ADOTAS Conversations: Fred Ghahramani, Co-Founder, AirG

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Who are some of your advertising partners?

Already, we’ve received advertising from companies like Schick, Verizon DSL, Dunkin’ Donuts, etc., who are basically reaching out to consumers that are already active on their phones. They’re building out an interactive opportunity with users there.

What’s the secondary ad model like?

What’s actually more exciting to us is to build a mobile community around a specific brand, and actually build a relationship with consumers on their phones.

For example, in Asia, we work with MTV, and MTV has a mobile community service where users that watch MTV can text in and get this product on their phones, and lets them stay in touch with other users who are into MTV-branded products. What’s really happening there to the consumer is the consumer is joining a community and interacting with like-minded people, and MTV gets a secondary communication vehicle to promote upcoming events, news, releases, etc. So, MTV gets to build a relationship with consumers around their brands, similar to an online social network in their specific brand.

Recently, Coke announced they were doing a social network online through a website. But really, we see a bigger growth opportunity in this part of the business, which is to say to brand holders and media companies, “hey, there is actually an opportunity do this not just online, but through mobile phones.” And the benefits that you have on a mobile phones as a platform is that consumers have it all the time, with ubiquitous access to the platform, you can bill to people’s phone bills, and it’s more of a personal setting as opposed to online, which is really busy and full of ads.

The carriers were the first to realize this, because we built a lot of mobile communities around their brands.

So tell me about the new Boost network campaign for “Hookt”. What role do you guys play?

You know West Coast Customs, right? Basically, what the user sees, should you be exposed to this via radio, MySpace or mobile on the Boost Network, that if you use the social networking product called “Hookt” [through] January 15th, you are entered in to win a pimped out Dodge Charger that’s fully customized by them. It’s got the Hookt veneer, it’s lowered, and it’s fully macked out.

So behind-the-scenes, there are really two campaigns here that are happening. One is West Coast Customs is putting their expertise into the product and basically reaching out to the same demographic of people they’re really trying to target anyways, which really resonates with that people that are on Boost—the 18-30 [demographic]. It’s a national campaign as well, a multi-platform campaign that reaches out to the people who get the West Coast Customs brand message and value proposition through the radio campaign, the MySpace interactive and obviously through all their wireless properties as well.

But the focus [from our perspective] is use the mobile product to be entered to win. That’s kind of the Z part there. Of course, then there’s Boost doing the campaign, spending the money, and the value they’re getting out of it is using the social networking tool, and then differentiating the services they offer to acquire customers.

The idea is you’re going to hear a radio ad that says, ‘join Hookt between now and January 15th”…I text the word “ride” to 46658, and if you do that on another network, you’re not going to be able to participate in this campaign. So the value to Boost is they use this as a differentiating tool to get customers in the door and really highlight what’s different on Boost, and social networking is front and center—that’s all that huge lifestyle product push on the Boost network only. Of course, the value to the advertiser, West Coast [Customs], is they actually get to piggyback on that campaign, but also reach out to customers in a multi-platform with radio, online and now, wireless.

What significant results have you seen thus far from your perspective?

The interesting thing here is in the first 24 hours through the wireless medium, we had 29,000 entries, so we’ll see how it shapes up over the next three months, and see which platform actually drives more customers. The radio campaign starts in November, so it should be interesting to see what the impact of that is. I guess the key story here is that social networking on phones, it seems esoteric, but here’s an actual network doing a national campaign, putting this front and center. And here’s an albeit niche, but still focused advertiser that sees the value in this customer base, doing a multi-platform push and really piggyback social networking and try to do this in a new way.

How did AirG get involved?

The way that it came about, we’re proactively going out and selling opportunities like this. So, we’re basically sitting down and brainstorming what brand-holder really resonates with these customers, which we know on Boost are all prepaid users.They’re predominantly in urban centers, listen to urban music, watch MTV. Some of the other profiling things we’ve done is we know that 59% don’t own a PC, but they’re going to spend over $80 a month on their phone bill. So, we know that they have disposable income.

We’re also noticing that what’s unique about West Coast is it’s not like every single person who’s using this product or signs up to this will walk into West Coast Customs and spend $40,000 on modifying their Lamborghini. A big part of their messaging is to go about this aspirational group of people—it’s like a cult following that they have. Ninety-nine percent of people watching Pimp My Ride will never pimp their ride. That 1% who do spend the money, if you get that pure recognition, it’s actually valuable.

As an engineer, my assessment of the value proposition to these guys is that they need to build out this brand and get this identity out there—they’re urban, they’re street, they keep it real, they know how to modify cars and they can basically give you your identity in your car. It’s an interesting little campaign, and obviously, there are going to be more of these coming up by us, but it’s the first one that really focuses on one network, one specific advertiser, and multiplies their benefits.

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