T-Mobile's Other Sidekicks Are Current.com's Users

Wireless Marketer Returns to Website to Let Consumers Create Ad Messages

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NEW YORK -- Like L'Oreal, Sony and Toyota before it, T-Mobile is back for second helpings of user-generated ad spots from the contributors at Current.com.
Current.com's users were able to create their own ads for T-Mobile's Sidekick LX.
Current.com's users were able to create their own ads for T-Mobile's Sidekick LX.

The German mobile-network operator posted its program Jan. 7 on Current.com to help promote its two Sidekick handset products, the LX and the Slide, which were launched back last September.

"The Sidekick audience is incredibly tapped in, very socially engaged people and users," said Melinda McCrocklin, marketing manager at T-Mobile. "So we wanted to reach out to those outlets [MySpace and Current], and give them the opportunity to tell us how Sidekick is part of their lives."

Back for more
T-Mobile wouldn't have come back for seconds on Current.com had it not enjoyed the experience so much the first time, when it used the website to generate an ad for its MySpace service. Though this is only T-Mobile's second ad, Toyota has done four ads, L'Oreal five and Sony is on its sixth with Current.com, which does not accept banner ads.

"Our first [time] was really an exploration, and [the submissions of viewer-created ad messages, or VCAMs] were really great," Ms. McCrocklin said. "We received lots of amazing ads out of it and thought this time would be another opportunity because we had such success with last year's program [and] because Current's demographic is the same as our Sidekick users. Knowing that they are the prime target audience, we are very interested to see what kind of insights they'd come back with."

That knowledge of its demographic has also allowed T-Mobile to do integrated deals with networks such as MTV for the debut of the Sidekick ad, plus others that are in the works, Ms. McCrocklin said.

From Septmber 2006 to September 2007, Current reported 151,000 unique visits, according to ComScore. But that number has increased three-fold since then, said a Current spokeswoman. An overwhelming majority of the website's visitors (9-to-1) say they prefer watching VCAMs to regular ads, added Jodi Lipe, VP-marketing, Current TV.

Responsive to VCAMs
"People have been so responsive in the marketplace [to the VCAM model]," she said. "This is our darling product; it differentiates and separates us, and results in a benefit that is substantial. It's a significant hook to securing advertisers. And we're playing with A-level, charter brands.

"We're asking our community of users to participate in this brand, and build that brand in a way that nobody else can," she added.

And the ads aren't just limited to video use. Current allows its partners to use the ads across multiple mediums, whether in print, online or as a trailer. L'Oreal already has taken advantage of that, and Ms. McCrocklin said that in T-Mobile's instance, the target demographic necessitates multiplatform exposure.

"As we evaluate all of [the ads], we do look for multiplatform extensions," Ms. McCrocklin said. "With the Sidekick brand, those users are online, so we're going to look to expand with our online media, even posting it on our own website. It's just finding the right opportunities for them to be placed and put out there."

With the launch of the website, Current had hoped to carve out a niche among 18- to 34-year-olds by using technology to discuss social and political issues, including Facebook and mobile applications. The website's new Facebook widget is up, but Ms. Lipe could not speak to the readiness of the mobile application.
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