Well, whaddya know. "Free" services just might actually work. The U.K.-based MVNO Blyk -- which targets 16- to 24-year-olds -- recently met its one-year subscriber goal after just six months in operation. Blyk offers free voice minutes and text messages in exchange for ads appearing on cell phones. Does this mean mobile advertising has more traction than thought, or that kids like free stuff?I won't lie. Given the track record of mobile virtual network operators through the last 18 months, I wasn't hopeful that Blyk would have a chance at success. We've seen the demise of Amp'd, ESPN, Disney, and other MVNOs. Most relied on the standard model, reselling network operator airtime in conjunction with their own branded services to niche user segments. Lo and behold, Blyk's different approach shows it understands the youth market.
Blyk offers users 43 free voice minutes and 217 free text messages per month in exchange for viewing no more than six targeted ads that come in the form of text and picture messages. According to BusinessWeek, Blyk said "the ad campaigns that fund the service have had an average response rate of 29% -- which it described as 'industry leading.' But many individual campaigns have had significantly higher response rates than that." So the kids are willing to watch the ads. Interesting. It recently announced that it has signed up 100,000 subscribers in its first six months of operation in the U.K. Even more interesting.
In order to sign up for the service, the potential subscribers have to fill out a survey so marketers can peg them into the right demographics and target them accordingly. That so many of the kids are viewing the ads, and clicking through, means that the targeted advertising just might be working. That speaks to the success of Blyk's model, more so than the fact that kids like to get something for nothing.