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Ever Heard An AdRBT? MMA Releases Case Studies On Star Plus, Action Shoes

Update: Corrigendum below

Earlier: Though ring back tones are extremely popular in India, it is quite rare that you hear an advertisement as a ringback tone – the only time we can think of is when we call Pizza Hut. A whitepaper has been put together by members of the Mobile Marketing Association on how ringback tones have been harvested as a marketing channel.

Amongst the launches in Asia, two from India are in the whitepaper: Vodafone Essar India’s ‘adRBT’ and Bharti Airtel’s ‘Hello Tunes Lite’. Vodafone trialled a model that allowed customers to chose a piece of music that would play to 80% of their callers, while the rest 20% would hear an audio ad. Other Asian deployments include Turkcell Turkey’s ‘Tonla Kazan’, KTF South Korea’s ‘Save-Ring’ and China Mobile’s ‘Zhao Cai Ling’.

But Have You Heard An AdRBT Yet?

For those of you in India – have you heard an AdRBT yet? Claims of deployments are high, but we have not seen the adoption of advertisements as ring back tones en masse. Last year in August, OnMobile Global had claimed that AdRBT had been launched in 80% of Vodafone circles in India, with 100,000 subscribers. In the White Paper, Vinay Kumar, CEO of StratosHear Technologies has said that of the 500 million mobile users in India, a rather large 20 percent use RBT, but hasn’t disclosed the number of AdRBT users.

It appears from the study that Action Shoes used AdRBT to target areas where conventional media does not reach. We’ve requested the MMA for audio samples. The cases:

Action Shoes

According to the case study, this campaign, called “School Time” was held in July 2009, the back-to-school season. Beginning with Karnataka, which is a key market for shoe retailer Action Shoes, the ad was then taken to Delhi and Mumbai where the company wanted to create more brand recall for its School Time range of shoes. While no information has been shared about how the campaign was targeted – no point in someone like me being made to hear a School Time advertisement – it does claim that over a month, they registered 84,000 ad impressions. There was also an unexpectedly high average call pick-up time of 15.7 seconds.

Star Plus

In December 2009, broadcaster Star Plus used ad-RBTs to build-up momentum for its TV show ‘Amul Music Ka Maha Muqqabla’. Indian singers such as Mika Singh, Himesh Reshamiya, Shankar Mahadevan, Shreya Ghoshal and Shaan – put together six, 12-second long jingles. The campaign covered Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkatta, Punjab, Haryana, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh and claims to have recorded 800,000 impressions. The targeting was regional, but it’s not clear whether demographic segmentation was provided: telco’s have that data, don’t they? The average call pick-up time was again rather high – 16.1 seconds.


The whitepaper notes that the duration of a typical ring‐back tone should be 30 seconds, and the most important bit of the ad should be arranged at the beginning of the message – in the first five and next seven seconds – as it is most likely to be heard by inbound callers.

Pricing, User Rewards & Revenue Share?

Now what the case studies do not share are how the inventory was priced, and what incentives were provided to consumers to try this service out. Also, the revenue share between telecom operators and service providers has not been mentioned. Back in August 2008, OnMobile CTO Mouli Raman had said that the revenue share from Ad RBT for OnMobile would be 25-30%. Some details from the white paper prepared by the MMA:

Pricing Methods for the Ad RBT:

  • Cost Per Transmission (CPT or CPL): The advertiser pays an amount for each time an advertising message is played to an inbound caller.
  • Cost Per Action (CPA): The advertiser pays an amount for each time a response is registered. This could be either a request for more information or for a callback.
  • Subscription Pricing: Advertisers pay the operator for each participant in the AdRBT program
  • Network Pricing (CPM): Advertisers pay a CPM rate based on projected transmissions and the total size of the network.

User Compensations:

Users can be offered free minutes/ SMSs/ ring‐back tones, or it could be in the form of donation to charity, a downloadable application or WAP based benefit programs. For example, Airtel only makes every 4th call an advertisement for a product and offers a 50% discount on monthly subscription (to Hello Tunes) for playing an ad on your phone.

Those opting into the Ad‐RBT service must have the option to stop the service at any time; end‐users who sign up to the service should be given an opt-out list to selecting contacts who will not hear the Ad‐RBT. Vodafone clearly states however that this is not offered in its service, and the tone is brusque, “User shall have no choice of AdRBT and Vodafone Essar shall not entertain any such request of the User in this respect.”

Corrigendum: Vinay Kumar, CEO of Stratoshear, informs us that AdRBT on Airtel was launched by Stratoshear. We had incorrectly attributed that service to OnMobile. Our apologies.

Q1-10 Call: OnMobile Global: TRAI Impact; AdRBT 100k Subs; Comviva; Social Phone Backup
Q209 Call: OnMobile Says Deployments Have Slowed; Telisma Vs Nuance; AdRBT
Q1-09 Call: OnMobile Partners With Vodafone, GroupM For Ad Ring Back Tones; Local Advertising, CPC Model, 25-30 Pc Revenue Share

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