Lockscreen Advertising: Love It or Hate It, It Could Be the Answer to Unlocking Access in Africa

The idea for KEIPhone came to me when I moved back to the US after seven years in East Africa.  I ordered a Kindle from Amazon, and I had the option to get it for half price if I was willing to accept advertising on the lockscreen.  After spending years in Africa trying to make mobile money and savings group apps work for women on feature phones, I thought “why isn’t anyone using lockscreen advertising to make smartphones cheaper?” Surely if Amazon is doing it, it must be a thing.

Not so fast.  Turns out here in the US lockscreen advertising is pretty controversial. Seem like while most American’s have accepted advertising every where else in their lives (Facebook, Twitter, TV, billboards, wrapped around cars) they really draw the line at the lock screen of their phones! That space is pretty exclusively reserved for pictures of our dogs!

In fact, if you google lockscreen ads in the US, the first entries you’ll see will be instructions to get them off your phone! Lockscreen ads have a bad reputation. But if you are a women in rural Africa living without a cell phone, you might be more willing to view those ads exchange for a phone. In fact, if you were a woman without access to TV or a computer you might even appreciate some of those ads. Ads that promote maternal and newborn child health or methods for climate adaptation can help promote wider opportunities for women.

Luckily, outside of the US people are starting to realize what valuable real estate can be found on lockscreens. It’s the full screen of your smart phone, and the ad can occupy the full space. It’s not cluttered between other posts like on Facebook or Twitter. You can’t ignore it, you must look at it, even while you swipe up to get rid of it.

Slidejoy is just such a lockscreen mobile application. Once you have the app installed on your phone, you will notice ads on the lockscreen, which you can ignore or watch to earn some extra cash. Slidejoy works through commissions from advertisers where they let you share their commission. Slidejoy estimates you can earn between $5-$15 per month. Hmm, if you were looking to buy a $100 smartphone in Kampala, looks like you could cover the cost in under a year if you earned an average of $10 a month on an app like Slidejoy.

The challenge in a place like Kampala is that many people, especially women, can’t afford that upfront $100 to buy the phone. But maybe company like KEIPhone could use the advertising as a revenue model to finance the cost of the phones for those women!

Advertisers are taking advantage of lockscreen advertising to promote their products. Users can download apps, participate in surveys and redeem discounts. Both Kindle and Slidejoy promote their ability to target your ads, so the more you interact with the ads, the more your get curated content.

The combination of high visibility and highly targeted is the sweet spot for most advertisers, and that is what lockscreen advertising can give them. Especially in markets like Sub-Saharan Africa, where large percentages of would-be consumers aren’t digitally connected. Mobile phone advertising is an opportunity for bridging the digital divide for advertisers.

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