Advertising is everywhere in China. In the most unexpected and unlikely places you are bombarded with advertising messages (see for some good examples this article by Sam Flemming). And one more advertising location has now been added to the list: ringback tones. I personally hate the current music ringback tones, and when I call people that use them the conversation may be off to a bad start because of it. Why force me to listen to music you may like? To make matters worse, people normally do not change their music either. One person I regularly need to call has a horrible and way-too-loud ringback tone that has not changed in the past 2 years, and the person probably does not even realize it because she never hears it herself.
But things will be worse soon, because instead of listening to music you will start to hear advertising messages… China Mobile launched the ‘service’ on July 1 with initially 3 advertisers. How does it work? A user can earn back some of his mobile fees by signing up for the program. The mobile user has to download the ringback tone for 0.5 RMB. From that moment on everybody that calls the number will hear the ad, and the person gets 0.03 RMB per call. Per month you can earn a maximum of 10 RMB, which means that you have forced about 300 people who call you to listen to ads.
Right now the advertising ringback tones are only available in Beijing, and there has been hardly any promotion for it. Currently about 3000-4000 ringback tones are broadcast each day, but that number will grow exponentially when more people will learn about it.The service will be rolled out nationwide later this year. I do not look forward to it.