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Facebook develops ad workaround for countries with poor mobile plans



Facebook missed callFacebook tells us that 7 out of every 10 people in the world, many in high-growth countries like India, Brazil, Indonesia, Mexico, South Africa and Nigeria, are using something less sophisticated than a smartphone to access the internet. That statement makes me feel like we should start a charity run: iPhones for Indonesia. I’m pretty sure there are bigger issues in those countries than the lack of a reasonable data plan but that’s not for Facebook to solve.

It is Facebook’s job to put excellent haircare products into the hands of more people around the world. That’s where “missed call” ads come in. I get the concept. It’s a trick we were taught to use as kids, back when a long distance phone call cost more than a latte at Starbucks. To prove we got somewhere safe, we’d call home and ask to reverse the charges. My mother would refuse the charges but she’d know that we were alive and well. There was also the ring variation – dial, let it ring twice, then hang up. Another signal that we’d made it to our destination safely.

Never thought of it then, but now I’m wondering what my mother would have done if the coded phone call never came through. . .

Apparently, this trick is still being used in countries where most folks have only feature phones and expensive calling plans.

Facebook’s new ad unit takes advantage of this behavior by offering viewers a chance to place a “missed call” to an advertiser.

When a person sees an ad on Facebook they can place a “missed call” by clicking the ad from their mobile device. In the return call, the person receives valuable content, such as music, cricket scores or celebrity messages, alongside a brand message from the advertiser — all without using airtime or data.

I thought you had to pay for incoming messages through a data plan? Even the fine print at the bottom of the ad says “inbound carrier charges may apply.” I guess data charges are less than voice charges in these countries?

What really perplexes me is the wording on the button. Does it actually says “Missed Call” or is that just Facebook’s mock-up? Even if the term is well-known and it’s a common behavior is that a good association between a customer and an advertiser – missed call?

Facebook says that early tests have resulted in a 2.5 x year-over-year increase in online sales. Interesting. . . but I’m not convinced that this is an ad unit that will catch on. . .with advertisers or consumers. Why? It’s simply too many steps between interest and payoff.

Your thoughts?

  • drneelesh

    Actually, Its a wonderful concept. I am sure it will do well in India. You need a different mindset to realize the benefits of this workaround. Less expensive for consumers, more freedom for advertisers.