The company plans to launch the product in India this week and in other markets including Southeast Asia, the Middle East, Africa and Latin America by the end of March.
To be sure, rewards-based mobile advertising is not a new concept. Models exist where consumers are incentivised with free data or voice minutes if they interact with ads of if they watch a video or download an application. The Kickbit app in the US rewards users with mobile internet on their wireless bill for engaging with brands. Tata Teleservices in India also offers free voice calls for watching videos. The model exists offline, too. However, such initiatives are few and far between and are typically marketed only through traditional advertising like TV and radio.
“What is different with SmartRewards is that we are offering mobile currency as an incentive for the mobile internet users in a seamless experience,” said Dippak Khurana, Vserv.mobi’s CEO. “This is a platform which can be leveraged by many brands who are seeking higher engagement with mobile internet users.”
Vserv.mobi’s new offering is unique because you don’t need to download an app: It works directly in the ad and means one less extra step for consumers, said Arthur Policarpio, head of Mobext Asia-Pacific.
“Like in the early days of online advertising, we’re seeing a lot of experimentation by mobile ad companies, so brands can try out what gives them the best results,” Policarpio added.
Khurana and his team tested the concept with a closed group of users and brands. The results were encouraging. According to Khurana, consumers were 30 per cent more likely to click on ads with SmartRewards, compared to ads without it. In addition, ads with SmartRewards saw 70 per cent of consumers willing to complete engagement activities desired by brands. Ads without SmartRewards only saw 25 per cent of consumers willing to complete such tasks.
According to Policarpio, the product is likely to find favour among brands looking to encourage users to sign up to a database. It will also be useful for brands that want immediate results for a promotion where they want to increase sign-ups, rather than raise brand awareness.
Although Khurana declined to disclose names, he said the product has already garnered huge demand. “We have already seen keen interest among advertisers to explore this ad format,” he said.
SmartRewards works across all media formats including banners, HTML5 rich media, video and so on.
Still, the product has its limitations. For one, it is clear the model will be more viable in pre-paid dominated markets such as India, Indonesia and the Philippines.
“The product has the potential, but brands should not rely entirely on it,” Policarpio said. Brands are looking for better contextual targeting from the ad network to target high-value audiences. In pre-paid markets, that can be a challenge if the brand is mainly concerned with revenue-per-user.
Advertisements also need to be creative and offer something compelling, he advises.