Opera Software in 2012 introduced a service called Web Pass for mobile operators allowing customers to purchase short-term data access. Users without a data plan are able to buy “passes”
for specific periods or content, such as unlimited Web browsing for a day to an hour on Facebook.
On Friday, Opera announced a program that will let advertisers sponsor these data
packages. In exchange, a consumer would have to view a full-screen ad before their Web session begins. There are no brands on board at launch, but the initiative is aimed at global brands, such as
Coca-Cola, that want to reach consumers in the emerging markets where Opera has a wider presence.
The company’s Opera Mini browser is installed on an estimated 248 million
phones worldwide, with particular strength in countries including Indonesia, Russia, India, Brazil and Mexico. The Web Pass platform so far has been adopted by carriers in Malaysia, Turkey, Ukraine
and the former Soviet Republics, with more deals in the works.
“Sponsored Web Pass gives operators a unique channel to partner with the advertisers and content providers who are
already driving traffic across their networks, and helps both parties to participate in monetization of that traffic,” said Nuno Sitima, senior vice president of business development at Opera,
which unveiled the new ad offering ahead of the Mobile World Congress kicking off Monday.
The company is also hoping that mobile users in developing markets who rely on pre-paid plans
will be enticed by the opportunity to go online for free courtesy of a participating sponsor. How much it will cost advertisers isn’t clear. An Opera spokesperson declined to provide information
on pricing related to sponsorships.
The move follows AT&T’s launch of a sponsored data program in January, allowing marketers to underwrite data costs for a variety promoted
content, including, apps, games, videos, and white papers. Startup Aquto this week announced it would power ads in conjunction with the AT&T initiative.