Would you welcome spam onto your mobile phone in return for free text messages and voice minutes? Blyk, a new mobile network for 16 to 24 year olds which launched in the UK today, believes that the answer is yes.
The idea behind the virtual network operator (infrastructure is provided by France Telecom’s Orange) is to match brands to users, through targeted advertising in the form of multimedia messages (MMS). Up to six messages will be sent per-day, with users rewarded with 43 minutes of voice calls and 217 text messages per-month, after which they can pay to “top up” their SIM card for more minutes and texts. Stay within the “free” limits, and thanks to advertising, you’ll never have to pay a mobile phone bill again.
Blyk is currently invite-only, and is aggressively targeting university students by making campus appearances during “fresher’s week” across the UK. Qualifying customers will need to verify their age, as well as fill out a marketing survey so that ads can be more efficiently targeted.
As Mike Butcher notes (over at TechCrunch UK), Blyk isn’t the first company to try an ad-supported mobile phone model. Virgin Mobile in the US recently reported that 330,000 of its 4.8 million subscribers had agreed to accept mobile advertising in exchange for free voice minutes.
However, it’s Google who looks poised to become the biggest player in the ad-supported mobile space. In our recent analysis of Google’s rumored Gphone, we noted the role that advertising will likely play:
It’s the giant smelly monster sitting in the middle of the room. If there’s going to be a Google phone, and it looks like that’s a distinct possibility, expect advertising along the lines of AdSense and the recently introduced “ticker ads” Google is now placing on certain YouTube videos. Mobile advertising revenue is another billion-dollar cash cow for Google. Some people could care less if there is advertising on the phone, as long as their monthly bill and the cost of the phone are cheaper than they are today.