I am constantly being informed of new technologies designed to generate revenue, but sometimes I hear about something that causes me to take a deep breath and say – WHY?  This week’s ‘Why Would You Want That’ Award goes to an Irish software vendor that self proclaims itself as a leading global supplier of messaging and media solutions to Mobile Network Operators (MNOs).

This company, which will remain nameless, claims to be seeing significant interest in one of its latest Mobile Advertising offerings – Ringback Tone (RBT) Advertising, which provides mobile operators with an ‘innovative’ new way to generate revenue and promote subscriber loyalty.

The blurb goes like this: “RBT Advertising allows mobile operators to offer customers additional personalization options, whereby the ringtone a caller hears can be replaced with subscriber-selected advertising messages. Leading operators in the MEA region have recently, and successfully, evaluated this new mobile advertising channel.”

So, let’s get this into perspective. As a caller to a subscriber on a network offering this ‘service’, instead of hearing the pleasant ringing tone until the calling party answers you will be subjected to an advertisement, presumably whether you like it or not!  I don’t know about you, but this would invariably cause me to hang up instantly. I would either think I had dialed a wrong number or would be very annoyed. The end result being the same either way.

The vendor responsible, however, has the very different view that RBT Advertising provides high value operator and customer features to the channel including:

  • A web portal to allow subscribers to ‘opt-in’ to RBT Advertising; select advertising tones that calling subscribers will hear; set blacklists for subscribers who will not hear ad tones; and set start and end times and dates for the tone.
  • Bonus schemes whereby each time an opted-in subscriber hears an ad tone they accumulate points. Using the web portal, subscribers can view points accumulated and redeem points against gifts.
  • A campaign provisioning interface that allows advertisers and operators to plan, design, price and launch RBT Advertising campaigns.
  • An interface that allows operators to set the price per message.

Apparently, the Mobile Marketing Association underlined the importance of RBT Advertising in a recent white paper outlining some of its unique benefits, including:

  • No need for special handsets, applications or 3G devices – RBT Advertising can be offered to 100% of the subscriber base.
  • High audience attention during call connection phase.
  • The ‘call-connect’ stage of all calls is unique in that it is ‘unused time’ when making calls and is, therefore, suitable to advertising.
  • During opt-in, subscribers can show brand loyalty by selecting a brand-specific tone.

Oh really? I am usually in agreement with the responsible efforts of the MMA but in this case I would have to say they may have got it badly wrong. This may actually turn out to be a revenue loser with many calls going unanswered and terminating call revenues dropping.  I’d need a much bigger incentive than bonus points to opt in to the service unless, of course, I wanted to deter calls to my mobile altogether.  On the other hand, if the Call Line Identifier (CLI) could be recognized I may be willing to pay for a particularly annoying ad to play every time my mother-in-law called!