At a time when ad blocking is increasing in popularity, and with India home to one of the largest ad block penetration occurrences per online capita (59% of smartphones in the country run some kind of ad blocking browser as per PageFair), marketers are finding it increasingly tough to reach and engage with consumers on mobile. To bridge the divide between advertisers and users, Boston-based mobile advertising company Jana is using incentivised advertising to not only take on ad blockers but also to get genuine views and high-quality traffic for brands.
Its recently launched mCent browser works on an ad-sponsored data model. The browser enables advertisers to develop strategic mobile advertising campaigns and use native advertising that allows a brand message to follow the natural user experience flow, while simultaneously providing value to the user. Users can surf the internet free of cost on the mCent browser.
Rewarding the user
“Over $200 billion is being spent on advertising in emerging markets. Most parts of these spends goes into TV, billboards and radio. Even as emerging markets are the fastest growing digital markets in the world, the take off is slow due to expensive data, lower bandwidth and ad blocking,” notes Nathan Eagle, CEO and co-founder of Jana.
However, what differentiates Jana’s incentivised advertising plan is that it provides only valuable users and not lower quality traffic to advertisers. “Globally, if you look at the incentivised advertising space, it was dominated by five players between 2012 and 2015. Eventually, everyone moved out. I believe the space can still provide legitimate results for advertisers, if done right,” says Eagle.
The mCent browser doesn’t reward users for engaging with the ad. “We get paid on performance (CPE or CPI). That means we need to find audiences who will be interested in the ad. But we are not incentivising the action to take place,” Eagle adds. The caveat is, the mCent browser doesn’t allow ad blockers.
According to Eagle, mobile advertising in emerging markets is not working because a majority of users are on prepaid plans and don’t want to pay extra to watch ads or engage with brands, and thus, end up using ad blockers. “The genesis of the business came from the research project in Kenya in 2006 where we built a SMS-based blood bank system that allowed the nurses to text their daily supply levels to the central blood bank and also get paid for each SMS,” he says.
Monetising the platform
Jana is currently present in 92 countries. And as of 2016, it claims to have provided four billion MB of free internet to 30 million users globally. Jana’s mCent app, launched in India in 2014, has 25 million users (March, 2017). Jana is currently working with traditional ad networks such as AdMob and Facebook Audience Network for display advertising. It plans to add 30 million users in India in the next two-and-a-half years.
“As we start building audiences for the browser, we will offer brands a unique opportunity to be seen as a hero for targeted users. For example, today’s free internet is sponsored by XYZ brand where they get 100% share of views, guaranteed viewability, understand the audience’s demographic profile and behavioural characteristics. But these type of campaigns will be launched only in the second half of this year,” he informs. Eagle insists that the entry of Reliance Jio and decline in data charges will further work in Jana’s favour. “Our core cost is data as we are buying mobile data from the operator. As the price of data drops, we can provide more data for free browsing,” he says.
Jana’s mCent browser competes with likes of Opera Mini and UC Browser. “Unlike UC and Opera Mini, we do not offer to save 30% of the data bill and instead offset all the cost,” Eagle says. “That too by factoring in net neutrality as data provides users unrestricted access to any website.”