Want to make a few extra bucks using your smartphone? No, it's not an online survey company promising prizes in exchange for your opinion -- it's a mobile app called Locket and it's attracting reputable venture capitalists.
Designed for Android users, Locket is debuting its concept with plenty of financial backing. Great Oaks VC has put $500,000 into the company and a couple of private angel investors from the entertainment and marketing worlds are also betting on the newfangled concept.
"The problem was clear -- phone plans are too d*** expensive. But you see, as users, we over here at Locket are very lazy," said Christopher Crawford, co-founder of Locket. "We needed something that could make phones a little less expensive without requiring anyone to actually have to do any work."
The answer was Locket. Locket turns the world of digital advertising on its head. Rather than having to pay to get rid of the ads on your favorite apps, Locket sets the stage for relevant brands to pay you to display their ads. (The keyword is relevant.)
"Almost everyone agrees that most advertising sucks. Yes. Sucks. It's intrusive, dumbed-down drivel that constitutes the 'cost' of using an otherwise 'free' service," Crawford said. "You see ads when visiting a Web site, downloading a free app and watching TV. But it doesn't really benefit anyone."
As he sees it, it's a win-win situation. On the one hand, you get some extra cash for doing something you do all day, everyday, anyway. On the other hand, he said, brands can deliver their messages to a captive audience, with no competing content, at all times during the day: when someone first wakes up to turn off his alarm, when someone is watching the clock as it nears lunch, and when someone is watching TV.
"Think about it. . . as a brand would you rather be one of ten things on Facebook that someone may or may not see, or would you rather be the first and only thing that people see whenever they look at their phone?" he asked. "To even get close to having the same touch throughout a consumer's day, a brand would need to buy a TV commercial, print ad, radio ad, web media, and many, many billboards."
We caught up with Ross Rubin, principal analyst at Reticle Research, to get his take on the new digital advertising model. He seems somewhat bullish on Locket's innovation.
"We've seen many schemes through the years to pay people to look at digital ads, but they usually fall flat because of limited compensation to the users and limited reach," Rubin said. "These would occupy prime real estate on the phone for something consumers need to do anyway with little extra effort once its set up, so it may have some potential particularly if it can attract an engaging inventory of ads."