SMS2.0: Ad’ing fun & moolah to messaging – Economic Times

Source: Economic Times

Airtel ties up with Affle of UK to offer SMS 2.0 that converges messaging, content and advertising into one seamless application

BORED of that same old short message service (SMS)? Try SMS 2.0. Bharti Airtel, the country’s largest mobile phone operator, is testmarketing SMS 2.0 — the world’s first upgrade to the popular SMS application — in and around Delhi in tie-up with the UK-based Affle.

If the “sending message” icon that appears every time you SMS irritates you, then you should try this new version. With SMS 2.0, in those few seconds between messaging you’ll be — hold your breath — listening to ads! But welcome ads, strictly on the subject of your choice — no spammers, no free-loaders, no nothing.

Say, you love cricket but don’t wish to open a demat account or get a new card. Rest assured you will only hear about bat and ball from the likes of and not some bank eyeing your pocket. For advertisers too, it’s a killer app that will ensure their message is carried to an audience that’s all ears for it

Simply put, the upgrade to SMS 2.0 converges messaging, content and advertising into one seamless application which resides as the default SMS application on the customer’s mobile handset. In effect, the new SMS version means that you will be able to have interactive, non-intrusive media on your mobile phones, and will discover a host of relevant content services on your handsets, while receiving enhanced messaging features like colour SMS and emoticons, that further engage the mobile SMS user. In short, you can jolly well kiss the do-not-call-registry (DNCR) good bye.

SMS 2.0 is different from other formats of mobile marketing as it treats the handset like any other popular mass media — that is, the subscriber uses a wide spectrum of the media to create contextual advertising opportunities. The user defines the mobile content by opting for advertisers in his or her area of interest. So instead of all advertisers targetting all users, the user will benefit by having only the advertiser of his choice.

That explains why within just a fortnight of Airtel’s SMS 2.0 pilot launch, a rash of advertisers — including Perfetti Van Melle, Aviva, ICICI, Levi’s, HPCL, Indiatimes,, Britannia, Good Year, Cricinfo and Group M Interactions among others — even when this particular pay-per-exposure mobile marketing opportunity costs 60-80% more than placing ads on the web.

The mass-media interactive technology is developed by Affle and only two companies the world over have exclusive rights to this nextgen SMS service — the $4.3-billion Airtel and M1 of Singapore. “SMS 2.0 endorses creation of a non-intrusive content discovery platform for the user, and accesses customise content from leading publishing houses,” says Affle executive director, South Asia, Anuj Kumar. When asked why companies were signing up to the new platform in droves, he adds that SMS 2.0 is an eyeball-assured media where content is free. “It’s the m-commerce bit that the user has to pay for.”

As of now, Airtel customers can download and install SMS 2.0 onto their mobile handsets for free. However, SMS 2.0 is compatible only with select handsets — Nokia Series 60 phones, versions 7 & 8 — but Affle is burning the midnight to make the new platform available across handsets from other manufacturers.

“It’s a more fun way to do SMS, and helps enrich communication along the way,” says Bharti Airtel head of content and new product development PS Parasuram. He observes that for advertisers, SMS 2.0 is a more focused approach in targeting consumers and since ads woven in with the content of the user’s choice, the DNCR protocol gets redundant.

In other words, when you download this application, you are expected to register and jot down your areas of interest. “We clearly articulated a need to tell the user about content or ads or brands with respect to his/her areas of interest,” adds Mr Parasuram. About 60 million Indians regularly use SMS, and Airtel expects at least 20 million users to switch to this free and unobtrusive platform within the very first year of operation. Of course if other handset manufacturers too are roped in it will help increase the user base. While its clearly a value-added service- cum-subscriber engagement tool for Airtel, Affle makes money through commercial tie-ups with advertisers. As for the user, don’t twiddle your thumb the next time you see the ‘message sent’ icon on your handset. Cash in on it.