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Geo-Targeted ‘Dealz’ And Content Platform Unlockd Launches In US With Boost Mobile

The premise: users agree to view ads before unlocking their screens. Starbucks and Lyft are among the initial sponsors.

Less than four months after debuting in its native Australia, mobile ad platform Unlockd is officially starting to serve its first geo-targeted placements in the U.S. with a proposition designed to combat current industry pain points such as ad blocking, fraud, and viewability.

The 50-person company, which now has an office of 12 people in New York, is being introduced to U.S. consumers and marketers through an exclusive partnership with Boost Mobile, one of Sprint’s prepaid brands. Unlockd is kicking off its ad program with Boost Dealz app on Google Android smartphones.

Timed And Geo-Targeted ‘Dealz’

When a user downloads the Boost Dealz app, they agree to be served ads when they “unlock” their screens at certain times of the day. In exchange for their opt-in, they’ll receive a discount on their monthly Boost Mobile bill.

At selected intervals, Dealz app users swiping to open their Android phones will be greeted by location-based ads, offers, discounts, as well as content from brands such as Starbucks, Levi’s, and Lyft.

The ads won’t be presented every time a person unlocks their device, said Matt Berriman, CEO and co-founder of Unlockd.

“Users will see one ad for every three times they unlock their phone,” Berriman said. “It’ll also be based on time and relevance. We might not serve a person an ad for an hour, but at the moment they’re walking by, say, Madison Square Garden, we might serve an ad from StubHub noting that there are tickets to a game or a show that night.”

These consumers can also message the companies for additional information or dismiss ads with a simple click on the “X,” Berriman said.

“We’re dedicated to trying to find consumers the content and deals they want,” Berriman said. “We’ve done some research with Nielsen, and we’ve found that 60 percent of people said that between every time — and up to every third time — they unlock their phone, they would like to see content. The thirst for content continues to grow. Our job is to serve them things they’re interested in.”

X Marks The Spot

In addition to its carrier agreement and ad deals, Unlockd is also powering search through Yahoo, which will have a query bar placed within the Boost Dealz app. The Dealz app will also feature a direct connection to Twitter and ads will be served by the micro-blog’s supply-side platform MoPub.

By embedding the search and social media functions, Unlockd can better drive engagement than if it were strictly serving ads.

“We want people to be able to sit back at the end of the month and say, ‘Great! I’ve got $5 off my mobile bill, 20 percent off a beverage at Starbucks, and a free Lyft ride,”’ said Berriman. “We want them to feel the value of the app itself. Even without the $5 off, they’ll appreciate the deals— being able to access thing’s they’re interested in, such as content from other sponsors, such as Hulu.”

To sweeten the deal — and ensure that the offer isn’t solely taken by those who simply want a monthly $5 credit on their mobile usage, users will also list the kind of advertising and content they want to be served.

Berriman, a serial entrepreneur and ex-cricket player, has focused most of his startup and media efforts on merging the offline and online marketing worlds.

“We see Unlockd as a proprietary, ad funded telco platform that allows carriers to license our technology and provide customers either free data or discounted service for their bill,” Berriman said. “In turn, it gives consumers the content and marketing they want when they open their phones, while ensuring they are not forced to see messages that don’t reflect what they want.”

For example, an existing Lyft subscriber with the Boost Dealz app won’t see any ads for that specific e-hailing service — since the ad would be wasted.

The opt-in nature of the Unlockd’s offering, plus the ability to target people based on their smartphone’s user ID, also helps to advance the industry’s constant battles against ad fraud and ad blocking, while proving viewability and engagement, Berriman said.

Unlockd will be relying on standard Interactive Advertising Bureau units, which will also make it easy for brands to sign up quickly.

As the company settles its U.S. position, it’s also working on building its UK presence as well as five other markets. Overall, Berriman said he expects Unlockd will be in 10 regions by the end of 2016.

Asked whether Unlockd’s appeal might be limited to segments of younger users on a budget, Berriman noted that the user base of Boost Mobile, which is also expected to be marketing the Dealz app heavily, has a broad range that have shown interest in being served specific kinds of content in exchange for a break on data usage and messages from brands they like.

Also, Boost Mobile claims to be popular with Hispanic consumers, a group that advertisers covet because of its growth and spending power.

The company’s partners appear to agree about the appeal to consumers.

“We’re excited to be working with such a cutting-edge publisher,” said Kate Herbert, senior director of Platform and Exchange Services at MoPub. “Unlockd’s innovative creative unit, which offers buyers a unique full-screen mobile canvas coupled with key targeting aspects such as device ID, location, age, and gender, is the type of format that moves mobile advertising forward.”

About The Author
David Kaplan David Kaplan @davidakaplan

A New York City-based journalist for over 20 years, David Kaplan is managing editor of GeoMarketing.com. A former editor and reporter at AdExchanger, paidContent, Adweek and MediaPost.