Mobile Apps Ally To Fight COVID-19 Misinfo In Developing Countries

Misinformation can spread as quickly as disease.

But accurate information is power during a health crisis, said Tim Koschella, CEO and founder of Kayzen, an in-app in-housing startup based in Berlin.

Koschella and his team are spearheading an initiative to circulate reliable health info through in-app ads on Android devices in developing countries, including across North Africa and South America, where average CPMs are often lower and a media dollar can go a long way.

The project, called #AppsFightCovid, got off the ground in mid-April.

“Inventory isn’t as competitive to purchase, so we can generate a lot of reach with limited budgets,” Koschella said. “We’re hoping to reach areas where the government response hasn’t been very strong.”

Kayzen uses its own technology to bid on and serve rich media interstitial and video ads created using educational assets taken from the World Health Organization website under the creative commons license. The ads explain the importance of frequent hand-washing, avoiding crowded places and coughing into the crook of one’s elbow or into a tissue.

So far, Kayzen has had the ads translated into multiple local languages, including Arabic, French, Spanish and Portuguese.

People who click on the ads are then taken to an interactive session with the WHO’s chatbot on WhatsApp. The ads are geo-targeted by country and mainly running in game and utility apps, where CPMs are low and engagement is super high right now. SHAREit, WAMR, Wattpad, Trivia Crack and Words of Wonder are top sources of traffic.

Some of the inventory is being donated by app developers, such as PlaySimple and Fastic, and some is bought using donations. AppLovin, Qverse, PubNative, Fyber and AppsFlyer are already backing the project. Koschella is looking for more publishers and mobile ad tech companies to get involved. All of the money raised goes directly to the cause.

Since launch, the initiative has brought in $18,000 from donors, reached nearly 20 million people, generated around 40 million video views and triggered just under 730,000 WHO chatbot sessions.

“As we see how difficult the outbreaks are already in developed countries, we should not forget to look at the situation of people in developing countries – the situation there is even worse as the healthcare systems are already overloaded,” said Benjamin Bak, co-founder and former CEO of social dating app Lovoo, who is personally donating to #AppsFightCovid.

And apps are the best medium for spreading awareness in countries where the mobile internet is the primary way people access and share information.

“That’s where help is needed most,” said Ionut Ciobotaru, CEO of in-app exchange PubNative and a donor.

Koschella’s goal is to raise enough money to increase the pace of the campaign. If the initiative is able to attract more donors and hit $80,000, Kayzen should be able to reach roughly 100 million people, he said, and generate around 3 million chatbot sessions.

“Users usually see advertising as a necessary evil, that’s just the truth,” Koschella said. “But here’s a way for ads to serve a larger purpose.”

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