A Few Of Our Favorite Things
Meanwhile, one of the best repositories of mobile marketing intelligence is in the Case Studies section at the Mobile Marketing Association site. There are loads of examples of past campaigns from the likes of McDonald's, MasterCard and Pontiac here. Lets start with a few recent campaigns I dialed up myself.
The 4InfoUSAToday partnership: Launched earlier this year, the mobile search engine now has its short code embedded in four of the major sections of the largest circulation news daily in the country. These contextually relevant print bugs let you subscribe to USAToday SMS alerts that are highly personalized. Send a short code with "W + Zip" to get a daily weather update for the area. Text in a sport figure or team, and get the latest scores and news. The sign-up process is painless and quick, and it performs very well.
SMS remains an imperfect medium, to be sure. It was never designed to carry sophisticated messaging and it has all the style of a teletype. Therein lies its crude charm. Like a crappy e-mail, the messages do not always format well, and the sender information crowds up against the actual message. The experience feels primitive, and probably will until MMS messaging finally becomes standard. Nevertheless, it works. Imagine the opportunities here for targeting mobile ads to specific sports team tastes--let alone zip codes! When I spoke with 4Info late last year, the company intended to initiate ad models for the program in Q2 this year.
My "Top Chef" Is Talking to Me: While Bravo's so-so "Top Chef" reality series is no "Project Runway," the cable channel did hit on an excellent SMS extension that puts the text voices of the contestants on your cell phone during each episode. With Bravo partnering with Gold Pocket Wireless, the scheme sends a programming reminder alert earlier in the evening. During the Wednesday premiere telecast of the weekly episode, you receive up to five text messages during the hour from contestants commenting on the program or dishing and dissing on their rivals. Even if you end up watching one of the relentless reruns later in the week, you can recreate the SMS experience by rifling through the messages that went to your phone during the initial telecast.
The message content is uneven, but some items genuinely add to the viewing experience with tidbits that don't make it to the screen. It's nice to know, for example, that one of the contestants boasted he would bed a couple of the others by the end of the competition. More than just a brand extension or a nice sticky add-on, there is stunning third-screen potential here. For instance, some of the SMS comments are coming from characters who are not getting a lot of screen time; the program keeps them in your mind even when they are not on display. In fact, one can imagine an enterprising programmer or sponsor using synchronized texting to create a parallel narrative line to a show. Perhaps the sponsor could become a voice in the programming or create a new character commenting on the action? Even in its antediluvian form, the "Top Chef" extension hints at what is possible by using the "third screen" as a real "third screen."
The Mustang Ringtones: I am the wrong analyst to evaluate ringtones. I still consider them rude intrusions on public space, not unlike blithely farting in a crowded room. I admit to being in the minority on this one (or a silent majority), since the shocking and unexpected popularity of ringtones seems relentless. With every TV show, celebrity, and pop culture trend sporting a downloadable ringtone, marketers have to think harder in order to stand out. Kudos to JWT for making the signature Ford Mustang engine purr my phone awake. Even better is the Mustang engine playing the "Star Spangled Banner." Is this a great country or what?
But wait, there's more. Maxim's May issue will be "mobilized" with SMS codes throughout the editorial and ads from Jeep, Kraft, and Samsung. I am starting to see more innovative uses of voice promotions. One company is using SMS as a trigger to send recorded voice calls that complement an ad or editorial.
This is shaping up to be an exciting year of marketing and mobile media experimentation. The early moments in any medium's life are the most exciting, but too much of mobile marketing is still occurring beneath the radar and with too little exposure among peers. Let's change that. Where are your mobile marketing juices flowing? Write me. Don't call. My phone is busy.