Brands Are Lining Up to Reach Locket’s 150,000 Users

Mobile startup pays consumers to view ads

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Locket, an Android app that pays users a penny each time they view an ad while unlocking their phones, may seem like a head scratcher of a business model. And yet, the two-month-old app has already attracted an impressive 150,000 users and a dozen campaigns ready to launch.

One major brand joining up is SunnyD. The orange-flavored drink this week will test Locket’s high-res promos, which target consumers by location, time of day, gender and other parameters.

“We want to reach mobile moms in grocery stores,” said Mark Ozimek, SunnyD’s brand manager. “There’s not a lot of ways of doing that … so she’s looking down, unlocking her phone—and our brand is there. If we have an on-sale product, we can connect her to our products, and we can give an incentive for her to engage with us.”

Bonobos, Spotify, Zipcar and Orbitz are among the other brands testing Locket ads. This past weekend, Scharffen Berger, owned by Hershey’s, geotargeted Locket ads around a wine-and-chocolate-tasting event at Napa Valley’s Beringer Vineyard that it and Locket co-sponsored. Those who clicked through the ads got an exclusive VIP invitation to the event.

“We feel we can break ground while reaching new potential customers,” said Sean Maurer, brand director at Scharffen Berger. “They [ads] are very beautiful. Before a consumer starts playing a game or checking their email, it is the first thing they see. Sometimes, people want a distraction so they turn to their phone. We are going to be right there with something extremely visual and engaging.”

Consumers are willing to view Locket’s ads so that they can scrounge up a little lunch money or save bit by tiny bit for a vacation—they certainly are not getting rich from it. Users ring up an average of $5 or so per week that gets credited to their accounts, potentially adding up to a few hundred dollars a year.

Analysts wonder if that’s enough incentive to grow the platform, however. Plenty of other startups have attempted to pay users to contribute content but ultimately failed.

“We can definitely increase that amount as we get more advertisers on board and generate more revenue,” said Locket CEO Yunha Kim. She added that her marketer clients so far have achieved clickthrough rates of 4 percent, which is quadruple the industry average. Brands are in constant rotation on the app, and typically run a variety of creative. Scharffen Berger ran a dozen different ads.

“A lot of users tell us that they are not in it for the money but [for] the surprise of waking up to the phone to see which ads we are showing that day,” Kim said.

Meanwhile, Locket has named its first sales chief, Charity Sabater, who held the same post at King, parent of the crazy popular game Candy Crush.

“Currently, many advertisers are trying to buy up the entire slot for Black Friday,” Kim said.

Michael Becker of mobile marketing firm Somo believes Locket has loads of potential. “As long as you have explicit, mutual, valuable exchange, then the consumer, the marketer and the marketplace win,” he said.

Maybe even if they’re winning just a penny at a time.

@Chris_Heine Christopher Heine is a New York-based editor and writer.