Rise and Fall of SMS Advertising in Pakistan

text_messageNot now, but two years ago or so we saw increasing trend of SMS advertising. To be exact, it was November 2006 when SMS advertising was born in Pakistan, thanks to Warid’s Zoom package.

Warid is pioneer in offering SMS packages with two options; one of them was unlimited SMS’s a day for Rs. 7 plus taxes. This package was sensed as an opportunity by advertisers and they started sending bulk text messages. These advertising companies used to charge 15 to 25 paisas per SMS, and started this channel as a advertising business.

By the way, SMS advertisers used multiple Mobile Phones attached with computer, through USB or serial cables. These phones (could be 100 at a time) were then managed by specialized applications installed on computer to send messages to list of hundreds of thousands of mobile numbers.

It merits mentioning here that one phone can send 1 SMS per 5 to 7 seconds – that’s 600 SMS per hour on average, and 15,000 SMS a day for parallel broadcast. So if a company had 100 phones, it could throw 1.5 million SMS in 24 hours.

Soon Warid realized that their network is being spammed by advertisers, especially when network was jammed due to 2 million advertising SMS a day (as per estimates); Warid capped its unlimited SMS package with maximum limit of 250 SMS a day.

This confinement didn’t stop SMS advertisers, who remained in search of SMS packages that offered unlimited SMS. Then was the Paktel postpaid, that had unlimited SMS per month for a fixed monthly rental of Rs. 1,500, which turned out to be a treat for advertisers, as Paktel’s network had no traffic then (it was nearing its sale out), resultantly Paktel offered high level of satisfaction for SMS delivery to advertisers.

After China Mobile acquired Paktel, they seized all postpaid packages, and thus the offer was taken back. This was the time, when other companies started offering huge amount of text messages at a fixed price, but with a limit. For instance, Telenor offered 10,000 SMS for Rs. 150 in early 2008, and so did the Ufone.

With all these packages, SMS advertisers were never short of options for sending text messages at very low prices; however revenues kept on decreasing due to increasing competition and price war amongst the SMS advertisers  themselves. Per SMS rate fell down to 5 Paisas which was once 20 to 25 paisas.

Eventually, we saw majority of SMS advertisers dying in late 2008 due to this price war and low return.

Currently, we don’t see many SMS ads; however, there are few exceptions that are operating even now.

Thanks to SMS ads, idea was adopted by businesses and corporations for sending legitimate text messages/ alerts to their subscribers or employees. By legitimate text messages I mean, they use short codes with bulk SMS offerings, specially designed by cellular companies for the purpose.

Pros of SMS Advertising

  • SMS advertising happens to be the most productive medium for advertisers
  • Very cost effective, when compared to other mediums’ cost and return
  • This way advertisers could reach all those potential subscribers who miss other advertising channels, such as print, electronic, online
  • Highest Instant response in case your text message contains a help line number

Cons of SMS Advertising

  • It was SPAM, no question about it
  • Advertisers had to send SMS on list of series, out of which many number happened to be in-active or switched off. This was waste of resources

Potential for Cellular Companies

Now at this point of time, when conventional SMS advertisers have given up, cellular companies are engaging into this business by sending advertisements through SMS to their subscribers. In fact I just received Coke Studio SMS on my Ufone number.

Even though it is SPAM, but we will have to bear it, as my operator thinks this message can be of benefit to me.

Tech reporter with over 10 years of experience, founder of ProPakistani.PK

  • Ufone is spamming my whole family still everyday with 1 to 6 advertisement messages. We are all too much disturbed I have left Ufone ported out but my family members are still crazy they do not want to leave Ufone but they are always abusing Ufone.

  • Great way to advertise i think still this sort of marketing got alot of potential locally and internationally

  • Aamir U wrote the right sceane.
    i am rcving those spam sms @ of 8to10/day.
    they says to tune my car, to buy CNG kit at very low price, House maintaining Services, New Offers, MNP, also Bulk SMS Software and a looooong list. and the thing is that my Network Operator is helpless in this regard (if u complain).

    (and Plz write about Unwanted SMS/Email forwarders besides of Marketing)

  • nice article..Attaa im writing my thesis on telecom developments in Pak and the impact of these developments on the young generation..Can u help in any way,, i need some data/ latest figures about trends in mobile communication and their relation with the youth…!!!

    im doing the industry analysis as well. I have read ur articles before and have quoted in my work. If u can provide some stuf, wud b great..btw i live in the UK and just finishing my MSc in International Business Management.

    • Usman there is an article (interview in fact) coming next week, i will email you that; which will greatly help you understand the concept of youth and their usage of telecom services in Pakistan.

      Even in that article, data won’t be included, specifically about the youth. Reason you know that demographics are not considered important in the country, hence very little data is available. However, estimates are there which you will get soon.

      Stay in touch

  • Aamir, are you planning to write an article on the code that cellular companies allows for advertisers?

  • ALLAH ke bandon ALLAH se daro, ALLAH sab se bara hai us ka koi sareek nahi, us ke siwa koi abadat ke laaek nahi wo akela hai usi ki badshahi hai aur ussi ke liye tamam tareefein hein aur wo har cheez per qadir hai ALLAH paak hai.

    Mein gawahi deta hn “”ALLAH ke siwa koi abadat ke laaek nahi us ka koi sareek nahi aur Hazrat MUHAMMAD (Peace Be Upon Him) ALLAH ke bande aur Rasool hein.


    1….Mout ko apne qareeb tar jano, aur zindagi ko ghanimat samjh ke jiyo, nimaz is halat mein parho,{a}: yaqeen ho tumhen ALLAH dekh raha hai,{b}: khofe aelahi dil mein ho, {c}: zehen mein ye ho ke malkul-mout tumhen lene aya hai yehi tumhari akhri nimaz hai. [ QURAN:{Surah As-Sajda}ayat no:15+16 ]. “”ALLAH ko (khof) aur (umeed) se pukaaro.”” { Yani ease pukaro jese sab log jannat ki taraf ja rahen hein aur tum akele dozaq mein, easa (Khof ho).} {aur (Umeed) ho tumhen jese sab log dozaq mein ja rahen hon aur tum akele jannat mein ja rahe ho.}

    2….Haq(sach) ko janana ho to, batil(shetan) ke teeron ko dekho, jahan lag rahe hon wo haq(sach) hai.

    3….shetani kaamon ko chor do, chahe tumhen nuqsan bhi ho.{ ALLAH se daro} [ QURAN:{Surah Ya-Seen}ayat no:60+61 ]. “” Ae ulaad-e-Adam kaya mein ne tum se ehad na liya tha,ke shetan ko na poojna,beshak wo tumhara khula dushman hai.Aur meri bandagi karna,ye seedhi rah hai.””

    4…Jo apne ap ko na jan saka wo dosron ko kaya pehechany ga.

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    6….Seeraab wohi hota hai jese piyaas ho……..kisi sayal ko khali hath na behjo,ye tumhare upar ALLAH ka karam hai,ke ALLAH ne apni makhlooq ko tumhare darwaze per behjha hai.

    7…Har kisi ko apne se behtar jano, jab bhi ghar se bahir niklo ya kisi se milne jayo.

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