Date: 2021/02/23

From Mobile First to Mobile Forced – What SA Marketers need to know… Challenge: Cost of Data & Airtime?

I believe the biggest challenge we have seen in the marketplace, that affects the use of mobile media and marketing, is the cost and availability of data, especially during these times.

For a while now, data could cost financially constrained South Africans 100 times more when purchased in small bundles, and during lockdown this issue has only escalated.

With Covid-19 having changed the way we communicate: the more limited access to Wifi at work, schools, community centres or in shopping malls, and the limitations and inconvenience of not being able to physically purchase more when needed, has led many South Africans to not have airtime or data when marketers need them to respond.

To overcome this challenge, let your brand sponsor your customers’ engagement by reverse billing their costs. How?

For Web & Apps:

Cloud based technology allows us to eliminate the mobile data cost barrier by enabling the use of the telco ‘reverse billing’ model.

Basically, we create a mirror image of your site on a reverse billed IP address range (domain) and pull the content from your site to that page. Whomever you want to experience #datafree, can be sent the link to that domain rather than your original one.

It can work for apps, and mobile websites and campaign sites. There are some limitations on certain website technologies, but it is currently available in SA across all the major networks, and on Airtel in Nigeria.

Obviously, the more we compress our site’s images and videos, the less the brand will have to pay in reverse billed traffic costs. Using AI (Artificial Intelligence) compression technology, we can substantially decrease the size of your media files by up to 90% whilst not impacting the quality and load times – with the added benefit of allowing you to use more video on your website and improving your Google score and online sales.


With millions of South Africans NOT on Smartphones, USSD is still a must! Yes, those *120* dial codes are still very popular. In fact, we just ran a campaign for a mobile survey on reverse billed web and USSD and 78% preferred dialing the USSD code. The reverse billed USSD codes starting with *134* have been in high demand during lockdown as government and brands use it as a platform for essential communications and engagement. Furthermore, now, as we prepare for POPIA’s 1 July 2021 deadline, providing a “free to consumer” USSD channel is a quick and convenient way to collect, refresh and augment data, consumer profiles and consent (opt-in) for communication.

For SMS:

The past few years have shown us that having a reverse billed SMS Short Code as a call to action on your ad, where the consumer does not pay a cent to SMS the brand, generates much more response. We have seen an increase of up to 6 times the response rate, just because it doesn’t need the consumer to have any airtime or data on their phones to send the SMS.

Nowadays, you should even reverse bill your SMS replies… why? Because the POPIA Act’s Section 69 (Direct Marketing by means of unsolicited electronic communications) says that you have to offer an easy way to opt-out on each communication, that is free of charge! So, you can offer a reverse billed SMS reply, SMS short code or USSD code to dial to allow them to opt-out.

Two great examples of local award-winning campaigns that ran during lockdown are:

NIVEA #TakeExtraCare

Connecting loved ones with a free minute call, without needing to use airtime was an essential service to maintain mental health.

Users dialed a USSD string with a loved one’s phone number. The USSD system allowed for reverse billing: people could speak to their loved ones for 1 minute and NIVEA sponsored the call.

NIVEA provided 150 022 unique people with the ability to speak to a loved one, building a permission-based database of over 158 000 and getting over 300 000 South Africans to speak to each other in 6 days!

Awards: Gold Assegai Award 2020 – CRM Programmes, Bronze for Mobile Marketing (in collaboration with Carat and The 13th Floor)

View Case Study with video

MyMomentum BabyYumYum Maternity Programme

MyMomentum BabyYumYum Maternity Programme is unique: personalised weekly content, reacts to how mommy is feeling with pro-active call, involves birthing buddy, providing tangible benefits (meal voucher, swag bag, home nurse visits), using the following multi-channel mobile centric platforms as 96% of the mommies were on their mobile phones:

•         Personalised reverse billed SMS Messaging
•         Personalised Wrap (mobile web-app like message)
•         Mobile-First Reverse billed Web for Mommy portal
•         WhatsApp Business Chatbot

Awards: Silver Assegai Award 2020 - CRM Programmes, Leader in Database and Analytics Innovation

(in collaboration with BabyYumYum and Shandon Business Solutions)

View Case Study

Top Take-Aways

Here are our top 3 key take-aways to enable technology for this mobile forced audience to…

Overcoming the Challenge of Cost of Airtime and Data? Reverse Bill to sponsor the costs of your Mobi-sites, Apps, USSD, SMS Short Codes and SMS Replies

2. Leverage the trend of instant messaging platforms like WhatsApp Business? Use a Chatbot to optimize your business communications.

3. Take Advantage of the Opportunity of Video? Combine Video + Data to create a Personalised & Interactive Video Experience that is engaging and collaborative.