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Blyk LogoToday at the Canadian Marketing Association’s Digital Digital Marketing Conference, there was quite a bit of buzz around Blyk, a Finnish mobile phone company with an interesting hybrid model for distribution.

Blyk is a free mobile operator targeting young people (ages 16 to 24) and funded by advertising. Brands pay Blyk to help them reach their target audiences while users get interesting messages, cool stuff, free texts and voice minutes. Users receive six SMS/MMS per day in exchange for 217 texts and 43 minutes of voice calls each month.  Accounts can be topped up once the free usage runs out with standard mobile usage fees.

The company was founded in 2006 by former president of Nokia phones Pekka Ala-Pietilä and award-winning film producer Antti Öhrling. Blyk entered the U.K. in mid-2007 and by April 2008 had already reached more than 100,000 members. The company plans to go pan-European in 2009 potentially reaching 40 million young consumers.

A couple of presentations touched on some interesting case studies that gave national marketers some compelling reasons to look twice at this emerging mobile platform.  Executions ranging from straight promotion to previews on ads before they air on TV and books before they’re released show the broad utility of this type of opt-in platform. The level of engagement gained through the transparent relationship between Blyk and its users creates a number of opportunities for advertisers to gain valuable insight into the elusive 16- to 24-year-old market.

From an affinity and subcategory targeting standpoint, the model is unique in its depth and breadth. New members go through a lengthy registration process that includes a detailed questionnaire. The objective is to create highly relevant matches with potential advertisers to create an optimal user experience. The transparency of the interaction is what drives the users to share more personal data than even social networks are able to get a grip on.

One presentation showed some interesting McKinsey research that indicated a 26 percent lift in mobile advertising acceptance among consumers if there was a reward attached to it. For cash-strapped 16- to 24-year-olds, it’s known that a phone registers highly in the reward category. In a case study presented by Janet Kestin, co-chief creative officer at Ogilvy & Mather, a community of Blyk users were asked if they were OK with the advertising in exchange for phone usage. Seventy-one percent of those users responded that they were “cool” with it as long as it was relevant to their lives.

Big national brands like Boots, Penguin Publishing and L’Oreal that have experimented with the platform have seen tremendous results with average clickthrough rates of 29 percent (ranges between 12 percent and 43 percent). Not bad, since the mobile advertising average clickthrough rate hovers around 3 percent to 6 percent.

Blyk is a great example of a phone company that is thinking like a media company. Check this link for some innovative campaigns that have already been executed on Blyk’s network. Some of them clearly demonstrate how this platform could turn up serious volume and innovation on mobile marketing.

Coupon on Blyk

With the addition of coupons and GPS targeting, a whole new opt-in local media channel targeting 16- to 24-year-olds emerges.

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