A new US-based business called Flag is giving away free photographic prints from smartphones – with no shipping or handling charges or even a requirement to supply credit card details.
Its revenue stream comes from businesses paying for advertisements on the back of the photo – which would have limited appeal to advertisers except that Flag also prints captions adjacent to the ads, and users can even drop in another thumbnail pic as well.
Flag has, according to tech website Techcrunch, already lined up over 1500 paying advertisers including VISA and Squarespace.
The crowd-funded Flag has had delays developing the concept – it started in 2014 – but has now gone live and is on the Apple store with an iOS app. An Android version is still in development.
Flag is working with Canon Japan on the dye-based inkjet printing technology, and photo paper manufacturer Felix Schoeller. Prints are at 2400dpi, 7-colour inkjet, which would indicate they are being produced on a Canon Dreamlabo production inkjet printer. Photos are printed on 370 gram laminated paper with borders and rounded corners. Print can be squares or panoramic as well as conventional 6x4s.
Participants (you can hardly call them customers) can order 20 free prints per month.
Initially, Flag will be giving prints away without the ads on the back. It needs to build up a customer database so it can offer advertisers targetted advertising.
‘Since what we’re offering is targeting, we won’t have ads on the back until we can target,’ Flag’s CMO Savannah Cowley explained to Techcrunch.
The company will use EXIF data such as location and camera model (which hints at the target’s income), and even the photo’s subject. It scans photos to understand what’s in them, identifying logos and faces to ‘guestimate’ age and gender.
The Flag pitch to advertisers continues: ‘Flag can read this data and use it to work out how people like to spend their time and money more accurately than by an address alone.
‘The cost of someone’s camera and its age can identify wealthy people in less wealthy areas. GPS data makes it easy to see who spends time near your business, even if they don’t live close by, and who likes to travel.’
However, advertisers will not be able to view users’ photos, their names or addresses, download user data or view personal info, Flag says. So, nothing to worry about then!
Flag ups the ante on free print services: Freeprints also offers free photos – up to 1000 per year – but asks the user to pay shipping and handling. A new service, Freeprints Photobooks , gives users one 5×7 softcover photo book each month for free. The Freeprints model seems to rely on freebie hunters opting to order some the other products it actually asks customers to pay for.
There is no indication so far that Flag services will be available to Australians, with the initial launch in the US and Europe.
UPDATE: Scrub that last par – according to CEO Sam Agboola (see comments below), Flag is already ‘serving Australians right now’. So if you thought 8 cent prints were ruining the industry…Let’s hope Flag recruits its advertising audience from among BigW and Snapfish customers.