Cheaper Mobile Bills in Exchange for Ads on Our Phones: Ad-vantage Tesco, Or Win-Win?

29/06/2016 15:59

Tesco Mobile has a new twist on affordable telecoms. Its customers will now be offered the chance to chop £3 off their monthly bills by downloading the Tesco Mobile Xtras Android app.

Powered by Australian ad-tech startup Unlockd, the app presents subscribers with a certain number of adverts a day. Ads appear as you unlock your phone, and news and sport content from British newspapers like The Sun and The Times will be displayed too.

It seems that, rather than poking a chink in ad-blocking armour, Tesco and Unlockd are teaming up to make the opposite - maximum advertising exposure - appealing to punters.

It's a pretty simple system. As Tesco Mobile CEO Anthony Vollmer puts it, "[Tesco] thrive[s] as a network at the value end of the market so it can take off a decent proportion of bills." In other words, Tesco will cash in enough advertising revenue to allow customers on its cheapest tariffs off a £3 hook.

In fact, one imagines the "thriving" that goes on at Tesco's end could conceivably stretch to more than a £3 discount - and perhaps in time it will.

But how intrusive will these adverts be? I'll believe Tesco's motto that "every little helps" to an extent, but if it's a serious bombardment, the extra three bob might not be worth it.

According to Unlockd's CEO Matt Berriman, the average user unlocks their phone more than 100 times a day. The app is designed to display an advert around once in every three unlockings - but hit the cross in the top right hand corner and the images will be quickly dismissed from the screen.

Plus they won't bother you while you're writing a text or taking a call or scrabbling desperately for the snooze button - those are not the moments in which you want to engage with the relative merits of McDonald's new Filet-o-Fish recipe.

So if Tesco Mobile succeeds as advert advocates and the customers play along for the time being, what will that mean for the phone bill forecast more generally? Will
advertisers be picking up the cheque so it's effectively free to use a mobile phone?

The figures speak volumes. According to data and research group eMarketer, mobile ad spending in the UK is set to climb to £4.58 billion in 2016. By 2020, it's expected to constitute 44.4% of our total media ad spend, compared to 21.5% for TV and 11% for print media.

On the other side of tech town, though, Three and EE are investigating in network-level ad blocking on a serious scale. What will customers choose? Which team will prevail?

Keep locking and unlocking that smartphone of yours. Only time will tell.