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MTNL to enable advertisers to insert pop up ads in user’s browser


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MTNL WiFi ads

MTNL is seeking external advertisers to insert pop-up ads in browsing sessions of consumers connected to MTNL Wi-Fi connections through their laptops, mobile phones or tablets. MTNL will be charging Rs 150 per 1000 impressions from the advertisers/brands. Note that the rates vary between Rs 150 and Rs 200 depending on the media agency running the CPM campaign for MTNL. Apparently, the maximum number of pop-up ads per device per day is restricted to 5. Currently, this MTNL backed CPM campaign is available in Mumbai and Delhi only. MTNL has about 4.5 lakh Wi-Fi household users in Mumbai and about 5.5 lakh Wi-Fi household users in Delhi (including Gurgaon). One of the media agencies handling the CPM campaign on behalf of MTNL confirmed this to MediaNama.

How it works

– All that the advertiser needs to do is send in the creatives for the banners that they would like to use for the campaign.

– Per day the maximum number of pop-ups per device is restricted at 5.

– Since the pop-ups are displayed by the ISP (MTNL), it will only work on non-secured websites (http). In other words, this campaign won’t work on https websites.

However, there seems to be no process in place to seek consumer consent before pushing ads into their browsing session.

We reached out to N. K. Yadav, MTNL Chairman & MD, and were initially informed that he was in a meeting and later told that he was unavailable. We will update once we hear back.

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According to media agency mails sent to MediaNama, MTNL has been running a pilot for this CPM campaign with ZEEL’s live TV streaming service Ditto TV, from May 25 this year. Looks like MTNL has already roped in financial services portal BankBazaar.com as an advertiser as well.

MTNL Bankbazaar

MTNL has been pushing advertisements in user browsing sessions for sometime now: the ads inserted by MTNL have typically been for their own services, and identify the user’s landline number in the message delivered to them. The ads pop up on both the desktop and mobile, but always in browsers. On mobile, it’s particularly irritating since it’s difficult to cancel the ads. In a few cases, these ads have also been for value added services (called BBVAS), such as anti-virus tools.

As highlighted by us earlier, there are a few fundamental issues that need to be addressed in this case:

Consumer consent: We’re not sure if consent is taken from Internet users and/or publishers by the ISP, before inserting ads. However, this should be a priority.

Publishers might feel aggrieved, and rightly so: By inserting ads into browsing sessions, ISPs (MNL in this case) essentially hijack the publishers website. The readers of the site view a different set of ads from the ones the publisher originally has displayed, which negatively impacts the publisher’s means of monetization.

ISP liability: Given that ISPs are Intermediaries, Section 79 of India’s IT Act proffers them a notional safe harbor. They aren’t held liable for the content on their platform. However, in this case since the ISP is itself inserting the content, should it be held liable? More on this here.

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