There are over one billion people that have smartphones in the world, but roughly seven out of ten people still use feature phones. A large portion of the population in high-growth countries like India, South Africa, Mexico, Brazil, Indonesia and Nigeria use feature phones as a primary device for accessing the Internet. Over one billion people access Facebook every month across multiple mobile devices. According to internal Facebook data, a majority of the people that access the social network in many countries use feature phones, including India (66%), Indonesia (71%) and South Africa (68%). This could be a huge opportunity for advertisers so Facebook is developing a unique set of tools to access those markets.
Facebook launched the ability for advertisers to place and target ads on feature phones about a year ago. And Facebook’s ad delivery system has been optimized for low-bandwidth connections. Now Facebook is testing an advertising tool in India that involves missed calls.
In India, many people use missed calls as a workaround from the high costs of voice calls, similar to how people use collect calls in the U.S. For example, some people in India dial a number and hang up before connecting to the other person to save voice minutes. This would send a signal to a friend or family member to indicate “call me back” or “I’m outside.” I have seen this behavior first-hand during some of my visits to India. One of my friends told another friend to “leave a missed call” when they arrive rather than paying for an SMS or voice call. Some companies send recorded ads or SMS messages promoting a service to people who place a missed call to capitalize on this opportunity.
Facebook is testing out an advertising unit in India that corresponds to this behavior. When a person sees an ad on Facebook, they will be able to place a “missed call” from it using a button. Mobile phone users click the button that calls the brand advertiser. The call hangs up immediately and in the return call, the person will receive branded content like ringtones, music, cricket scores and celebrity messages from the advertisers. This would not consume any airtime or data. Facebook tested this advertising strategy with brands like Garnier Men and it will be scaled with more partners in the next few months.