Nothing is ever really free, and the last sort of service you’d expect to get without forking out anything is a phone call.
Econet has a different approach though. The mobile operator has a free phone service called Buddie Sponsored Calls. It’s a quick call option that allows you to call another Econet subscriber for free for up to 30 seconds. There’s a catch – you have to listen to a 15-second advert.
To access the service you dial *154*The Number# I tried the prompt, and managed to go through the preliminary sign up process that asks for age and gender, part of the data gathering stage that the Buddie Sponsored Calls will use. After that, I couldn’t proceed and I kept getting a pop up informing me that the service was being upgraded.
I was, however, able to make a free 30-second call when I dialed a similar prompt that is available on the website justpalm.com. That’s the third party service provider partnering with Econet on this. These guys have made this service (called ChiChi sponsored call) available in South Africa and have engaged brands like Unilever.
From the information available online, this service has been on trial for quite a while with a little over 200,200 subscribers documented at the end of February 2015. Those numbers are impressive for a short campaign, but Econet is likely going to be gunning for much larger numbers from its significant subscriber total.
It’s a smart way to create passive revenue from existing infrastructure, especially in a year where every idea that brings in money is being looked at closely. It won’t be the first that something in line with advertising is tried by the operator though. Last year, Econet was exploring another ethereal revenue strategy with pop-up notification advertising.