Venkata Susmita Biswas

Screen Zero: This precious ad space is now up for grabs

Glance presents brands with the opportunity to reach users right on a smartphone’s lock screen.

Imagine a YouTube masthead ad and its vast reach. Now, imagine that ad is right on a mobile phone user’s lock screen. The user doesn't have to unlock the phone, swipe away any notifications, and then go to the app drawer, scroll all the way down to Y to find YouTube, tap on it and then watch a brand’s ad. Instead, all the user has to do is lift their phone and bam, an ad is served. Zero clicks.

That’s the pitch Glance, a lock screen platform, is making to brands. Zero friction and 100% immersive advertising. Glance has around 180 million active users in India and comes pre-loaded on Xiaomi, POCO, Motorola, Samsung, Oppo, Realme and Vivo smartphones.

A subsidiary of ad-tech firm InMobi, Glance turned unicorn in December 2020. It is all set to launch in the US and Latin America by the end of this year. The platform is currently present in India and Indonesia.

With the US and Latin America launch, the company hopes to hit a billion users over the next two-to-three years. Interestingly, Glance will not have ads on the lock screen in the US. The company said in a statement, “Our commitment to consumers is that you will never pick up your phone to see an ad on the lock screen itself.”

The growth that Glance is eyeing is purely on the basis of coming pre-loaded on Android handsets. Industry executives say this is a masterstroke by Glance. This means that Glance doesn't have to spend on customer acquisition and struggle to retain users.

Navkendar Singh, AVP and tech analyst, IDC, observes, “Like Glance, several app makers pre-burn their apps onto smartphones. Unlike those apps, Glance does not need to give users a call to action.”

While a section of smartphone users could perceive a lock screen app and one that displays advertising, as intrusive, Singh says that consumers don’t find it intrusive. They find the content to be fresh.

Co-founder Abhay Singhal calls Glance a category killer. By virtue of partnering with handset manufacturers, Glance now claims to be available on 80% of newly launched Android handsets.

Screen Zero: This precious ad space is now up for grabs

Singhal says one massive problem for app makers is that while users may download the app, daily usage is dismal for some categories. People may robotically open a handful of apps, like Instagram, YouTube, a mail app and WhatsApp, and repeat that process on loop during the day. With that insight, the team pondered smartphone usage and the screen users tend to look at most often.

Why, the lock screen, of course.

According to a study by Glance, on average, consumers unlock their phones 70 times a day. And, it just so happens that the lock screen on an Android smartphone is not owned by Google, but by the manufacturer - that was a happy coincidence for Singhal and team.

Further, by 2022, Glance will be integrated into Pragati OS (jointly developed by Jio and Google) and become the default lock screen platform of Jio phones. Glance is also available on smart TVs.

Destination lock screen

Glance, at its core, is a content platform on the lock screen of a mobile phone. Users can watch videos, play games and consume content, without having to head to social media, news, video and gaming apps to be entertained. “In comparison, it takes eight clicks to watch one piece of content on an app like YouTube. Glance brings this down to one,” Singhal points out.

Akshat Raizada, investment director - trading and partnerships, GroupM, who has been piloting ad campaigns for brands on Glance, says, “The lock screen is the first touch point for any user on a mobile phone. Therefore, advertising on Glance can't be ignored by smartphone users.”

The makers of Glance don’t claim to be replacing or challenging YouTube, Facebook or Instagram. Those are platforms that people will use to find what they are looking for. Glance is aiming to be a content discovery platform that will serve professionally created and curated content across genres like sport, news, food, fashion and entertainment.

According to Deloitte’s 2022 Global TMT Report, India had 750 million smartphone users, as of 2021, and this is poised to grow to one billion by 2026. The rural sector is propelling this growth at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 6%, compared with the urban sector growing at a CAGR of 2.5% from 2021-26.

Singh points out that most OEM partners that Glance works with operate seriously in the sub-Rs 30,000 price band. On Samsung, for instance, Glance is not present on the premium S Series, Singh observes. However, the platform is present on the Rs 63,000 Xiaomi 12 Pro.

Screen Zero: This precious ad space is now up for grabs

Monetising a glance

Vasuta Agarwal, senior vice president & MD, APAC, InMobi, says Glance has several ad formats that brands can utilise to achieve different goals. “We have a lock screen takeover, for instance, that brands can use for product/show launches when they need to create awareness and read a large user base. It is akin to a front page ad on a newspaper,” she says. Brands in the auto, food delivery and video streaming sectors have partnered with Glance during product launches.

Raizada says brands no longer are experimenting with advertising on Glance. “It has become a default line item for brands that are launching new products.” He says Glance offers various levels of targeting. “Handset pricing-based targeting is one such, where brands can choose a specific cohort of users to which they want to show an ad.”

The ad rates on Glance, Raizada says, are highly competitive. “This is primarily because the company does not have a direct user acquisition cost.” For instance, as per an industry source, a roadblock ad on Glance with a pan-India reach generating 120 million impressions, could cost a brand about Rs 20-25 lakh. A similar whole day campaign on ShareChat, which has 180 million MAUs, also costs about Rs 25 lakh.

Screen Zero: This precious ad space is now up for grabs

Agarwal says brands can run sustenance ad campaigns in the form of in-stream ads. Glance also offers some ad formats that can drive user acquisition, which is used by consumer tech brands. She says one in 10 or 12 pieces of content is an ad. Since all the content on Glance is curated, it is a safe environment for advertisers, she adds.

Ads on Glance tend to be gamified and seek interaction with the user. This is crucial for getting noticed and not being ignored by users. Shreyak Choudhary, senior director - planning, dentsu international, says, “The content from brands or ads should not be intrusive because one of the key reasons for people to use a lock screen platform is value-driven and something that doesn’t deliver that value may appear intrusive to users.” He says Glance is currently a powerful awareness medium for brands.

The company has been testing formats for about a year now. Armed with case studies, it is looking to attract more brands to its platform. Raizada says that Glance must now look at developing tools in the areas of social commerce and outcome-driven advertising.

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