Get Loopt: Social Mapping Service Promotes Itself

Loopt screenshotLoopt kicks off a promotional campaign today targeting tech-savvy young consumers with a series of Webisodes blending comedy and product placement to build brand awareness.

The short videos are developed with independent production studio Black20 and feature David Price, host of the Internet-only, late night-style "Middle Show," using Loopt's mobile friend-finding technology as he rocks around New York City. Each show will start with a brief Loopt message and end with a plug from Price.

New episodes will debut weekly over the next two months and appear on major social networking and video sites such as YouTube, Facebook and MySpace as well as on WABC's ad-supported TaxiTV in 6,000 New York taxi cabs.

"We thought the nature of 'The Middle Show,' with David going around New York communicating to fans and viewers about what he's doing, lent itself well to a natural integration of Loopt," said Shari Doherty, vice president of consumer marketing at the company.



Started in 2005 by a pair of Stanford University undergrads, Loopt so far has focused mainly on forging distribution deals with wireless operators and handset makers to carry its service that shows the real-time locations of friends via interactive maps on GPS-enabled phones.

With Loopt now available on all the major wireless networks and more than 80 devices including the BlackBerry and the forthcoming iPhone 3G, the company is poised for a bigger marketing push. "We wanted to turn up the volume on consumer messaging about what Loopt is and how it works," Doherty said.

The idea is to start by focusing on young urban hipsters already immersed in social networking and mobile technology and grow from that base of affinity users. By eschewing traditional types of advertising, Loopt hopes to win over social media mavens.

To that end, the company plans to launch a separate "Follow the Music" campaign next week allowing fans to track and interact with a dozen up-and-coming bands on their summer tours using the Loopt service.

By extending its "Middle Show" campaign to TaxiTV in New York, Loopt aims to catch people on the go, when they may be more receptive to learning about a location-based service.

The two minutes of "fast-paced, energetic comedy" will also be a welcome change from TaxiTV's usual loop of news and weather updates, according to Black20 CEO J. Crowley, who made a splash last year when he and Neil Punsalan left NBC to start the digital studio.

Black20 has since developed about a dozen original Web series including "The Middle Show" as well as hosting video shorts and other content on its site.

Crowley said the studio had been approached before by packaged goods and other companies about creating sponsored videos, but didn't see a natural connection until Loopt came along. "This actually fits what we do," he said, in terms of the show's street-level comedy bits around New York.

It also fits with other social networking properties. The Facebook page created for the Loopt promotion will invite user participation, including letting fans call Price on his cell phone and leave comments on his "Loopt Journal." He won't necessarily answer each call, but fans will hear new voicemail greetings every day during the campaign.

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