The world’s first mobile phone network to be fully funded by advertising revenues has launched in the UK.
Blyk, co-founded by former president of mobile phone maker Nokia, Pekka Ala-Pietila, targets cash-strapped 16 to 24-year-olds, offering 217 texts and 43 minutes of voice calls a month in return for receiving marketing.
More than 40 brands including Coca-Cola, Borders, L’Oreal, Johnson & Johnson and Miss Selfridge have signed up to the service, which gives them access to young consumers – generally considered to be one of the hardest groups for advertisers to reach.
Users will receive up to 6 advertising text messages a day, targeted to individual tastes based on questionnaires filled in on application to the network.
The group plans to branch out across Europe during the year.
Blyk will rent airtime from Orange and provide users with SIM cards to use in their existing colour-screen mobile phones – cutting out the cost of providing handsets taken on as incentives by other networks.
There is no contract and no monthly fees and phones can be credited with talktime on a pay-as-you go basis for those who want to use more then their monthly allowance.
The service will work on an invite-only basis, usually from existing users, similar to some social networking sites.
Blyk could change the face of mobile phone services in the UK, as mobile operators look to new sources of revenue growth following a slowdown in subscriber growth over the past few years in a saturated market.
The move could also be good news for advertisers, who have recently moved away from traditional media such as television and radio, towards new media such as the internet.
Co-founder Antti Ohrling said: ‘Fundamentally it’s the interaction that young people do most on their mobile phone: receiving and responding to a message.’
Blyk was founded by Mr Ala-Pietila and Mr Ohrling in 2006. It has offices in Helsinki and London and employs around 60 people in the UK.
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