Let me start this rant by saying that I have a lot of time for Turkcell. The operator is a regular speaker on the conference circuit, and whoever they put forward, they always seem to talk sense. For a mobile operator, they seem quite innovative, and that’s not an adjective you can use in conjunction with the words ‘mobile operator’ too often.
So it’s no real surprise to hear Turkcell celebrating the success of its Tone & Win ad platform (see story below), based on Ringback Tones. Now Ringback Tones are funny things. They have not taken off in the UK, but in Asia, they are huge, accounting for around 50% of mobile content revenues in some markets. The concept is simple. You buy a ringtone, but rather than using it as the ringing tone that you hear when your phone rings, it’s actually what someone calling you hears while they are waiting for you to answer the call. It’s no real surprise that they are so popular. For a teenager, what cooler way could there be to show the world what great taste in music you have by treating/subjecting callers to a snippet of one of your favourite songs every time they call?
This, I can understand, and could probably even cope with. But I do have a problem with Ringback Tone services based on ad jingles, and Turkcell is not alone in providing them. Vodafone, if my memory serves me correctly, have one running somewhere.
The problem is this. If I like an ad jingle so much that I want to pay money for it and put it on my phone so I can listen to it whenever I want, that’s fair enough. But I think it’s a slightly different proposition to accept an ad jingle in return for free texts or talk time and then make my friends listen to it every time they call me. I thought the whole point about mobile was that it’s supposed to be opt in. Who’s opted in here? Ironically, the only person who doesn’t have to listen to the ad.
On the Tone & Win blog, it says: ‘Callers listen to advertisements from mobile phones and win with Turkcell’s Tone & Win’. What do they win exactly? It’s their friend who gets the free texts and talk time, they just get to listen to an ad they didn’t ask for.
I’ve used the words ‘ad jingle’ a few times. Now I could be wrong. It could be a really cool piece of music that is “brought to you by Coca Cola” or something similar. I have been trying all morning to find someone at Turkcell or their PR firm who can enlighten me on this point, so far, without success. But whatever it is, given the limited amount of time to play with before the person being called answers the phone, I think it’s safe to assume that the branding must be pretty quick and up front.
Perhaps I’m making a fuss over nothing here. After all, the Turkcell service has been shortlisted for a GSMA Global Mobile Award, so the judges obviously like it. But I can’t help thinking that when the person who has to listen to the ad is not the one who benefits from it, or who opted in to it, something’s not quite right. However much the advertisers, and the operators, like it.