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Missed call? It might be Facebook calling India

MUMBAI: Missed call: most of us have used it at some time or the other to connect with our friends when we are low on our mobile phone balance on our low end feature phones. Now Facebook is hoping to rake in the moolah courtesy this quirky habit amongst India’s light walleted mobile users.

It announced a new ad format based on the missed call habit this morning through a post by its emerging markets ad products specialist Kelly MacLean.

Describing it she writes:   “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 will receive valuable content, such as music, cricket scores or celebrity messages, alongside a brand message from the advertiser — all without using airtime or data.”

Facebook says 66 per cent of the 100 million or so of its users in India access the social networking site on their low-end feature phones using 2G services. Despite India being its second largest market, it contributed only Rs 75 crore to its top line last year, according to online site Quartz.

“That’s a teeny-weeny fraction of its total global revenues of $5.49 billion (around Rs 33,000 crore),” says a media observer. “And it clearly needs to get India to generate more greenbacks.”

Facebook says it has been testing the missed call ad product in India for sometime now and it has generated some success. It expects to give it a further push in the next few months as it rolls it out to advertisers.

Among the advertisers which have used it is Garnier Men- a L’Oreal brand -  during the recently concluded cricket mega success, the IPL, from April to May 2014, says Facebook in  a case study it has published online.

As part of the campaign, photo ads were placed on News Feed, targeting men between15-35, asking them to click to call for a chance to meet players from the Rajasthan Royals and win match tickets or official merchandise.

“When someone clicked on the ad unit, a number was auto-populated in their phone dialer and a number was called. The call then dropped after a couple rings and the caller received an SMS with trivia questions to answer to enter the contest. The caller was also presented with a Flipkart link to purchase products,” Facebook says in the Garnier case study. It had partnered with Bengaluru based missed call services provider ZipDial for the promotion. 

The social networking platform says the campaign saw Garnier achieve its goal of reaching 15 million of the target audience. 16 times more calls were generated from the Facebook missed call ad unit  than all other digital and print media combined, and its sales rose a claimed two and a half times year on year.

Garnier general manager Rupika Raman had this say about the test: “When we were approached by Facebook to become the first brand globally to take part in the click to missed call innovation, we were excited to try it out. It has reaped rich dividends and has been highly impactful.”

Facebook has partnered with India’s largest mobile phone service provider Airtel, and missed call platform provider ZipDial, as it begins rolling out the new ad unit in India.

The site says that it will soon start offering features such as life-stage targeting (new moms and dads, graduation moments) to advertisers, while it has already started offering geo-targeting options wherein advertisers can target people by state or even multiple states in India without having to list multiple cities.

And to get around the doubting Thomases about its efficacy as an ad medium it has partnered with Nielsen to serve polls to people on feature phones. “Our new measurement solution provides advertisers with greater tools to measure brand sentiment, purchase intent and ad recall for the first time on mobile as well as desktop,” Facebook has highlighted in the post.

The announcement of the new ad format has come at a time when Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg is visiting India hobnobbing with government officials, and small and medium business owners.

(Pix courtesy: Facebook)

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