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Jul 13, 2006

Mobile Marketing: Quick Overview of Options

SUMMARY: Ready to dip into mobile marketing but don't know where to get started? The buzz is confusing, but with 40% of the big brands already testing the waters, time's a wasting.

In MarketingSherpa's quick overview, discover: the costs behind developing and launching a mobile campaign; ow to keep users interested once the novelty wears off; and successful efforts from McDonald's, Procter & Gamble and other top brands.

Plus, 10 links to creative samples, a useful glossary of terms, newly updated best practices and a fun tool that shows you what your Web site looks like on a mobile phone. (You may be...
“Brand marketers really want to reach the juicy 18- to 34-year-old market,” says Matt Booth, Program Director Interactive, Local Media, for analyst firm The Kelsey Group.

Guess how many big brands are reaching that market: text messages. Still, mobile marketing is fairly new in the US, lagging far behind Europe and Asia, and many marketers have the perception that you’ll irritate consumers or business customers who receive ads on their cell phones.

In reality, mobile marketers get permission from customers before sending a text or SMS ad to their mobile phones and PDAs. (Autodialing to cell phones is illegal.) Legitimate marketers live by voluntary best practice guidelines set by the Mobile Marketing Association.

The basic tenant is that MMA members agree not to spam anyone. Instead, they must entice consumers to opt in to their campaigns. “We’re all adhering to it because we want this industry to grow,” says Laura Marriott, Executive Director Mobile Marketing Association

Cellular phone carriers also help keep mobile marketers in line. “The carriers are very, very concerned with dealing with privacy,” says Juice Wireless CEO David Herman. “You have a big 900-pound gorilla between you and the customer -- and that’s the carrier.”

First, some quick mobile facts from CTIA -- The Wireless Association:

- Mobile phone penetration reached 69% in the US this year.
- At the end of 2005, there were 207.9 million wireless subscribers in the US sending 9.8 billion text messages each month.
- There are more than 180 wireless carriers.
- Customers used their wireless devices for 1.5 trillion minutes in 2005, up 36% from 2004.

Other data:

- 26% of users said they browsed the Internet in 2005 for news and information on wireless devices, according to Ipsos Insight.
- 36.3% of US mobile phone users have sent a text message in 2006, up 5.9% from 2005, according to M:Metrics Inc.
- The Shosteck Group puts this year’s total mobile ad spend at $1 billion.

Short code marketing:

Common Short Codes are phone numbers (usually four to six digits) that mobile phone users use to send Short Message Service (SMS) messages to receive information, participate in contests, vote in ‘American Idol’ and the like.

Any company can use a short code (GOOGL, 46645, or ‘American Idol’ voting, 7827), but it can take months to get registered. Short codes are available at, with a regular code costing $500 a month and a vanity code running $1,000 a month. Short codes are provided and managed by the Common Short Code Administration, wireless carriers mobile application service provides and aggregators. (See our link below for a primer on Common Short Codes.)

Putting a “vanity code” on a billboard (such as “Fox24” to advertise the TV show “24”) is inexpensive and a good way to help consumers remember the number, says Nihal Mehta, CEO of mobile marketing agency ipsh!

In summer 2005, McDonald’s put short codes on 50 million Big Mac boxes across the US. Consumers could either send a text message with a special code or enter via the Web site for free tickets to a House of Blues concert series. More than 40% went the text-message route. The campaign bumped up McDonalds’ Big Mac sales by 3%.

Carrier menu marketing:

As mentioned, there are 180+ carriers, but four share 90% of the market, according to UBS data:

o Cingular Wireless – 27.2%
o Verizon Wireless – 24.1%
o Sprint Nextel – 19.9%
o T-Mobile USA – 19.1%

Other carriers include: Alltel, U.S. Cellular, Virgin Mobile, Qwest, Boost Mobile, Metro PCS.

