WiFi Ads – The future of digital advertising

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For those of us familiar with Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, the significance of WiFi these days warrants its inclusion at the very base of the renowned pyramid. Maslow’s theory was that there are some very basic needs that humans have, starting at the lowest level (air, shelter, water etc) then progressing upwards as illustrated.

For many of us today, WiFi arguably precedes some of these existing essentials on Maslow’s chart, hands down. “What’s your WiFi password?” is the typical greeting these days when entering a home or office and it’s already becoming a standard in stores, restaurants, bars, hotels and so on.

Particularly in Jamaica, we are seeing growing WiFi spaces in public parks and schools through government-related entities such as the Universal Service Fund, positively impacting thousands of students. Look at even the public buses that are being equipped with free WiFi courtesy of Growth-Tech and Digicel to keep a quarter million daily commuters connected while using the Jamaica Urban Transit Company (JUTC) system.

On the global advertising stage, businesses are now heavily focused on digital means (primarily social media) for advertising value. Though still very effective, traditional advertising such as TV have been slidetackled over the last two decades, having been overtaken since 2017.

We must wonder, what is the future of advertising for the next two decades? Will ads get smarter, more targeted, more interactive and possibly 100 per cent digital? One thing is for sure, the target audience has to be connected to the Internet for marketers to garner the maximum reapable value from the digital space; especially for time sensitive and re-marketing strategies.

That said, the future and effectiveness of digital advertising is heavily dependent on getting more people connected in more places and for longer with sponsored WiFi — a major piece of that puzzle.

In a survey conducted by Growth-Tech with 700 responses via the WiFi on buses, 40 per cent said they purchase connectivity for zero to six days in any given month and a further 14 per cent for seven to 13 days. This represents well over half (54 per cent) of the respondents saying they do not purchase connectivity for more than 13 days in a month. The balance of days we surmise that they either seek free alternatives (if available) or no connectivity at all. The reality is that if someone has spare cash, the choices competing with purchasing data will include things like gambling, smoking, food or liquor to name a few and connectivity doesn’t always win.

However, any minute, hour or day we aren’t connected feels life threatening. If there is an option to access free WiFi by watching an unskippable advertisement or doing a short survey, then advertising on WiFi in comparison to other digital means, is quite premium. Many advertisers here in Jamaica have been diversifying their digital advertising budgets to include WiFi ads and here is why:


It’s a better barter

Sponsored ads on social media, for example, interrupts us if irrelevant and is getting more frequent of late as we scroll pass 95 per cent of them. Some advertisers are boosting ads so frequently that, at times, it feels as if they are forcing our most detested food item (in my case mushrooms) down our throats for nothing. There should be a button we can press on all ads that sends back a message to say “Hello advertiser, I don’t care to see your ad, so what are you giving me in return for watching it?”

WiFi advertising is an invaluable barter arrangement between the advertiser and target market and is more along the lines of the advertiser saying “Here’s some free WiFi, but first, just watch my ad or do my survey.” This is a totally different strategy, which is a bit easier to swallow, especially if the ad is irrelevant to the user and it gives them something they need in the same breath. Who knows, users may be so grateful for WiFi that they reconsider taking on your product or service or think about you first subconsciously, when they are next in the market for something you offer.


Higher viewing probabilities

Marketers are all about “impressions” which is simply when your target audience saw your advertisement. The advertising value is measured mainly by its cost per mille (CPM), that is the cost for every 1,000 impressions. For many of the popular digital ad providers like LinkedIn, an impression counts when the ad is visible for at least three seconds on someone’s screen and has an effective price range of US$0.05-US$0.10 per impression. At this cost, advertisers can’t guarantee that all their impressions were actually viewed so instead they examine Cost Per Click (CPC) or Cost Per Action (CPA) to determine how many of their ads were actually clicked on. The average impression click-through rate globally on all the renowned social media platforms is under two per cent.

For WiFi advertising, there is no skipping whatsoever for 10 to 30 seconds of ads and the impression click-through rates are coming out at over 10 per cent, which is five times better than other digital platforms. The most popular and comparable medium that uses the unskippable strategy heavily, is YouTube, which costs US$0.10-US$0.30 per view. However, the click-through rates are averaging fewer than two per cent like their other social media counterparts. WiFi ads in Jamaica are in-line with this figure or even cheaper, for far better click-through rates.


Positive Brand Sentiment

A Facebook or Instagram campaign result may look respectable to an advertiser who got thousands of people to click-through, but what about the larger set of thousands who were irritated from being bombarded with ads and did not care to click through?

Not only does an advertiser get to tie their advertisement to a dire basic need, but it is also a public-spirited gesture as the advertiser’s WiFi sponsorship was the reason someone may have otherwise had no connectivity. Businesses today are seeking new and more impactful ways of contributing to society and WiFi is equally or more appreciated than some of the charitable needs typically of focus, going right back to the Maslow comparisons mentioned.


It helps Jamaica

Developing countries like Jamaica are seeking to create an ecosystem to nurture more efficiency, automation and online businesses, all of which will contribute to economic growth. Not to mention the boost more WiFi locations will give to the tourism sphere as visitors share more experiences when connected. Our Jamaican soil will someday not have a single square foot lacking free basic connectivity (excluding streaming or VoIP) for a local or visitor to utilise. It is the inevitable, but I urge public and private sector executives to consolidate and accelerate efforts versus making it happen organically as there is greener grass for us as a nation the more places we attach. Telco operators will benefit as WiFi providers purchase bulk data on the public’s behalf who otherwise may not be able to afford. There are also bolt-on services which can be leveraged; not to mention more focus can now be placed on the core network infrastructure to future proof Jamaica for first-world speeds.

Jamaica ranks 98 on the Global ICT Development Index and 61 on the Inclusive Internet Index with both metrics examining Internet adaptation for all countries worldwide. They look at its availability, reliability and affordability to name a few and I see no reason why our “likkle but tallawah” country cannot lead in this space through more connectivity initiatives and other key technological pillars.


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