s just all about how you use it to reach your market objectives.”

“We are lucky to have more than 130 partnerships globally and 17 of those are in Asia”, Caruso added, emphasizing that his company is always welcoming new partners to work with. With more products, Opera is much more than just a browser company, he stated: “We are an advertising company and a mobile internet solution provider for operative partners, covering all angles of the mobile internet ecosystem, which is an extremely exciting space to be in right now.”

Besides, Opera doesn‘t just offer advertising solution through the browser, but in-apps and other websites as well, through recent acquisitions that focus on advertising performance, where advertisers will pay based on the performance of their advertisements, e.g. click-to-call, click-to-convert, click-to-install. Therefore it is more result-oriented performance marketing, as you only pay for what you get, making it a different type of advertising than just click to view or impressions, the Opera Software’s spokesperson explained.

Indeed, the mobile advertising platform, Opera Mediaworks, creates an open and vibrant marketplace for publishers and advertisers across the globe with efficient technology and innovations. Opera Mediaworks today includes AdMarvel, an ad-serving and mediation platform; Mobile Theory, a premium mobile ad network in the United States; 4th Screen Advertising Ltd., a premium ad network in the United Kingdom; and Mediaworks Performance, a results-driven, mobile ad network. Also included are impressions served within Opera mobile properties, including the Opera Mini Smart Page and the Opera Mobile Store.

In fact, advertising on Opera Mini is extremely effective, Caruso clarified, adding: “People see advertising on Opera Mini as recommended by Opera and that translates in high engagement rates. The feedback we get from our customers is that the traffic we drive is high quality, not just in terms of volume, but triggered by the element of trust.”

Data from the Opera Mediaworks platform revealed, for instance, that while banner ads still comprise the majority of ad types, advertisers are starting to work more with new and effective types such as tap-to-expand and VAST interstitial (mobile video) units.

"Looking back a year ago when we launched the first State of Mobile Advertising report, we have seen unprecedented growth in the investment in and value of mobile advertising campaigns across devices and regions," says Mahi de Silva, CEO, Opera Mediaworks. "While iOS still remains the leader, we are seeing new categories rise, new regions emerge and new technologies take shape. Opera Mediaworks' total impression volume grew 43% year over year, and the increases will only get bigger as we approach the end of 2013."

Although revenue has almost doubled from last year, Caruso stated, one reason why mobile still didn’t get a big piece of the revenue pie could be the fact that access to mobile users is still very fragmented and advertisers do not adequately understand mobile. “Decision makers don‘t come from a mobile background and due to the fragmentation, it is not very easy to plan a campaign on mobile.”

He confirms that people in the Asian region are mobile first and mobile only, which is great, but points out that there are also a lot of people, the next billion, yet to come online. “So there is still a big gap between the subscriber base in these countries and the mobile unique users“, he said.

“For Opera, smartphones are very important, as it is the fastest growing segment with phenomenal growth rates. But if you‘re an advertiser and you want to reach the masses, you cannot just have a smartphone structure, simply because the number of smartphone users is increasing. You have to consider that a vast majority is still using feature phones in a lot of Asian countries. And you need to be able to reach those people, too. We‘ve been helping brands reach those people through Opera Mini.”

By Daniela La Marca