Facebook Hopes Missed Calls Are A Good Thing For Advertisers Targeting Feature-Phone Users In High-Growth Markets

By David Cohen 

MissedCall650With two-thirds of the world’s mobile users still accessing Facebook and other social networks and websites via feature phones, the social network has had to get creative when it comes to advertising solutions to reach those users, many of which are in high-growth markets such as India, Brazil, Indonesia, Mexico, South Africa, and Nigeria. How creative? How about an ad unit based on missed calls?

The social network said in a post on the Facebook for Business page that it took inspiration from the practice of dialing numbers and hanging up, in order to get the attention of the recipient of the call without paying for it:

When it comes to mobile communications in high-growth countries, necessity often breeds creativity. In India, for example, there is a “missed call” behavior that started as a workaround for the high cost of voice calls. Somewhat similar to a collect call, people dial a number and hang up before connecting to save voice minutes. Often the call is used to send a signal to a friend or family member, such as, “I’m outside,” or, “Call me back.” Some businesses have recently begun sending recorded messages or SMS messages to people who place a missed call to them.

We’re testing an ad unit in India that builds on this behavior. When a person sees an ad on Facebook, they can place a “missed call” by clicking the ad from their mobile device. In the return call, the person receives valuable content, such as music, cricket scores, or celebrity messages, alongside a brand message from the advertiser — all without using airtime or data. We’ve seen positive results in early tests with advertisers like Garnier Men, and we plan to scale this product in the coming months.

Facebook also detailed its efforts to enhance its ad-targeting offerings in high-growth markets:

Historically, advertisers in high-growth markets have had limited ways to reach and target the right people. To help advertisers reach people across any device, we’ve extended our targeting options in high-growth countries, in a privacy-safe way.

Life-stage targeting: The same targeting features available in the U.S. and U.K. — for example, targeting to new moms and dads; or people who have started a new job; or retirees — will soon be available in high-growth countries, as well.

Geo-targeting: Previously, more limited targeting options like city targeting were available for advertisers in high-growth countries. Today, advertisers can target people by state or even multiple states in India without having to list multiple cities. Our teams are currently working on additional geo-targeting enhancements in Nigeria, Turkey, South Africa, India, Indonesia, and across Latin America.


And Facebook announced that it teamed up with Nielsen on a new measurement solution to serve polls to users on feature phones, giving advertisers access to data on brand sentiment, purchase intent, and ad recall.

The social network explained the motivation behind all of these initiatives in the Facebook for Business post:

When you think of how people access the Internet, you might glance at your smartphone or computer and imagine everyone around the world using similar devices. However, roughly seven out of every 10 people in the world — many in high-growth countries like India, Brazil, Indonesia, Mexico, South Africa, and Nigeria — use far simpler devices, like feature phones, to access the Internet.

The rate of people using only mobile devices to access the Internet is skyrocketing, especially in high-growth countries. More than 1 billion people access Facebook on mobile every month, and many do so across multiple mobile devices. In many countries, a majority of those people experience Facebook on a feature phone: in India 66 percent, in Indonesia 71 percent, and in South Africa 68 percent.

In the past year, our teams in the U.S. and on the ground in Brazil, Indonesia, India, Turkey, and South Africa have worked to understand how people connect on all devices, and on all connections, from 2G in rural parts of the world to higher-speed data networks in expanding urban centers. We’ve used this feedback to create better mobile experiences on Facebook, as well as ad products that are better suited to the needs of people and advertisers in high-growth countries.

People in high-growth countries increasingly want to be connected to friends, family, news outlets, and brands. However, given fragmented media options and the expense of Internet connectivity, reaching people in certain countries has been a challenge for advertisers.

Last year, Facebook provided advertisers with the ability to place and target ads on feature phones. Since then, we’ve improved ad delivery by optimizing for low-bandwidth connections and offered enhanced features that give brands more storytelling options. Advertisers can reach millions of people — some for the very first time — on any device and in any country.

Businesses in high-growth countries need customized solutions to connect with people, and to help meet this need, we’re rethinking how we develop and implement products and services. We look forward to sharing more about this work in the future.

Readers: What do you think of Facebook’s efforts to help advertisers reach feature-phone users in high-growth countries?

Get Smart About Feature Phones