The 'Ad Age' guide to mobile marketing

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Text messaging

Mobile version of direct marketing can be used for sweepstakes, voting in contents, instant wins, offering consumer stats and other data.

Cost: creative is from free to $3,000 or so, but messages cost marketers 3¢ to 5¢ depending on volume, down from about 10¢ last year.

Upside: Easiest form of mobile marketing to execute; simple to fold into integrated-marketing campaigns; reaches young target; consumers get it and its technical demands don't

overwhelm most U.S. phones. Some marketers report a 90% response rate and 30% conversion rate, all very measurable both in number of responses, how long it took to get a response, what carriers and handsets were used, and where the texting originated.

Downside: Consumers unhappy when marketers assume a response to a text message assumes a blast of future messages; somewhat limited from a multimedia point of view.

Integrated content

Ideal for content providers such as movie studios, media companies, financial or sports teams, with offerings such as custom news or alerts.

Cost: Cheap, $15,000 to $20,000 and packages often include a bundle of messages, plus 3¢ to 5¢ charges for additional messages.

Upside: Consumer gets relevant, valuable content. Downside: Messages not well targeted can be viewed as annoying.


Branded offerings can range from simple puzzles to custom multiplayer, multilevel adver-games that can take months to develop depending on complexity.

Cost: From $10,000 for repurposing standard generic games, say a racing game, by placing a logo over the cars, to $60,000 for a made-to-order concept.

Upside: Marketers investing in well-designed custom mobile games might find consumers willing to pay the $2.99 garnered by some games, making the mobile play a revenue generator.

Downside: Currently only an estimated 30 million of the 190 million handsets in the U.S. are equipped for games.

Interactive Voice Response

Opt-in consumers receive mobile phone calls from star endorsers or other talent with live updates on events, such as a huffing and puffing athlete announcing he just won a race. Variations include calls from celebrities endorsing products or teasing other content.

Cost: 3¢ to 5¢ per call.

Upside: A branding play capable of a compelling personal message, with devotees such as young girls making repeat calls, and a nice added dimension for traditional, online and other media.

Downside: Messages need to be short, smart and relevant or else consumers hang up.

WAP sites

Translating existing Web sites into those which are wireless friendly so consumers can easily download and read PC content, download ringtones or wallpaper.

Cost: Depends on complexity of site.

Upside: Somewhat improved downloads; primarily back end for text messaging fulfillment.

Downside: Difficult to Web surf.

Ringtones and ring-back tones

Marketers have been giving away brand-related tones and screen savers or wallpaper, but this summer's promotions will up the ante with giveaways of tones previously costing consumers $2 or more.

Cost: $15,000 or more.

Upside: When a corporate jingle is a cellphone's ringtone, every phone call to that number is a new broadcast of the jingle.

Downside: Ringtones are borderline

obsolete because users can now make their own. Ring-back tones, those heard by callers to certain phone numbers, are hosted by carriers and would cost them extra to use for marketing.


Promotions designed to spread peer-to-peer, such as one for Budweiser that allows Web visitors to send a cellphone message to a friend inviting them for beer at a specific time ad place.

Cost: $15,000 to $50,000 depending on the program, Web design, hosting, etc., plus messaging costs of 3¢ to 5¢, depending on use.

Upside: Rapid spread as evidenced by distribution of ringtones among mobile-phone users, plus the ability for real-time usage reporting and other in-depth measuring.

Downside: Recipient could consider the message unsolicited, and blame the company for telephone spam.


Use of GPS to ring consumers walking past a product or store with a special offer or reminder. Location-based marketing is limited but might grow starting next year when more carriers have it available.

Cost: Use of third party list of opt-in numbers can result in a $100 to $150 CPM.

Upside: A marketer's dream of reaching the right customer at the right time with the right message.

Downside: Privacy concerns and possible consumer backlash.

Advertising on mobile broadcast

Some bumper ads are showing up on video clips. For live TV programming ads will stream through.

Cost: No rates yet established, though most rebroadcasts of live TV on mobile phones at this time are allowing for free or inexpensive pass through to mobile. Upside: The TV in your pocket, combined with other technologies such as location-based marketing, could be one of the most powerful marketing tools ever.

Downside: Only an estimated 1 million of the 190 million cellphones in use in the U.S. are video-enabled. Consumers also may resent viewing ads when they are paying for video service.

Sponsorships/subsidizing cellphone costs

Marketers offset the cost of mobile service, programs or content for consumers who agree to see ads.

Cost: The sky's the limit.

Upside: Consumers get free mobile phones, service, content, perks, etc.; marketers get benefit of offering something for free. Deals would help carriers hold onto customers longer.

Downside: It's not happening now.

Mobile telemarketing

Cellphone calling is prohibited under federal regulations, but lists of consumers who have opted in are available.

Costs: Lists cost $100 or more per CPM.

Upside: Impressive response.

Downside: Backlash from consumers if list proves faulty, or consumers forgot they opted in. Mobile-phone spam could trigger significant consumer, carrier and government ire.

Source: Advertising Age/IPSH/Freestyle Interactive/ OgilvyOne

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