Want some free Wi-Fi? Okay, but watch this video first

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I recently travelled to the US, New York to be precise, and one thing that really caught my attention during the trip was that you could get free Wi-Fi almost anywhere- it was amazing! Free Wi-Fi in restaurants, bars, stores, hotels, airports… you name it. As great as it was, it did bring a few questions immediately to mind – so how exactly are all of these places offering this free Wi-Fi, and more importantly, who is paying for it?

When I found the answer, the process was quite simple. Wherever I would go, I’d find an unlocked Wi-Fi network. Once connected, you were given a few options to log in – to pay for a connection, use an existing account, or simply log in as a guest for free. There was a one small catch though… to get the great free Wi-Fiall I had to do was watch a video, an advertising video that is, for 30-60 seconds. Doing that would buy me between five and ten minutes of free Internet. Of course I would watch a short video in order to use the Internet!

There were two things in this simple procedure that blew my mind: one was the amazing notion that, curiously, the Internet has become as cheap as simply watching a video. And secondly, companies are realizing (finally!) how powerful personal video ads can be. Yes, video advertising works, and yes, there are alternative ways to “push” a video ad besides traditional TV and Cable. It gets even better…. Video ads are even more effective when you can decide when, how and what type of people are going to be watching them.

In this case, the people using the free Wi-Fi option are either tourists or travellers who, for whatever reason, don’t have Internet access on their phones. Therefore, companies can select which type of products to promote with this video, based on knowing who their viewers are and the environment they are watching it in. Imagine advertising last minute tickets to the theatre to those who are using the internet at the Time Square Starbucks early in the morning?

What made it even more interesting was that in most cases, even before I watched the video, just by connecting to the hotspot I was actually able to receive my emails from Gmail. Which of course had a great impact on the ‘need for Internet’ anxiety I was already feeling, as almost everything I get from my email are links to websites, videos, blogs etc.… I imagine it’s the same for most of you too. So every time my inbox beeped with new incoming messages, I needed to log onto the Internet which meant – yep you guessed it – I had to watch another video ad. And that’s how everything came full circle. I wonder how long it will take until we experience this in Australia – and who will be the first company enquiring to get a video produced to their new Free Wi-Fi video spot?

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