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Hey Everyone – Monetize Your Friends!

Submitted by on Tuesday, 18 November 20082 Comments

As if we aren’t already overwhelmed with advertising, Cincinnati Bell has a new product that will not only bring more ads into your life, but will also make all of your friends hate you. Seriously. The effort to monetize the world (via ads) has been taken to a whole new level.

Brian Suerring from Cincinnati Bell presented a new product called xipto. The even have a site for it – check it out if you want to see the idea first hand.

What is it?

Xipto is a product where you sign up to have advertisements played on your cell phone when someone calls you. Yes, seriously. You advertise at your friends when they call. You can choose the ads and you earn a few cents every time an ad is heard – you can then donate your $$ to charity. You can also choose the # of ads, so you can make them listen to 5 ads before talking to them. That would be sweet.

Results so far?

Brian said that in their beta test with employees 10% liked it so far. I would assume that these 10% have no friends and don’t get phone calls. He also said that his fiancé hates it and doesn’t want to call him anymore because of it. Hmmmmm. I’m with the fiancé.

I wasn’t convinced that this was a good idea (as you can probably tell by my post) so I put it to the twitter test:

I twittered: Cincinnati bell has a new service where an ad plays when people call you and you get $0.05/call. What do u think? Would u use it? Annoying?


3giraffes @KristaNeher Annoying, definitely 4:47 PM Nov 14th

graciesparkles Icon_red_lock@KristaNeher do the people just wait on the line while the ad plays? i vote annoying. 4:41 PM Nov 14th

miller22 @KristaNeher if the ad is 30 secs, We would be paid the equivalent of $6/hour for our time, not to mention getting up to answer the phone. 4:36 PM Nov 14th

scottaparks @KristaNeher For business?Call your house?Can you control what types of ads get played? Imagine calling a church and hearing Ashley Madison. 4:33 PM Nov 14th

5chw4r7z @KristaNeher I would never call them again thats for sure 4:31 PM Nov 14th

UCBearcats @KristaNeher I think if your trying to run a business it’s a no go. “please listen to this ad while I make money on your call”. Lol 4:31 PM Nov 14th

wesley83 @KristaNeher That sounds like an awesome deal. Some people just use there lan lines for DSL or for an a emergency. 4:31 PM Nov 14th

digitalmlewis @KristaNeher I’d rather it be through SMS and with ever txt I send they can send me a txt (spam) but then that 5 cents goes to charity. 4:28 PM Nov 14th

TravisFessler @KristaNeher People still use Cincinnati Bell? 4:26 PM Nov 14th

joshboyd @kristaneher REALLY ANNOYING. Would stop calling that person. 4:26 PM Nov 14th

frankmartin @KristaNeher Your CUSTOMERS have to listen to an ad? NEVER! 4:25 PM Nov 14th

winemedineme @KristaNeher Ugh, the hold music some people have is bad enough! 4:25 PM Nov 14th

12 people responded – overwhelmingly negative. Cincinnati Bell – if you are reading this, take note!!!

And for Advertisers?

Brian said that advertisers like it because it is measurable; meaning they know exactly how many people listen to their ads and for how long. They have not, however completed any deeper research on metrics (ie. recall, if it makes people hate the brand because they are so annoyed, ability to drive action, etc).

My two cents?

  1. The advertisers don’t know where their ads are going since the control is all in the hands of the user. What if my ad ends up on a sex line?
  2. Effectiveness needs to be measured. OK, so people hear it, but how effective is it, and are there any negative consequences?
  3. Most people regularly get calls from the same people, so there would need to be some sort of rotation for this to be effective. I don’t want to pay every time the same person hears the ad.

In Conclusion

I hope this doesn’t sound too negative…  I think that advertisers and platforms both need to be cautious of how intrusive their ads are, as consumers have much lower tolerance for dealing with intrusive ads. While the cell phone owner does agree to participate, based on the response I got from twitter it does seem likely that bad equity may be associated with both advertisers and the platform (as well as the cell phone owner). What do you think?


  • MauserFan said:

    Krista, you got a few facts wrong. Brian Duerring stated that when they tested with all Cinti Bell employees, only 10% opted out. You stated that 10% liked it. Reverse that.
    Also, you don’t have to wait for the ad to finish to answer… it begins to ring immediately, so I imagine most people wouldn’t get to listen to more than 10-15 seconds of advertising at most, unless you don’t pickup.
    I doubt many consumers would choose to add this feature, so it’s really a non issue. But as a business owner, I may want my phone and my company paid employee phones to have an ad about our latest product offering or something along those lines. To play debate team with myself… I also wouldn’t want to pay $0.15 each time, just to give Xipto $0.05 and Cinti Bell $0.05 (and do I still get $ back? Seems silly).
    So in the end, Its interesting that the capability exists, but I doubt it will sell. He did mention a different product that allows me to get coupons right on my smart phone for things I buy at the store and I could scan a barcode on my phone screen at checkout. Now that sounds like a winning technology. I think they will have more interest in that product.

  • admin (author) said:

    Hi MauserFan

    Thanks for clarifying – I am really surprised that 90% liked it since the sense I got both from people in the room as well as on twitter was quite negative.

    You are right in that people can choose to ad it, so in that sense it is lower risk. I just wonder if there are negative consequences from the people who have to listen to the ads (not by choice).

    Thanks a lot for contributing your thoughts and clarifying the details – I don’t usually write negative posts… this just seemed such a contrast to “Marketing with Meaning” which was directly before it. There is also a more informational post that I wrote at the adclub blog http://www.adclubcincy.wordpress.com – less opinionated (although I may need to fix the 10% stat).

    – Krista