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Is It Worth $5 a Month to See a Lock-Screen Ad When You Open Your Phone?

Unlockd and Boost Mobile aim to find out

Unlockd hopes people will look at ads in exchange for discounts on their monthly phone bills. Getty Images

Unlockd has a pitch that resonates with advertisers nowadays: Your mobile promos will not be blocked on our platform. The Australian startup, which is backed by News Corp. founder Rupert Murdoch's son, serves ads via Android users' lock screens.

And now, thanks to a deal with Sprint-owned Boost Mobile, Unlockd is coming to America. Unlockd serves ads to folks once every three times they wake up their phones and enter their passwords. Boost is utilizing Unlockd's tech to power Boost Dealz, an Android app that takes $5 off a user's monthly bill in exchange for engaging with brands. Levi's, Starbucks, Lyft, Hulu and EA Sports are among the early advertisers testing the platform in the U.S.

But is five bucks enough for consumers to constantly view lock-screen ads? 

"Our business model is [partly] to provide a discount to consumers as a value exchange," explained Matt Berriman, CEO of Unlockd. At the same time, he said, his product team aims to supply Boost Dealz users with exclusive content and special offers from the brands. For instance, Levi's pitched 30 percent off during the holidays. (See example on the right.)

"Research has shown that consumers are willing to engage with relevant and contextual information," Berriman said. 

They also open their phones 150 times a day on average, he added, while millennials do so 200 times a day. That's a lot of promotional opportunities that don't have to contend with dreaded ad blockers. 

Unlockd, which raised $15 million from investors—including News Corp. co-chairman Lachlan Murdoch—in October, seems similar to Locket, an app that monetarily rewarded uses for looking at ads. Locket was purchased by mobile shopping startup Wish, which integrated the app into its system, last summer. 

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