Mobile phones have become a powerhouse for approximately a decade now, but advertisers haven’t quite figured out how to really do advertising on them.
Brands like Samsung have begun to integrate ads into their core OS, but this does not seem to be a viable long-term solution for all brands—they could end up pissing off their userbase who might not appreciate paying full-price for a phone only to still get ads on it.
Therefore, being able to advertise on your phone’s core OS itself is still a relative blue ocean in this region.
So far, a solution seems to be lockscreen advertising.
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This is when companies reward users for every ad they interact with on the lockscreen, using a lockscreen takeover app as the mediator.
The downside though, is that iOS devices are not usually part of this, thanks to strict regulations. So that already removes a chunk of the population.
It’s definitely not a new idea here in Malaysia. One of the apps we’ve written about before, Twig, has been acquired by “a leading global organisation” and they’ve removed their app from Google Play.
“But Vulcan Post!” I hear you cry. “If there are so many apps doing the same thing, then why did you call it a blue ocean?”
Well, gentle reader. It’s still a blue ocean because no major player has really figured out how to do it properly yet.
Twig had a mid to low rating the last time we checked. Slidejoy has a good rating, but the top comments showcase a slew of problems that need fixing.
S’more fares the best on our cursory glance, with a 4.1 rating and generally good reviews on the “helpfulness” reviews tab.
Swiping just doesn’t seem like it’s worth the effort.
Apps like these are meant to just be unintrusive add-ons to our usual behaviour. If you have to do more just to be rewarded, this seems to defeat the point.
Adding onto these feelings of laziness are rules that may be imposed: minimum amount of points before withdrawal, or apps that don’t even give you cash—instead offering coupons or gifts. They aren’t bad, but they may make a user consider if that swiping really is worth it.
This is the landscape that Malaysian startup, SwypeOn joins.
A newcomer into the market, SwypeOn just launched in August.
It operates under parent company Mobme Asia, which has been around since 2013 and exists to “answer the demand for premium mobile inventory”. Mobme represents organisations like Opera, Mediaworks and some local publishers.
Here’s how SwypeOn works. Every swipe to interact with an ad on SwypeOn earns a user 2 keys. If they earn 1000 keys, they can convert this into RM100 worth of cash—which is the minimum amount of money that users can cash out on for the app.
There are no maximum swipes a day, your keys will never expire, and they’re able to transfer your cash to any bank account in Malaysia.
Each swipe also increases your possibility of winning their monthly lucky draw.
Mobme injected RM50,000 to develop both SwypeOn and a complementing function for SwypeOn called Pulse.
“Despite mobile advertising being coined as the next big thing, mobile ad spending was not in tandem with the opportunity,” said Felix Chu, Chief Executive Officer and co-founder of Mobme Asia.
“Issues causing such behaviour were the huge data discrepancies, accidental clicks, non-viewable ads, fraud and weak lead generation campaigns.”
So seeing an opportunity, they started SwypeOn to, as he says, “put the power back into the user’s hands”.
“Our app also enables users to make recommendations that are strategically placed on their lock screen and they were proud to be associated with. Furthermore, if users are not ready to engage with the content on their screen immediately, they can just swipe right and engage later, at their convenience.”
They developed their app supported by a Forrester Consulting Survey that reveals:
- 69% of users want to see ads that do not interrupt with their usage of an app
- 67% of users say they want to be offered a reward in exchange for interacting with an app and
- 54% of users say they want to see ads that are relevant to their interest
They’re not the first to be doing this in the market, as we’ve highlighted already. But they plan to win by linking both users and advertisers through one key word: relevance.
They’re creating user relevance through two ways:
- A direct survey to us prior to running the app’s functions, asking you what your interests are.
- Giving you ads through Pulse, which uses inaudible soundwaves to recognise what are your likes and dislikes, and in turn advertises to you without disrupting your usage—and without actually recording your conversations.
What we think is a nice touch is SwypeOn’s emphasis on aesthetic.
While not all advertisers adhere to this, SwypeOn advocates that clients and creative agencies create beautiful ads that add a feel-good factor, by bringing back the “MadMen” era instead of simply adapting ads from digital banners into relatively ugly lockscreens.
“That way users will be seeing the ads like a beautiful wallpapers that change each time rather than an ad—that’s what the essence of advertising is all about,” said Felix.
“Sure, but what about all that stuff you mentioned on top?” you ask.
Well, we think we’ll have to let the user reviews speak for themselves. From a total of 12 reviews left on their app in Google Play (as of the time of writing), it currently aggregates on a 2.7 rating out of 5, with reviews that ring very familiar to ones that we’ve seen on Twig and Slidejoy.
Complaints such as the app not properly recording the number of swipes and causing freezes contribute to their low ratings.
According to Felix, they take pains to minimise both battery and data draining. They cap battery usage at 10% on an average mobile phone, and limited data usage to 200 MB a month.
On our own try of SwypeOn, the app asks for a lot: access to your your microphone, your texts and your phone calls. We raised this concern to Felix, who told us that they only sell relevance in terms of ad placements, and not data to corporations.
As for the other complaints in the reviews, here’s what Felix says:
“Our Pulse technology caused some interference with other apps (that utilise sound such as Spotify and WhatsApp), caused the app to crash. This has since been rectified.”
The app was last updated on the 15th of November—after which the app gained a 5-star review.
As for the issue of users swiping without their interactions getting recorded, Puvaneswaran Kumar, director of Mobme Asia, has this to say:
“What happened is that this was way back when we were prematurely launched, and there were a lot of glitches in the backend. We’ve fixed all of the problems.”
In our own attempt today to substantiate these updates, a game-breaking glitch left us stuck on the signup page.
So far, we have been unable to get the app to work on our phones, despite some friendly suggestions from the SwypeOn team.
“Okay, but is it at least worth it for users to swipe for rewards on SwypeOn?”
According to Puvaneswaran, the average amount of swipes recorded on the app is 33 times a day. And in his opinion, it can take anywhere between 2 weeks to 1 month to earn about 1000 keys for the minimum RM100 cashout.
In fact, SwypeOn announced the victory of 2 of their users with much fanfare on Facebook, who managed to cash out after a month of swiping. The money has since been banked into their accounts.
“Not only that, another user has claimed their Ministry of Burn pass for just 60 keys,” said SwypeOn about their monthly lucky draw.
We do think the concept makes sense. For all of the ads that are blasted into my eyeballs everyday without my consent, it’ll be nice to actually use a platform that takes my wants into consideration, and even pays me for it.
For an app that is only 2 months old, it’s understandable that they’re still going through some growing pains.
“That’s the pain points that we have to go through as a developers,” said Puvaneswaran about the app glitches that they’ve been going through. “So we are learning and improving as well. That’s why when redemption happens, it’s a good thing. That’s why we made an announcement, and banked in the amount already.”
If and when SwypeOn does move past all of these kinks, who knows?
They might craft a competitive app not just in in Malaysia, but SEA as well. It’ll be a pretty big deal if it’s a Malaysian team that manages to crack that barrier in this region.