Friday, April 11, 2008

Now, get paid to listen to ads on mobile

When competition meets innovation, the consumer gains.

When Virgin Mobile offered to pay consumers to chatter more on their mobiles, it started something radical in the history of mobile telephony.

Now, a Chennai-based company plans to pay consumers to listen to advertisements on their mobiles.

Airvoice Infocomm says it has patented a technology that will play voice-ads of 10-20 seconds duration each, till a call gets connected.

The caller will be paid for every advertisement that he listens to —- or allows to be played on his mobile.

How does Airvoice gain from this?

R. Ayyappan, chief executive officer, Airvoice, said, the company is yet to finalise a revenue-sharing model with telecom service providers, and is in final-stage talks with Bharti Airtel.

“We haven’t decided on how much the advertisers will be charged either,” said Ayyapan.

The technology offers to play ads only if the user is interested and once he subscribes to the service, so it is “non-intrusive”, claims Ayyappan.

Deepak Thakur, an analyst covering technology and telecoms space in South East Asia and Middle East at consultancy and research firm Frost & Sullivan, says the money being paid to consumers will be much more than what they now get to receive calls.

He was referring to the 10 paise per minute that Virgin Mobile pays its subscribers. Frost & Sullivan has been working with Airvoice on this for the last six months as an advisor.

The technology will initially be launched in Tamil Nadu by August 2008.

With 250 million cell phone subscribers in the country and the number expected to double by 2010, more and more advertisers and media planners are turning their attention to this highly penetrative, targeted medium of advertising.

Apart from the Airvoice platform, there are other media such as text messages and subscription-based tickers or calls.

But Vinod Thadani, senior director, Group M Interaction, a media-buying giant, did not sound highly enthused about Airvoice.

“It is a difficult task to convince companies to go for this, but within a 360-degree digital platform, mobiles definitely form an important aspect,” he said.

Thadani handles digital advertising planning for many clients including Pepsi, which has advertised on SMS 2.0, a new short message service application launched by UK-based firm Affle.

It is currently being tested by Airtel.

Here, a banner ad displays at the bottom of the screen as the user types his message. And when the text is being sent, the ad displays on the entire screen.

This application, which is right now compatible with higher-end Nokia handsets, offers personalised features such as colourful SMSes and a stream of emoticons along with access to a lot of free information such as cricket news, jokes, movies, entertainment and other information free of charge.

Users don’t get paid, though.

“We make money through advertisements. The charges are per eyeball as well as per click,” said Anuj Kumar, executive director (South Asia), Affle.

In the two months since launch, the content has been viewed about 100 million times with a “clickthrough” rate of 4%.

That’s much higher than the 0.5% on the internet, said Kumar.

The clickthrough rate shows the number of people who have clicked on the advertisement to know more about a product or contest.

So, for a 5% clickthrough rate, 5 out of 100 people must click on a mobile advert. Pepsi (with its ‘Youngistan’ campaign) and Aviva Insurance are among the companies, which have tried out SMS 2.0.

Aviva witnessed a clickthrough rate of more than 5%, claimed Kumar. Group M’s Thadani says he chose the platform for Pepsi because it was innovative, non-intrusive and the target audience was easily tapped.

“We directly got to address a 1.5 lakh subscriber base. The content is youth-related and they are obviously the biggest users of mobile applications and services,” he said.

With highly accurate user profiles for marketing data, a mobile can be a very potent tool for targeting niche consumers and naturally, conversion rates are touted as being higher.

For example, phone companies know when a user in on roaming and would, therefore, need travel assistance. They can thus facilitate the client’s sojourn. Which could mean an opportune moment for an airline to launch a mobile ad.

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