App Dev Wants to Let Phone Users Pocket Cash From Ads

The cost of keeping a smartphone can add up, but an app developer may have found a way to help users make money off their devices, as the company tries to offer a unique twist on the mobile ads space.

SmartAds is giving consumers the ability to “sell” adspace on their Android devices, and is offering to pay up to $25 per month per device to those who will view ads touting offers, deals and savings on their phone’s lock screen. For their part, advertisers get more precisely targeted marketing.

SmartAds is finishing up development on its app, also called SmartAds, which will let consumers sign up to rent out space on their screen for ads, which they will view in exchange for a percentage of the ad revenue.

The app lets users pick categories that interest them, such as travel, sports, shopping or dining. Once registered, users will see an ad when they press the attention button on their device. Users can click on the ad to learn more about the offer, or click the close button to return to the lock screen.

Execution is Key

Having users opt-in to receive ads for benefits isn’t a new business model; companies such as AdKeeper allow users to set up preferences on what ads they’ll see, with the hope that those consumers will be more interested and therefore more likely to convert. Other companies have also used the lock screen as a place to serve ads.

Those companies, however, didn’t pay users for serving up ads in that spot.

“It’s going to come down to their execution and the quality of ads they deliver,” Greg Sterling, principal analyst at Sterling Market Research told the E-Commerce Times. “It’s a bit of a challenge for them to execute this well, but it’s an intriguing situation.”

Lock In on the Lock Screen

SmartAds is set to launch in the next few weeks. The developers have heard complaints about data-hogging applications, so their app automatically updates when a user enters an area with WiFi access. The app fills up to 50 slots with new ads that are running on the network. The company estimates that 50 slots will cycle through in about a day, without repetition of ads.

Consumers have the ability to get more information, make a purchase, and even share ads with others.

“We want to run a referral program, where an extra percentage will be paid for introducing family members and friends,” SmartAds Founder Elijah Cusack told the E-Commerce Times. The details on this incentive program are still being worked out, he added, and there may be a cap placed on the number of referrals a user can collect.

Payment will be issued directly to a bank account or PayPal account. SmartAds is in the process of working out other payment options.

Gauging Advertiser Interest

SmartAds has been in talks with advertisers, ad agencies, carriers and even a few ad networks. The company is exploring possibilities such as ad networks that will increase the number of ads available to consumers, Cusack said, as well as carrier involvement that might put the credit for participation directly on a consumer’s phone bill.

“Wireless carriers are a great source of users,” said Cusack. The company’s focus, however, is on getting the app up and running. SmartAds has been working on “getting the app developed, spending time developing, approaching ad networks, agencies and mom and pop advertisers, and of course developing the advertising as well.”

As the app nears launch, SmartAds decided to start a crowdfunding campaignon Indiegogo. The campaign has a short time span, and funds will go towards the final stages of development while also serving to increase visibility for SmartAds.

Ad Impressions

“There are a couple of things that converge here,” said Sterling. “The idea of self-selection around advertising — people have tried to do this before, and there’s been certain efforts around the lock screen. There hasn’t been user incentive where they’re going to pay you at the maximum level of $50 per month — there’s a novelty here.”

The $50 per month is for users who sign up two devices, such as a smartphone and a tablet. While the company touts the two-device concept, there is no cap on individual users or families with several devices between them.

The advertisers and the message are key to making this app work.

“You only get one shot,” Sterling said. “You’ve got to get it right the first time, and word of mouth gives you momentum or kills you.”

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