If for no other reason than the fact that writing and reading about the iPhone 5 has become downright tiresome at this point, it is worth remembering how most people still communicate on their mobile devices. The basic one-to-one contact of voice and text continues to be the channel with which most people feel familiar and comfortable on their mobile phones. That becomes even truer as the demo gets older and farther outside the early-adopter realm that is currently distracted by iPhone hype.
But since the geek squad is safely sidelined today, gushing over how thin, fast and long the new iPhone will be, we can talk among ourselves about something closer to most Americans’ hearts -- infomercials.
Infomercials already have a direct connection between the main TV screen and the second screen of devices -- a call-now phone number. Finding ways to get people to their landline or mobile device while watching a direct-response TV (DRTV) spot is the essence of the “limited time” offer. Tired as the pitch may be, “call in the next 15 minutes” must have some legs to it, because DRTV hucksters just don’t give it up.
Finding new ways to engage the phone with the TV message is critical to maintaining the life of the DRTV ecosystem. Songwhale recently introduced a “Paywhale” platform that enables DRTV marketers to include an SMS call to action in their spots that that company claims is the first “text-to-buy” model for DRTV.
The company just partnered with Cannella Response Television to make the payment method available to clients. Its first campaign involves a short spot for Sootherz stomach relief and a long-form infomercial for NuWave Precision Induction Cooktop. In the short spot I watched, the viewer is prompted to text “RELIEF” to the Paywhale shortcode 94253.
I don’t watch enough niche cable programming to know whether this is really the first ever of anything related to DRTV. The Songwhale system actually works best for those who are chronic buyers of DRTV pitches, because it only becomes seamless once the viewer is already fully registered with Songwhale. When I tried texting off the Sootherz ad I was led to a long sign-up form for personal info and credit card information. They say that once users are registered with their payment system, then buying off the TV will be as simple as texting the keyword to their existing account, which has payment and shipping information already on file.
The model is not about payment as much as it is about re-marketing. For marketers the real value add is that it gets to access the infomercial buyer by another less expensive and more direct screen. In the announcement Songwhale claims, “Regardless of how a consumer signs up for Paywhale, once they are registered they can be reached via text message by DR marketers with offers for new products and product upgrades.”
Which only goes to show how broadly the mobile screen can interact with other media and displays. If mobile can be made into a more efficient and direct route to a core customer base, then it benefits direct marketing to push those users away from the high-cost scattershot approach of the past to more targeted channels on the phone.