Rendezvous with Antti Öhrling of Blyk Media

Till date the mobile advertising space has been the most underutilized if one considers the potential reach and intimacy the medium can share with its audience. Understanding of this channel has also proven to be a challenge, with most of the firms trying a hand at this channel ending up in the “Spammer Category”.

But off late there has been a wind of change in this space with the mobile advertising industry growing up by almost 217% in India in the last year i.e. 2010, with a UK firm named Blyk at the center of this transformation. We caught up with Antti Öhrling, co-founder Blyk to understand the intricacies and the challenges of the mobile advertising space and what makes Blyk so successful at it.

The Start:

Antti was running an advertising agency in the UK called the Contra Advertising group when he started toying with the idea of starting with a MVNO (Mobile Virtual Network Operator) firm catering to the youth which would provide them free talk time and sms’es in lieu of advertising on their handsets.

Antti vetted this idea with an old time friend Pekka Ala-Pietilä who had just quit Nokia from the coveted post of the president. After they were thoroughly convinced with the efficacy of the idea, Antti and Pekka decided to put their thoughts into action and prove that this can be a working model.  And thus Blyk was born.

The Story:

Blyk was first launched in the UK in early 2006, as a free ad supported mobile network which would provide free sms and calls only to the young customers in the age group of 16-24 years to begin with.

Though, there were concerns in the UK that this type of service model could result into spamming or prove intrusive, it was never a problem for Blyk and their subscriber base which kept on increasing steadily over time. This was for a simple reason that Blyk never resorted to spamming their users like others in the past, all of the advertising sent to the handsets of the subscribers was customized as per their interest and requirements after careful and meticulous profiling.

Blyk’s working model was transparent; Blyk would provide free calls and sms to the users and in exchange partner with clients to generate specific targeted ads for the users.

With around quarter of a million users, there was no doubting the fact that Blyk had transformed the mobile advertising space and they were here to stay. The model though, required a lot of funding to scale up and keep the momentum of growth northwards. Unfortunately, Blyk was hard done by the global economic recession in 2009 and the lack of insufficient funds led Blyk into hibernation.

The Solution:

In 2010, Blyk relaunched itself as only a mobile advertising firm that partners with operators, it turned into a wholesaler of advertising rather than a retailer. And now it works with Vodafone, Orange, T-Mobile and Aircel across Britain, the Netherlands and India.

As of today, Blyk has about 1.4 million active users with Aircel in India that too in just one year, a testimony of the scope of this concept.

Even in their second coming Blyk has essentially retained the mobile advertising practice; they used to follow earlier which is the essence of their services. With Aircel, the customer receives an sms which asks them if they would like to opt in to the service (customer can proactively opt in as well via a recharge for this specific service). Once the customer opts in, Blyk sends them a series of interactive messages on different genres and topics. And based on how the customer interacts with the service and his feedback, Blyk profiles the customer as per their preferences so as to ensure that the customer receives only the information and offers he is interested in.

Blyk has their own team which generates informative and interactive content for the users, besides the advertising content provided by the brands. The content can be disseminated to the users via text in an SMS or images or short video clips through MMS.

Let us go ahead and take a look at a short TV commercial which will tell you a little bit more about Blyk on Aircel:

Blyk’s services are not only limited to the subscribers. Blyk ties up with various aspirational brands and and gives them a platform to market their products to the youth and the working class which can be via certain discount offers and deals as well. And as you can guess, the brands benefit from the fact that they get to reach to their specific target market accurately, hence there is minimal wastage of resources. Also the ‘Call to Action’ time here is pretty short which helps the advertisers generate leads and close them easily as well.

Advertising is not the only thing which can be done effectively on this medium, there are a host of other things as well. In fact now, Blyk has turned the mobile advertising space into one of the most efficient channels for market research as it enjoys the advantage of reaching individuals in their personal space providing them with anonymity at the same time.

“User Privacy” is the immediate question that popped into our minds after understanding how Blyk can interact with the users at a very personal level. To which Mr. Öhrling replied that, Blyk has a very strict user privacy policy and processes in place which ensures that there are hardly any chances of user information getting compromised.

He explained that the operator does not share with them the user details like the name, number and stuff and even Blyk does not share the profiling information that they are able to accumulate on individual subscribers. Instead a code is generated for each user through a program which is used by both the parties and thus the information on individual users is assimilated and remains confidential.

Today, Blyk has turned the mobile advertising space into an important channel for brands to disseminate information and create awareness, gain insight from the market for optimum interaction with their consumers and drive action.

As Blyk keeps expanding its base and getting to know the customers more intimately, it is slowly on its way to become the largest and the most effective advertising platform across the globe.

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