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Facebook looks to monetize India’s love for missed calls

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Facebook seems to be tapping into India’s obsession with missed calls: The company is testing a new type of ad unit which allows users to place a missed call to an advertiser by clicking on an ad on their mobile phone.

In the return call, users gets access to additional content like cricket scores and celebrity messages among others. These content will provided with no additional airtime or data charges and will be ad-supported. Each call will feature a brand message from an advertiser. The social networking giant has tied-up with Bangalore-based ZipDial for this initiative.

Facebook mentions that it has conducted early tests with advertisers like Garnier Men India with encouraging results and it plans to scale this products with additional partners to new markets in the coming months.

Garnier Men pilot: Facebook mentions that it created a click to missed call campaign for Garnier Men in this year’s IPL season. As part of this campaign, Garnier Men ran photo ads on their timeline, asking them to click to call for an opportunity to meet Rajasthan Royals players and win match tickets or official merchandise.

Garnier Men Facebook

When users clicked on this ad unit, a missed call was placed to an auto-populated number on their phone dialer. Following this, the caller received an SMS with trivia questions for entering into the contest along with a Flipkart link to purchase products. ZipDial provided the phone number along with the follow-up engagement and usage analytics for advertisers.

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The campaign ran from April to May 2014 and Facebook claims to have reached 15 million people through this initiative. It also claims that Garnier Men witnessed a 2.5x increase in its online sales as compared to last year, however it didn’t disclose any specific information on this.

It’s worth noting that India is the largest market for Facebook outside the United States with a user base of 100 million. However, it is not a significant revenue market for the company. While the company has never disclosed how much money it makes in India or what the country specific ARPU is, Facebook’s Asia Pacific ARPU was only $0.93 for Q1 2014, which was the second lowest among other regions. In comparison, Facebook has an ARPU of $5.85 in US & Canada regions.

This is probably because majority of users still access Facebook on a feature phone in the country, while the company’s mobile ads are primarily targeted at smartphone users. Facebook claims that 66% of its users in India are on feature phones as of May 2014.

With this ad unit, it looks like Facebook is now looking to reach out to non-smartphone users. It’s worth noting that the company has also experimented with feature phone-only campaigns for Gillette India, where Gillette used Facebook ads to drive awareness to its new Vector 3 razor.

For instance, political parties like Aam Aadmi Party which had earlier sought a referendum via SMS and an online form, could also probably make use of this ad unit to reach out to users on Facebook and receive their reactions.

State-level targeting: Facebook mentions that it now also offers state-level targeting to Indian advertisers, wherein advertisers can target people by state or even multiple states in India without having to list multiple cities.

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The company also plans to extend its life-stage targeting to high-growth countries like India, which will be enable advertisers to target new moms and dads; or people who have started a new job; or retirees among others.

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