The word “monetization” is not a new; officially it means to coin money, or to establish something as legal tender, but in recent years has come to mean utilizing something of value (that was previously considered free or unprofitable) as a source of revenue and profit. In recent years, we’ve seen companies monetize our homes, our cars, and even our bodies. (Last we checked, a permanent forehead tattoo yielded $10,000 for one lucky lady). But now, a VC backed start-up in New York is asking a new question – would you allow brands to advertise on your phone’s lock screen. If your immediate reaction is no, consider this: what if they offered you money for every time you swiped to unlock the phone?
The creators of Locket, the new mobile app that launched in July for Android, certainly hope the small financial incentive will change your mind. One of the founders, Yunha Kim, a former investment banking analyst at Jefferies, describes how she came up with the idea: “Working in banking, my only outlet to my outside life was my phone,” she says. “And looking at my lock screen – which was just a picture of a daisy – the question was, ‘how do we monetize that?’” That seems to be the question on every entrepreneur’s mind these days – how do we monetize that? On average, it is reported that people unlock their mobile devices approximately 150 times per day. That makes the valuable lock screen real estate, typically reserved for photos of pets or loved ones, ripe for monetization.
Locket’s logistics are simple: the app displays the visually appealing full screen ads on the lockscreen of your mobile device. To unlock the device, you can swipe left to “interact” with the ad (and be taken to the advertiser’s website, facebook page, etc.), or you can swipe to the right, bypass the ad, and unlock your phone. Either way, you get paid one penny per swipe.
It appears that Locket is trying to define a new untapped market segment in mobile advertising called “first glace ads.” This concept is already at work in some Asian markets, like Korea, where, according to TechCrunch, similar companies have captured a 20 percent market share in three months. In the US however, this is a novel idea. Locket hopes to change the way consumers feel about ads, by only allowing aesthetically pleasing images to appear on its platform. Steve Smith, editor of the MediaPost‘s MobileInsider blog, seems open to the idea. “There is an element of pleasant surprise attached to unlocking the device because you never know what you are going to see. The images are generally pleasant and with a print ad sensibility.” For him it seems, if Locket truly delivers an engaging experience, it would be worthwhile. Phil Nickinson, at Android Central, disagrees. His week-long test of the app yielded less than worthwhile results.
At first launch, the app capped users at three swipes per hour. A recent update changed the pay structure to remove the cap, but limit users to getting paid only on new ads they see. Locket promises that the earning potential will increase as their list of advertisers grows.
One of the drawbacks of course is that you need to disable all other defaults to use Locket, which leaves your device without screen security – one of the main reasons to lock your screen in the first place. That fact hasn’t hampered Locket’s success so far. According to MediaPost, within the first few weeks,
the app was already serving 3 million impressions a day and seeing clickthroughs on the ads on average of 3.5%. A lock screen ad for Bombfell, for instance, was getting 62,000 daily impressions and enjoying 6.2% [click-through rate], while a campaign for the film Ender’s Game had 71,000 daily impressions and a 7.7% [click-through rate]… “Our target was to get 10,000 downloads in the first month,” [co-founder Chris Crawford reports]. “We got that within a day.” [A week after launch they] had over 50,000 downloads with an 80% retention rate so far.
It will be interesting to see how users respond to the new pay structure over the next few months, and how many quality advertisers the app continues to attract.