Many advertisers have exclusive relationships with cell phone providers to be one of a few select publishers listed under that carriers’ online news offerings, for example, or the one movie theater chain listed in the company’s movie listings. So, if Verizon’s Movie listings promote AMC Theaters, AMC gets top billing.

But you don’t have to be a big brand to get your ads on these wireless carriers’ listings. There are opportunities to play your ads and text messages within those listings. “Any media agency could go to Verizon or The New York Times and place a buy,” says Adam Lavelle, VP Strategy for iCrossing. “It’s up to us to supply a unique URL and to design and build the landing page or microsite they want [users] to arrive at.”

Mobile edition advertising

Marketers can develop creative that fits on the users’ screens -- whether using a handheld device like a BlackBerry or a cell phone window. Advertisers can send mobile customers to a separate Web site. If you do, choose a URL that identifies your brand but is not your main Web site. Example, Hilton Hotels’ site might be

Content can be created so that high-end phones can receive graphics (even video) while low-end phones can get simpler text messages.

Many ads simply appear at the top of the screen when people visit certain Web sites on their phones so that they see the ad, but it’s not sent to their phone. If they want more information, they can click on the ad or offer and go to a Web site created for that mobile promotion.

The costs of developing and distributing mobile campaigns vary widely. Mehta says clients can pay anywhere from $10,000 to $250,000 for creative consulting and setup fees. Then, mobile messages can run 5 cents to 10 cents per message to send through carriers’ wireless networks. But advertisers can connect with their peers through the Mobile Marketing Association to find out the rates other marketers are paying. created the Epi-To-Go mobile shopping program, allowing people to download ad-sponsored recipes on the fly (ads are sold out through 2006). In the first year, Epi-To-Go registered nearly 30,000 regular users with no online promotion. 25% of recipe downloads are by repeat users.

Procter & Gamble wanted to launch its Secret Sparkle line of body sprays targeted at teen girls. A campaign was designed to allow girls to create and share their own personalized mobile screensavers with Secret-Sparkle-branded backgrounds. More than 22% of total online visitors completed the screensaver program. On average, users shared at least one screensaver with a friend.

Designing email for access on wireless devices

Developing the creative for mobile campaigns differs from other all other forms of online advertising, including paid search ads and email marketing. Advertisers have to grab users’ interest quickly, typically with only a handful of words.

When developing a mobile ad campaign, here are some dos and don’ts to keep in mind:

-> For best results, messages should be short and to the point. “You will have an insanely limited amount of time and space to communicate something,” Lavelle says. ‘American Idol,’ the king of text messaging, limits its messages to 160 characters, an example of which:

“Cingular free msg: Play American Idol trivia & get 50
bonus sweepstakes entries when U join! Reply PLAY now!
15 fun questions each week. Std msg rates apply.”

-> Send messages at the right time. Example: 5:15 p.m. is *not* the best time to schedule an SMS alert in the New York metro market because everyone is running to catch a subway or train.

-> Phones and mobile devices are considered to be the users’ private space, almost like a digital diary. “When someone or some company intrudes into my space, with a message or an offer, it had better be good,” Lavelle says. “If Coke sent me SMS alerts every day telling me to ‘Drink Coke,’ I’d get annoyed pretty quickly. But if they sent me a SMS message telling me that 235 people listened to the mix I posted to the Coke Studio Web site last week, I’d be pretty pumped.”

-> You might turn prospective customers off with a “Buy Now” call to action, but you could list actions such as “Learn More” or “Email Me a Link.”

Useful links related to this article:

1. Creative samples from mobile campaigns

2. Mobile Web Best Practices 1.0

3. Glossary of mobile terminology

4. Mobile emulator

5. Consumer Best Practices Guidelines for Cross-Carrier Mobile Content Services

6. Common Short Code Primer

7. Mobile marketing agency ipsh!

8. Text marketing firm 4Info

9. CTIA - The Wireless Association

10. Mobile Marketing Association

See Also:

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