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EXCLUSIVE: Kevin Bermeister & Johannes Booysen launch AdFreeway in South Africa

Digital pioneers, Kevin Bermeister (think Skype and Kazaa) and Johannes Booysen (Yonder), have partnered to launch what they believe, is the next evolution in digital advertising - AdFreeway.
Kevin Bermeister and Johannes Booysen
AdFreeway is a platform that seeks to reward everyone in the digital advertising journey. Whereas social media shaped marketing, display media did not invite opinion. AdFreeway has closed that gap by integrating reward for participation.

In years gone by, information would be collected from television-watching audiences by means of a contract that rewarded them with money for their time and insights. This data then shaped broadcast and the advertising industry. Fast forward to the internet, that relationship morphed, and instead of being remunerated for the use of their data, audiences were given access to free content or services. But that, according to Bermeister and Booysen, is no longer an equitable exchange for the use of personal data.

I chat exclusively to the duo to find out more.

BizcommunityCould you tell us about AdFreeway?


AdFreeway is complexity simplified to enable payment to users for data that leads to improvements in ad campaign performance. It’s an attempt to transform display ads into a social hybrid as a new form of participation media. Everyone’s data is valuable, but not equal in value. We gamify advertising based on the present momentary value of an ad impression.

BizcommunityWhat sparked the idea?


Twenty years of consumer internet advertising without much change to the fundamentals and a global convergence to protect private data that resulted in GDPR, which is an unfortunate acronym. Websites were forced to add another unnecessary click before entry, yet users are no better off for it. It was time to pay users for their data, but we needed a model that would also improve performance as a direct result of a user participating.

BizcommunityCould you elaborate on how it works?


So far, we’ve paid more than 260,000 rewards to users who signed up with AdFreeway to collect. Every ad campaign has a minimum of three ads (A,B,C) delivered over three stages: In the first two stages we ask people to vote. Votes inform which of the A, B or C ads to serve to users in URL cohorts informed by temporary IDs. Some users may see the same ad multiple times other users may never see the ad because of the vote preferences.

BizcommunityWhat issues do you plan to solve?


Ad blindness, which occurs because attention to message sensitivity is generally ignored by advertisers, it’s a complex problem, but we have simplified it by asking users and applying their preferences to other users.

We also want to ensure that consumers are incentivised for consuming and engaging with digital ads, as well as incentivising advertising agencies to be part of the digital value chain by rewarding them for their brands participation and spending.
With AdFreeway, agencies have a definite role in the planning and setup of these campaigns by partnering with us, it needs hands on care to ensure we reach maximum campaign engagement and ultimately adoption.

BizcommunityTell us about the process of setting up this platform.


Ten years of iterative efforts over multiple technologies including P2P technology, ISP routers, Wi-Fi gateways and others eventually led to our integration through API’s written to our specification by The Trade Desk, so we could deliver the AdFreeway platform on the open internet globally.

BizcommunityWho was all involved?


The initiative started with Cisco and an Israeli company they eventually acquired. The two of us met up in Israel to consider the global roll-out of Cisco and other telco routers, but the underlying technology was changing rapidly and Google was rapidly promoting HTTP’s that limited our ability to execute on ads in HTTP browsers, which we were doing in our initial Wi-Fi trials.

BizcommunityHave you trialled and tested the platform? What did you discover?


During 2018/19, we ran pilot programmes in two public wharf locations in Sydney, Australia where we thoroughly tested the response to ads we were delivering to users who signed up for free Wi-Fi access. We found we could significantly increase the click-through-rate on ads we were delivering using our voting preferences vs. ads delivered randomly. It led us to The Trade Desk integration where we tested on many smaller campaigns in Australia and the USA during 2020. In December 2020 we quietly launched our first major campaign in South Africa and we are now ready to roll out en masse.

BizcommunityWhat is the ultimate end goal?


To aggregate audiences and to accelerate the volume of AdFreeway ad campaigns, and thereby the volume of rewards issued to audiences globally.
To establish an alternative global digital offering and to ensure that consumers understand the value and weight of their data and that they deserve to get something in return for this.
Bring a better yield and ROI to our customers/brands through our platform vs. straight or direct engagement from brands through the dominant digital platforms.

To find out more, go to https://adfreeway.com/

About Evan-Lee Courie

Editor: Marketing & Media; Head of Content for Entrepreneurship
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