Between the Mobile Advertising U.K. research project and interviews for MSG’s own global mobile advertising reference work (more about that in future posts), I’m naturally eager to connect with the companies and the brands that set the bar. (If you have a story you would like me to consider for the projects I mentioned, or you just want to share your news with the growing MSG community of mobile operators, influencers, senior executives, and decision-makers, I encourage you to contact me directly or email my PA Andrea Henninge to set up a briefing (firstname.lastname@example.org).
With all the excitement (check out this recent report on CNN) around location-based advertising, it’s a given that coverage of this trend will have a top-notch spot in both research projects I outlined above, as well as MSG analysis going forward. (A great example is an upcoming column from Nate Janewit, computer scientist, location expert, and frequent contributor to thinking spaces and websites such as ReadWriteWeb. I just went over the draft with Nate yesterday and greatly look forward to the industry discussion it will spark when I post it later this month.) Another indication of how big location is: MetaPlaces 09: How to monetize location data and services (September 22-23 in San Jose, CA), an exciting industry event that will discuss context-enabled content and the service models that will benefit advertisers. MSG is proud to be a premium media and marketing partner and will circle back with exclusive pre-event promotion content, such as podcasts with keynote speakers and in-depth Q&As with key players.
A company that has caught my attention, with a potentially path-breaking approach to location-based advertising, is BipBip, the brainchild of Lasse Larsen, Chairman of the Board, WIS International. (Wireless Information Services). The company – headquartered in Riga, Latvia – has an impressive stockpile of patents around the service, and ambitious plans to launch BipBip worldwide (including the U.S., China, India, and 21 cities across Europe) following a successful pilot in Denmark last month. (My personal thanks to Lasse for contacting me on Twitter (@peggyanne) and for giving MSG the exclusive.)
What is BipBip? On paper the ad-funded service fulfills the criteria mobile advertising evangelists Andrew Grill and Jonathan MacDonald would no doubt agree are essential to delivering effective advertising services. I’m thinking here of the 3Ps: Permission (people will decide what brand messages they interact with); Privacy (people will decide where their data is collected and how it is used); and Preference (people will decide what content they find relevant).
The permission-based BipBip advertising scheme requires users to log onto the service via their mobile or PCs to provide personal data (gender, location – zip code), but there’s a twist. It also collects information from consumers (Preference) who sign up for the service on what products they are interested in (a sort of combination shopping list/wish list), and the price range that would make them buy, and a proximity that would clinch the deal. (Privacy, because users decide what happens to the data. It is passed on to retailers, who can only deliver a coupon discount on the wish list item when it matches the conditions (price and proximity) the user said they would accept.
At the other end of the spectrum, BipBip has pulled together retailers and advertisers that have the goods/services and discounts to make consumers an offer they are likely to appreciate. The back-end system makes a match, and location technology closes the loop, alerting consumers via free SMS to when they are in the vicinity of an item on their list at a price they are willing to pay.
But the real differentiator is an even cleverer feature that turns greed-is-good bargain hunting into a mission to make the world a better place.
This is because BipBip donates up to 50 percent of its profits (what it earns when a user agrees to receive a text ad/coupon) to a good cause that the user has chosen (as part of the opt-in process).
Do the numbers add up? Lasse tells me they do. Because BipBip has cut deals to buy text messages in bulk at good prices (and developed IP that prompts the SMS gateway to send cheap texts (from advertisers) to users on the move. With no mobile operator to feed in the value chain (even payment is outside the operator with transactions handled by PayPal and credit card companies), the company only spends 5 percent of its income (from advertising) on sending SMS advertising and coupons on behalf of the advertiser. Plenty left over to donate to the user’s favorite cause, organization, or local soccer league.
My take: Give consumers what they want? It’s possible because BipBip plays the role of an honest broker, bringing people together with the nearby offers they want most (otherwise they wouldn’t have put them on their wish list). Supply and demand are in synch, and BipBip makes its money in the middle. What’s more, BipBip doesn’t pay lip-service to the causes and concerns that motivate a large number of today’s empowered and socially responsible consumers. It pledges to spend real money on real non-profit organizations (in fact, no user can sign up for the free service without naming the organizations that should benefit from them accepting text advertising and coupons). I’ll reserve judgment until the service is live. However, a mobile advertising model that allows consumers to do good while they do their shopping sounds like a good deal all around.