Contact: Speed-Dial Your Candy Bar

The next high-carb caramel nut bar you buy at 7-Eleven may have you enter a contest or open a dialogue with Hershey's while you wait on the checkout line. On-package calls to action via mobile texting codes are the next big (or short) thing in mobile marketing, says Jack Philbin, co-founder and president, Vibes Media. "It's huge. Anywhere, anytime, you can start a relationship with a brand."

Package wrappers or boxes will carry short message service (SMS) codes and keywords that dial you into Vibes' own Instant Response Platform. The interactive script of up to 50 automated SMS exchanges lets customers opt into receiving trivia questions or detailed product information.

"We've uncovered an insatiable demand for interaction," says Philbin. And every exchange delivers market intelligence. By applying short codekeyword combos to various calls to action, Vibes can measure the effectiveness of other media buys and even determine when consumers eat a product. After distributing short codes on 65 million Cadbury candy bars in the United Kingdom, Philbin says "they discovered people eating coconut at specific times and chocolate at other times." Who knew?

The beauty of SMS is how well it will blend with just about every other media. Vibes is a 15-person Chicago company that has focused on text since 1998, when its Pizza Hut promotions helped pioneer marketing to pagers. Now it is moving text from pocket screens to jumbotrons, sending concertgoer messages to a screen behind the punk band Green Day on its current tour.

Users are spending a good deal of time per person with the technology. "Anybody who [sends one] message then average[s] 44 messages," says Philbin.

Vibes will integrate SMS with drive time on a new iRadio platform, which routes listener messages, contest entries, and song requests directly to DJs. No more busy signals. Philbin says, "People want to continue to interact. You just have to make it fun." Or give them irresistible incentives - like avoiding direct conversation with irritating DJs.

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