Top Brands Leverage Hands-Free Cell Phone Laws

LG bluetoothHands-free marketing and advertising campaigns from LG Mobile, Ford and Microsoft seek to stop consumers from driving under the influence of mobile phones, both text and talk. The promotions that give away everything from advice to handsets aim to drive goodwill during a time when lost jobs and rising fuel and foods costs are curbing personal budgets.

On Thursday at the Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles, LG Mobile gave away more than 1,000 LG Bluetooth headsets to California residents. Actor Erik Estrada, famous for his role as Ponch in the 1977-1983 police television series "CHiPs," attended the event to speak with consumers.

A safe-driving activist, Estrada provided insight on laws and LG headsets while standing beside a mint-condition vintage 1955 Buick. Experts were on hand to help consumers pair headsets with mobile phones, too.



LG reached out to wireless bloggers to build buzz for the promotion, and sent wireless headsets to local TV and radio station traffic reporters.

After July 1, will send consumers a free headset if they are cited for driving while talking or texting on a cell phone. The company kicked off the promotion to build buzz for its products as the number of laws requiring the use of a headset continued to grow.

A study released earlier this month from ABI Research estimates that 2.4 billion Bluetooth-enabled devices will ship worldwide by 2013. More than half are cellular handsets, and a quarter are wireless headsets.

Parrot, a European headset maker, flooded the Los Angeles area radio airwaves during the past month with commercials that promoted its Bluetooth technology. It also placed a video ad created by GroundZero on YouTube that wants to make the viewer believe the kid in the clip secretly recorded his driving lessons and instructors while talking on his cell phone during driving school.

The challenge is creating awareness that gives consumers that warm-and-fuzzy feeling for the company's products and services. A good marketing strategy provides a public service to consumers by making them aware of laws or environmental issues and how to comply, according to John Zhang, professor of marketing at the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School. Marketers should combine laws or environmental issues with plans to boost profits, reminding consumers that when "you think about buying products to comply with laws, you might want to think about a Samsung or LG product."

Connecticut, New Jersey and New York are among the states with laws requiring drivers to use a headset when talking on the phone. California and Washington will have similar laws on July. 1. California will have one set of hands-free driving rules for adults and another for teens. While drivers under age 18 cannot talk or text while operating a motor vehicle, adults can talk on a cell phone if they use a hands-free device.

Advertising and marketing campaigns built on the nation's move to hands-free driving are not limited to handset or headset manufacturers. Ford Motor promoted Sync by Microsoft in Focus and Taurus models, among others, to California drivers. The Insurance Information Network of California, a non-profit organization, began marketing a podcast series, IINC Spots, featuring examples of hands-free cell options that are available to California drivers. The video can be viewed at Apple's iTunes or

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