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How do you get people to start charging purchases on their mobile phones? Have them to do it for charity.

This week mobile gaming company Cellufun will launch the first ever mobile public service announcement campaign. In conjunction with The Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation, Cellufan is offering free in-game advertising, as well as mobile donation opportunities to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA).

The mobile PSA could be very profitable for the ASPCA. But it's also a smart move on Cellufan's part. Getting new groups of users to spend money through their phones will help pave the way for monetizing the mobile web.

Cellufun allows users to play social games, connect with friends and shop for virtual goods. The service has over 7 million unique monthly mobile visitors, who generate more than 220 million monthly impressions. The average user spends about 6.9 hours using Cellufun. The company estimates the value of the PSA campaign to be more than $10,000 per month.

"Cellufun’s social games — such as Mobile Pet Online and Cellufun Farming — provide not only entertainment, but the perfect venue for raising social awareness by partnering with leading charities and non-profits,” said Neil Edwards, chief executive officer of Cellufun.

Clearly the ASPCA thinks that mobile is a place that has fundraising potential. In addition, it's a great way for Cellufun to get its users accustomed to parting with a little extra money on their mobile devices. Already in the gaming space, these users aren't exactly shy about such things, but for the mobile space to reach its potential as a marketplace, users who have historically been uninterested in buying ringtones or purchasing gaming software need to start getting comfortable with giving money on their phones. And that's already happening.

Apple's App Store has gotten hordes of iPhone users to purchase products on their cellphones, and a key to tapping into the monetization potential of mobile will be proving to people that cellphones are a safe and easy way to make purchasing decisions.

Already consumers are getting more comfortable with many mobile decisions that they skipped on the computer. One proof of this is the fact that mobile Internet usage is far more diverse than the way it has typically worked online. For starters, African Americans are the group quickest to adopt mobile Internet usage this year.

Last week, a Pew Research Center survey found that 32% of Americans have accessed the Internet through a mobile device this year and 48% of African Americans are using their mobile phones to access the Internet. For many groups — especially low income users — the cellphone is the way that they access the Internet altogether.

John Horrigan, associate director of the Pew Internet Project, tells the New York Times:

“The cost of broadband and personal computers drives some users to adopt mobile Internet instead of the traditional wire-line,” Mr. Horrigan said. “It might make sense to invest the money in a smartphone and a monthly plan that enables you to do so many different things, like make calls and send e-mails.”

In addition, consumers who are sympathetic to a cause might make a spur of the moment purchasing decision that they would hesitate on for something more frivolous — from gaming to paid advertising. And once a purchase has been made in a new environment in a space that a consumer trusts, getting them to buy something again is that much easier.

Meghan Keane

Published 29 July, 2009 by Meghan Keane

Based in New York, Meghan Keane is US Editor of Econsultancy. You can follow her on Twitter: @keanesian.

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