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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Phone Firms' Ads Entertain Egyptians

CAIRO, Egypt -- Young mobile-phone operators MobiNil and Click GSM are bombarding Egyptians daily with colorful advertisements in a head-to-head battle.

The advertising war between the Egyptian Company for Mobile Services, or MobiNil, and MisrFone's Click GSM is the first such direct tussle by rival brands since Egypt began opening its economy, initially underformer President Anwar Sadat and, for the past 18 years, under President Hosni Mubarak.

Public interest has grown as the contest has been played out on state-owned television and in newspapers and magazines.

"The companies are busy fighting a huge advertising war on television. It's quite amusing, but they should also focus on quality service," said Ahmed Said, a frequent mobile-phone user.

Egypt's mobile-phone firms can, according to sector analysts, expect phenomenal growth because of the underdeveloped state of communications in general - and that Egyptians talk a lot.

The share price of MobiNil, whose international partners are Motorola and France Telecom, soared from an IPO price of 1.85 Egyptian pounds (54 cents) in May 1998, to 98.1 (28.65) last Wednesday.

In mid-October, MobiNil reported a third-quarter net profit of 62.5 million pounds ($18.31 million), a 525 percent jump from the second quarter.

"In the Middle East, particularly, people are very communicative," said Osman Sultan, the company's president and chief executive.

"While the worldwide average for incoming and outgoing mobile-phone traffic per subscriber is around 150 minutes per subscriber per month, the current average for MobiNil is 550 minutes," another MobiNil executive said.

Click, which started operations a year ago and whose partners include Britain's Vodafone AirTouch PLC, plans an IPO in 2001. "We plan to become one of the leading stocks on the Cairo bourse," company spokesman Bahaa el-Koussy said.

MobiNil boasts about 380,000 subscribers, Click 250,000.

MobiNil's television commercial shows partners calling each other as an Arabic version of Stevie Wonder's catchy hit song "I Just Called to Say I Love You" plays in the background.

Click's advert shows a man frantically trying to call his doctor on a mobile phone when his wife goes into labor. The phone fails to work. A friend hands him her clearly labeled Click phone and the doctor talks them through the car ride to the hospital.

"I think Click's television commercials are too foreign-oriented and don't portray reality. But they are more fun to watch, I must admit," said Ahmed Mohamed, a student.

With magazines, newspapers and television commercials displaying vivid images of dynamic young people using mobiles, the saturation advertising has become a talking point in Egypt.

"MobiNil are clearly less experienced in their advertising approach than Click, who choose a more factual, assured approach in their advertisements," education expert Nelly el-Zayat said.

Both firms are offering inducements in the shape of incentives and saving schemes - and sniping at each other.

In one newspaper advertisement, MobiNil boasted that its competitor "will attempt to lower calling charges, suggest money-saving schemes, reduce monthly membership fees ... but the one that has initiative and innovation will continue to give more."

Click's Koussy retorted: "We are fully aware of the shortcomings of our competitor and what the consumer complains of regarding their services."

He said Click had not placed much emphasis on advertising at its launch, but with its slogan "We promised. We delivered," that was changing.

"At the beginning we focused on building a strong infrastructure for the company and being confident of our network, and then we concentrated on our advertising campaign."

"We'll soon catch up with their [MobiNil's] customer base and exceed it," Koussy declared.