‘Tomato Plus’ Launches in Croatia

One of the most interesting new business models to be announced at the MMA Forum this week was OutThere Media‘s Tomato Plus, launched in conjunction with mobile operator, Vip Croatia.

OutThere is run by my pals Alexandra Deutsch and Kerstin Trikalitis and it’s great to see women leading the way in mobile. The core of their business is a mobile advertising platform that enables marketing for mobile operators, mainly in South-East Europe, so far. Currently the platform serves 100 million subscribers across 9 markets, which is a real achievement.

One of the features the platform delivers is an off-the-shelf Blyk – in other words, an ad-funded sub-brand for operators. The first operator is Vip Croatia, with their Tomato Plus tariff, offers 50 voice mins and 50 texts a month free, in return for getting (up to) 10 ads per day. They did say though that they felt the maximum tolerance for receiving ads was 5 or 6 per day and even this seems high to me if pushed via sms. In fairness though, if the ad is genuinely adding value in some way, and thus appreciated by the recipient, 10 seems a very reasonable limit.

Like Blyk, Tomato Plus is targeted to younger subscriber base and has pretty impressive first results.

I think a lot of carriers will be looking to explore a Blyk type model, especially as the economy has crashed, so this is a nice business potentially. While Blyk have a huge amount of learning to add value to their product, on the face of it, OutThere do offer operators a very easy way of defending their market if they feel vulnerable to a new threat. Moreover, operators have the advantage of being able to cross-sell to their existing subscriber base, who they feel might be tempted away. Blyk, on the other hand, have to build a subscriber base from the ground-up against a local competitor who almost certainly has more cash too.

The one issue that both Blyk and YABROs (Yet Another Blyk Rip Off) have though is market education of potential advertisers. This type of marketing calls for a radical rethink in the standard way of marketing, meaning prioritising targeting over reach and replacing preaching with dialogue. This may well be visionary and the right way to go long term, but in my opinion the industry really isn’t ready to make this step. It’s hard enough to get them to use mobile marketing in the first place, let alone use it in a way that’s new, uncomfortable and unproven.

It’s great to be a visionary. But the trick is to visioneer just as the market is ready to be persuaded. Tf you’re too early with your message, you’ll be wandering for years in the wilderness, only to see some Johnny Come Lately eventually run away with the congregation.

Anyway, good luck to Blyk and Out There Media. We’re all going to need some luck in these turbulent times, because it’s going to get very bad out there, my friends.

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