A couple of days ago, it was revealed that Safaricom was in the process of supplementing its popular super-app M-PESA with ads.
The development, of course, was met by public uproar, but it was for good reason.
See, we are used to in-app adds in the form of sponsored posts or banners or auto-play videos.
This, however, is not the case for the M-PESA app.
I say this because the ads are already here, and here is how they run.
First and foremost, the M-PESA app is filled to the brim with a lot of features.
One of the features is named mini-apps, which are travel, lifestyle and utility apps that are part of the M-PESA app. This means that you can access services such as Pro Gas to purchase a gas cylinder, or BuuPass to book a ticket to your next local destination without downloading their individual apps/accessing them from their respective websites.
Mini apps are also kind of huge because Safaricom is selling them to services that want their apps plugged in the M-PESA app, bearing in mind that the mobile money tool has received more than 1.4 million downloads.
No other Kenyan app has achieved such a feat.
Now, the ads, in this case, are kind of tiny banners just near the top part of the app’s home screen.
They have been made to blend with the overall theme of the app, and if you are not keen, you might think they are part of the app.
Safaricom announced that this is the model it is going to take in terms of showing ads to customers.This is an ad by the BuuPass mini app
Specifically, if a mini app wants more visibility, then its owners basically pay the carrier to have their service flashed at the home screen.
This is not the same as the annoying ads that we see in apps at the bottom of our screens, or those that force you to view a certain promotional video before you can proceed to complete a certain task.
Of course, Safaricom knows this, that if it were to take the latter ad model, it would push away users whom it needs to keep the app growing.
So far, we have seen two kinds of ads: one informing users that they can Fuliza airtime natively without using a third-party solution such as Pay Bill numbers, and another promotional deal by BuuPass that allows customers to book a local flight for just KES 1000 (remember the seats are limited so don’t worry if you have not been able to book one).