Mobile-message start-up pays for ad views

Company boasts close to 70,000 members

Wanganui mobile-phone advertising company HooHaa started out in 2007, signed up 20,000 members in just a couple of months and now boasts close to 70,000 members — and has already sent out over one million text messages, says founder Brian Hawker.

HooHaa — whose clients to-date include major local organisations, including leading airlines, film companies, food and alcohol companies, banks, television channels, retailers, travel agents, government agencies and credit card companies — offers clients targeted mobile advertising.

Members sign up via HooHaa’s website and create a profile, ticking areas they are interesting in and would like to receive text messages about. The incentive for members is they are paid 10 cents for every message they receive. There are three ways members can then use this credit: they can convert it into mobile phone credit; they can donate it to charity, or they can transfer it into their Pago account. Pago is a digital payment service.

Advertisers can target members by demographic selection or geographic location. For example, a women’s clothing retailer could choose to send messages to women living close to a particular shop that has a sale on, says Hawker.

Advertisers simply log in to the website, choose the age, location and other characteristics of the group they wish to target, create the message they wish to send, and select a date and time for the text message to go out. For every step of the process, the application will show the advertiser the number of people the ad will go out to, and the cost. Each message costs 60 cents.

According to HooHaa, 16% of its members are high school students, 16% are tertiary students, 31% are young professionals, aged 25 to 35, and 25% are families, with a further 4% being “savvy greys” — older professionals.

The company also offers other services, such as in-house ad design and sending messages from clients’ own databases. It also offers “canned” messages that sit in the system and go out to members as soon as they join or their profile changes so they meet the criteria for a particular message, says Hawker. The Electoral Enrolment Centre, for example, sends a message to members the day they turn 18, encouraging them to enrol to vote.

One of the latest offerings — in response to increased usage of smart phones and mobile data — is a rich-media service where the message contains a URL so the user can download a video, says Hawker.

According to recent research, 99.7% of members open and read the HooHaa text messages, says Hawker.

HooHaa, which employs 10 people, has its own development team, and the filter mechanisms are built in-house. The company has a sales office in Auckland and an operation with two staff in Australia. It also has agreements with Vodafone and Telecom.

One of the developers is currently doing his OE, but he is still working for the company from the UK. This arrangement has worked out really well because of the time difference, as the London-based developer has tasks ready for the team in New Zealand every morning, says Hawker.

Now it’s time to “take this New Zealand idea to the world”, says Hawker. The company has an international roll-out strategy, initially targeting Thailand and the UK.

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