By Heena Jhingan on www.ciol.com on June 12, 2009
Who does not love freebies? Mobile users are now more willing to be disturbed if that brings along some free-gifts attached. Following a positive response to Virgin mobile’s strategy to offer free calls if customers view and respond to ads, operators in India are becoming receptive to the concept and intend to encash its popularity.
Free talk time offers in India have caused subscriber defection from one operator to the other. But mobile advertising which was once thought to be annoying, is now emerging as a mode to earn a little revenue for the operator, and the subscriber receiving advertisements on his phones can get free music downloads, free instant messaging and video games in exchange.
To make the most of this rage and be in the race, the state-owned BSNL launched an integrated Mobile Advertising Service which will help its mobile subscribers to earn talktime by simply registering for a service which will send advertisement to the registered users which in turn help users to earn talktime .The Mobile advertisement services is currently available in BSNL’s West zone circles in Maharashtra, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Chhatishgarh.
Considering the trajectory Indian mobile industry is making with over 400 mn subscriber, UK-based company positioned as a free mobile service network for 16-24-year-olds, Blyk Ltd, is preparing to enter the Indian market and is in talks with one or more local telecom operators.
Blyk that has around 200 brands on board in the UK from leading advertisers such as Unilever Plc and Microsoft Corp, offers customers some free talktime or free texts in return for accepting targeted advertising on their phones every day. In India, the ad-funded company is seeking partners to gain access to their spectrum, or airwaves, and subscriber base. Last year, the company announced an additional Rs267.6 crore of investment to support its operations and international expansion.
If the talks materialize, Blyk will be the first network to open here positioned solely as a free service, although there will be a ceiling on free calls and messages permitted per subscriber.
The operators in India are looking at such models as win-win for all stakeholders, cellular operators, customers and advertisers. It is believed the youth will be very enthusiastic about the offer. Reliance Communications is rumored to be in talks with Blyk. However, some new and small operators are also being considered.
Virgin became one of the first providers to offer such a service in 2006,its customers could get upto 75 minutes of free calls per month if they spent an equal amount of time looking at ads and replying to these ads via text messages. The MVNO made an entry in the market with a unique concept of paying the subscriber 10 pasie per minute for incoming calls.
BSNL who launched the services last month believes it is important to keep with market trends. As of now the operator is offering Rs 5 free talk time for every 10 ads, which is not a big amount. The company says it is still experimenting how more revenue be earned through such schemes.
Interest in such services is reflected in global audit and advisory firm KPMG’s recent study which says Mobile phone users in India are more willing than their global counterparts to receive advertisements on their phones in return of ad-funded content. The survey finds globally 49 per cent of respondents would be willing to watch ads on their mobiles in return for free music. About 44 per cent would be prepared to do the same in return for free access to Instant Messaging. It would not be surprising if more global mobile service network like Blyk show interest in Indian market.
Companies are realizing that the need for engagement with the consumer is increasingly going through cellphone, and quantifiable ROI is alluring for brands. The Mobile advertising is expected to reach $5.7 billion by 2014, though that will still be 1.5% of total global adspend. Creative teams are working on interesting ad content and their presentation. Some companies plan to run ads in the middle of the call.
A major apprehension that operators in India have about mobile advertising is that certain groups may find it intrusive in spite of the freebies. But, no worry as these services are availed by choice and if one needs to be ultra cautious there is an option of DND (Do Not Disturb) registration.