getTata Docomo has said that GET, a mobile advertising related service it launched in partnership with mAdcall Pvt Ltd earlier this year has crossed 3 million video views. GET stands for Get Easy Talktime: customers have to watch a video advertisement on their mobile commercial on their phone, and are given one free voice minute for local or national calling to landlines or mobiles for each advertisement that they choose to view. The services is available on both CDMA and GSM networks, and essentially uses data to stream videos, although, thankfully, data charges are not applicable for the service. Thankfully, given that data networks in India are struggling with video consumption, the service also works over WiFi.

Users have to download the app from the Android play store or the Nokia store, or can be pushed the download link via SMS by giving a missed call to 52323. The service had been launched in July, as per TelecomTalk, as 3 million video views in four months is fairly good for an initial launch. Two brands that have advertised using this service are handset manufacturer HTC, and watch brand Fastrack.

A few points on this initiative:

– White labeled: We don’t quite understand why this has been launched as a white labeled services by mAdcall: the ideal situation is for it to be a telecom operator independent services, and with tie-up’s with telecom operators to offer talktime rewards in exchange for a revenue share for advertising. Tie-ups across telecom operators will give it reach, and attrack more advertisers.

By launching this as a Tata Docomo service (even the apps are named after the telcos), we wonder if this service will end up restricting itself to one operator. Historically, telco’s have used exclusivity in tie-ups such as these go get press (like this story) – they like being the “first” to launch a service. The disservice that does to a service provider like mAdCall: the service gets limited to one telecom operator, and doesn’t last very long after the exclusivity period. This was the old mindset, though. With declining VAS revenues, and the need to grow other revenue streams such as data and advertising, we wonder if telcos aren’t as bureaucratic and prima-donna’ish as they once were.

– Demographic information & Privacy: One would assume that telecom operators don’t need any demographic information, but GET collects it anyway. The telco shouldn’t need info such as gender and year of birth, because if should already have this if it is following the TRAI’s subscriber verification norms. As we found out earlier, this information is not very accurate.
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That aside, there are privacy issues: does mAdCall have access to this information, or it is solely being held by Tata Docomo? If the user is Tata Docomo’s, then mAdCall ideally needs to be serving advertising using Tata Docomo’s API (with access to demographic and location information). If the user is mAdCall’s, then, frankly, why aren’t they collecting more information?

On the face of it, since this is a white labeled service, the user is Tata Docomo’s.

– Choice: I think I’d seen a demo of mAdCall at the Mobile Marketing Association Forum last month, and it was quite impressive. If marketers sign up, this could work. What I liked about it, in particular, is the availability of choice to the user: they choose to make calls without the need for advertising. Interestingly: “mobile users are not offered any ads if they are trying to make emergency calls, given the nature of the call being made. Also no ads are offered while making calls to toll free numbers, international calls or while in roaming in off-network locations.”

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– This is not the first attempt at combining advertising and telecom operators: Once upon a time OnMobile had pitched the concept of AdRBT (advertising Ring Back Tones) as a new mode of monetization, but it failed to take off, despite claims of 100,000 subscribers at one point in time (when RBT itself had millions). More about the deployments here. This is different because it involves video, instead of audio.

The opportunity for mAdCall is to emulate what companies like Amagi and Vubites are doing on the location based TV advertising front: provide location specific targeted local advertising. That will take more than a telecom operator tie-up: they’ll need a massive sales force.