If Indians didn't love the idea of missed calls so much, many things - ranging from generating public opinion to communicating brand messages - wouldn't have happened. From garnering support for Anna Hazare's movement to Kan Khajura Tesan, HUL's latest mobile marketing campaign, asking people to give a missed call and get something in return seems to work like a dream.
The return call delivers pre-recorded audio messages about everything from sponsored cricket scores to information about shopping discounts, minimising data charges for the user.
Facebook specially created the "missed call" ad - in partnership with ZipDial - to appeal to users in India and, later on, take it to other emerging markets. Facebook has more than 100 million users in India, with the majority accessing the service on feature phones, which lack touch screens and other capabilities of higher-end smartphones.
The ads are part of the social media giant's effort to bolster its business in countries such as Brazil, India and Indonesia. According to the company, it has conducted early tests with advertisers like Garnier Men and has encouraging results to show for it. Facebook plans to scale it up with additional partners and take it to new markets in the coming months.
The Garnier Men Missed Call campaign was executed during this year's Indian Premier League (IPL) tournament. As part of this campaign, Garnier Men ran photo ads on their timeline, asking visitors to click to call for an opportunity to meet the Rajasthan Royals players and win match tickets or official merchandise.
When users clicked on the ad unit, a missed call was placed to an auto-populated number on their phone dialer. Following this, the caller receives an SMS - with questions on trivia for taking part in the contest - along with a Flipkart link to purchase products. ZipDial provided the phone number along with the follow-up engagement and usage analytics for advertisers.
The campaign ran in April and May and Facebook claims to have reached 15 million people through this initiative. It also claims that Garnier Men witnessed a two-and-a-half-fold increase in its online sales compared to last year. However, it didn't disclose any specific information on this. Nestle, too, is believed to have rolled out a campaign for some of its products on Facebook, using ZipDial.
This was not the first time that a brand has used a missed call service in its ads. In 2012, online classifieds site Quikr.com had released a TVC to communicate an innovation, wherein customers can transact through a missed call.
Besides Quikr, there are numerous brands like Unilever, Disney, Oreo, Pepsi and Cafe Coffee Day that have used the missed call marketing service with ZipDial. The Kan Khajura Tesan campaign from Unilever has won accolades internationally.
With Facebook joining hands with ZipDial, how will this be beneficial to brands? Rajiv Dingra, CEO, WATConsult, states that it will work as it allows users to opt for the content they want to engage with. "Also it is relevant to brands that associate themselves with music, Bollywood and other such content. I think initially brands will experiment with current campaigns whether TV or radio and integrate those with such ads. Over time, innovative uses of such ads will come through. It also depends on what kind of targeting is available to run this," he adds. Dingra further says that all TV and radio advertisers can opt for such a campaign on Facebook.
Speaking about the usefulness of the feature, Varun Shah, co-founder, Eccentric Engine, states that this feature is useful in terms of disseminating product information to those interested, getting leads and communicating offers. "Categories such as automobiles, telecom and BFSIs should benefit from this. However, this feature does not really aid in brand building," adds Shah.
Experts believe that users especially from Tier 2 and Tier 3 markets, which are the next growth markets for Facebook will lap this up. However, it also depends on the kind of content or benefits in place for users. "The chance to meet a celebrity or the chance to win exclusive invites to events will definitely see better response. But these calls to action lead to a good response, with ZipDial integration or without," states Shah.
Since the product gives its potential consumers a guaranteed and sure-shot exposure to brand content, experts believe that the feature should be at least 40 per cent more than the regular CPC (cost per click) rates.
Shah believes that such a feature will not drastically change the way brands use Facebook. "I do not see this feature being used regularly by brands whose objective is not lead generation or information dissemination. In terms of pure play engagement, a user is much better off clicking on the ad and experiencing the brand on the web. While I may click on an ad once in a while, I don't see myself dialing a number when I know I have one in a thousand chance to meet Sachin Tendulkar," he states.