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article imageNew Blyk Service Gives Cellphone Users Free Minutes, Texts in Exchange for Ads

By David Silverberg     Sep 24, 2007 in Technology
Digital Journal — Ads for free phone calls and text messages. That’s the equation a new UK mobile service is banking on as they target the youth demographic by offering free minutes and texts to users in exchange for cellphone ads.
Launching today, Blyk will send ads to someone’s mobile after they fill out a customer profile sheet on their website. In return, Blyk users will receive 217 free text messages 43 voice minutes every month, on condition they receive up to six ads per day on their phone. Blyk isn’t selling handsets but SIM cards to insert into unlocked phones capable of MMS.
Company co-founder Pekka Ala-Pietila, former president of Nokia, said in a press release:
We have spent the last year developing a unique, robust advertising content engine and whilst the technology we are using is incredibly advanced, the main premise of Blyk is driven by three basic principles — ease of use, interaction and relevance of the communications.
Blyk will rent airtime from France’s Telecom Orange, and the media channel will target 16 to 24-year-olds. Advertisers will use information pulled from user profiles to send ads and vouchers that relate to their shopping habits.
Ala-Pietila explained the appeal of free minutes for advertising:
This could mean no more phone bills for up to 4.5 million young people in the UK — with no contract. We have the brands that want to speak to them too, with more than 40 already signed up for the launch. This group represents almost every industry sector there is.
Pekka Ala-Pietilä (left) and Antti Öhrling are the co-founders of Blyk  a cellphone service that o...
Pekka Ala-Pietilä (left) and Antti Öhrling are the co-founders of Blyk, a cellphone service that offers ads in exchange for free minutes.
Blyk is jumping on a mobile advertising market that has been sluggish at best. Analysts estimate the market will generate $1 billion to $2 billion in revenue this year, according to the New York Times, but network operators, Net companies and phone manufacturers are hoping to get a piece of the action in the future. Mobile advertising is predicted to surge to $11 billion within five years.
While Blyk is garnering press and public attention for their push into mobile advertising, some industry insiders are wary of how useful this innovation will be. UK-based Tech Digest lists several problems with Blyk’s project — getting up to six ads a day could feel intrusive; although users don’t have to reply to ad messages, the company’s manual states it can terminate service if “you fail to meet the Promotional Messages receipt levels required in the Free Credits Entitlement Guide for three consecutive months”; and phones have to be unlocked to use Blyk’s SIM card, which could pose a problem for the many young Brits on prepaid contracts whose phones are locked to their existing operators.
It’s early days for Blyk so it would be foolish to attack the company for obstacles that may indeed be overcome within a few months. The most important aspect of their launch is the idea of mobile marketing and receiving free minutes for enduring advertising. If enough kids respond favourably to this program, expect North American telecom giants to turn their attention overseas to “borrow” Blyk’s idea.
Hey, it worked for The Office.
More about Blyk, Mobile advertising, Ala-pietila
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