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Ad-Based MVNO Surfaces In London

A mobile virtual network operator, founded by a team of ex-Nokia employees, is targeting the 16- to 24-year-old segment. Blyk hopes to lure in young users with free wireless services in exchange for viewing ads. Or does it hope to lure in advertisers with its base of young users? You decide.
A mobile virtual network operator, founded by a team of ex-Nokia employees, is targeting the 16- to 24-year-old segment. Blyk hopes to lure in young users with free wireless services in exchange for viewing ads. Or does it hope to lure in advertisers with its base of young users? You decide.According to Blyk's Web site, it's a pan-European mobile operator that will be launched in mid-2007 in London. The operator, Orange, will provide Blyk with minutes and access to its network, and Nokia Siemens is working behind the scenes to provide backhaul technology for Blyk. Services will be supported by on-mobile advertising.

On its surface the idea seems to have merit. Kids often don't have money. Mobile phones can be expensive. Providing kids with free access to mobile phones sounds like a good idea. And usually if there's one thing teens have plenty of, it's time to kill viewing advertisements. The execution has to be done well, though. Do kids really have the patience for it?

I know I don't. It's one thing for banner adds to appear on mobile Web pages, but quite another if you have to sit through ads before making phone calls. Blyk doesn't go into details about how the logistics will work. Will ads be attached to SMS messages, will they appear randomly on the home screen, will they precede any mobile Web usage? Blyk doesn't say. I can imagine, though, a scenario in which a teen sends an SMS to another teen and some totally lame product pitch is attached to the SMS and makes the kid look bad to his friends. That would be an example of poor execution.

In reading Blyk's Web site, it appears that Blyk is more concerned with its advertising customers than any subscribers it might sign up. Major brands, including Buena Vista, Coca-Cola, I-play Mobile Gaming, L'Oreal Paris, StepStone, and Yell.com mobile, have confirmed that they will be among the first advertisers to use the Blyk network when it launches in the United Kingdom this summer.

Still, the idea is an interesting one. Will it catch on?

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