Microsoft invests in mobile advertising firm, Affle

By Kapil Ohri , afaqs!, New Delhi | In Digital | February 11, 2009
Post-investment, Affle is gearing up to launch its SMS 2.0 services in Europe and the US

Microsoft has acquired a minority stake in Affle Holding, a Singapore based company, which owns and offers a mobile marketing platform, SMS 2.0 in India, Malaysia and Thailand, besides Singapore.

Speaking to afaqs! Anuj Khanna, chief executive officer and chairman, executive committee, Affle, says, "It is a non-controlling stake in Affle. Post investment, we will leverage the investment and affiliation to expand our operations beyond India, Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand."

Affle & #BANNER1 & # is planning to roll out SMS 2.0 in markets such as US, France, Germany, Australia and China. Khanna says, "Microsoft has already tied up with various mobile operators across the globe. As part of the deal, we will leverage these tie-ups to launch our SMS 2.0 services in countries where we are not present."

Affle will also utilise the MS mobile ad sales resources located across the globe. The MS team will help Affle to monetise and sell advertising inventory for the SMS 2.0 application.

Khanna says, "The deal will help us to strengthen our value proposition in India, as we will be able to enrich SMS 2.0 with the help of MS in India." Affle will integrate Hotmail, the email service offered by MS, MS mobile search and MSN Messenger with its SMS 2.0 application.

The deal will also enable Affle to source content from the MSN website for SMS 2.0. The company is already sourcing content from The Times of India, Reuters and ESPN in India.

The company claims that it has served more than a billion ad impressions on SMS 2.0 in 2008 and is currently serving around 125 million ad impressions on a monthly basis.

Companies such as Pepsi, Maruti, General Motors, Tata Motors, Ford, Nokia, Samsung, Sony, KFC, Quaker Oats and Lufthansa advertise on SMS 2.0.

For the uninitiated, SMS 2.0 is a text messaging application for GPRS based mobile phones. Users can download this free application from the mobile operator's portal. Currently, the service is available on Airtel, Idea Cellular and Spice Telecom. The company claims that SMS 2.0 is used by one million mobile users in India.

Once downloaded, SMS 2.0 allows users to compose and send messages in the usual way. The difference is that it displays a banner ad at the bottom of the screen while composing or reading a message, and a full screen ad during the process of sending the message.

Ads displayed through SMS 2.0 are interactive and are based on the user's areas of interest, which can be specified while downloading the application. Affle has tied up with many content providers, such as, ESPN, Reuters and MSN to serve branded content to subscribers, which is similar to banner ads at the bottom of the mobile screen.