Marketers get serious about the 'third screen'

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The mobile phone, heralded as the next big marketing medium for the past six years, looks to be finally reaching its tipping point.

The so-called third screen "is coming of age" this summer, declared Douglas Freeland, director-brand entertainment strategy for U.S. marketing at McDonald's Corp. Along with McDonald's, marketers including Masterfoods, Timex, Coca-Cola Co., Heineken and Johnson & Johnson are among those fashioning promotions that encompass everything from mobile games to ring-tone giveaways and text-in trivia contests and sweepstakes.

Mobile elements have already become an integral part of the mix for movie marketers, with most film sites now including a "mobile" link. Fans of "Batman Begins" can fight evil in Gotham in a mobile game, enter a text messaging sweepstakes or buy ring tones or wallpaper; the "Bewitched" site offers 12 ring tones, including Samantha's signature sound.

It's been slower to develop on the package-goods side, but marketers who tested the waters last year are now poised for a bigger plunge. Masterfoods is running a contest with a promotion code on 60 million Starburst packages in which about half the responses have come via text messages. Nestle ran a "Grab. Gulp. Win!" promotion for Nesquik placed on 40 million bottles of ready-to-drink flavored milk and MilkShakes offering text-in giveaways ranging from a gaming house party to music downloads. Kraft Foods is said to be planning a text-messaging promotion involving a raft of products; currently Kraft's Oscar Mayer is giving away free ring tones of its ad jingle.

Coca-Cola is exploring mobile games with developer Jamdat, said Doug Rollins, senior interactive-brand manager at the Atlanta marketer, while Heineken is using the short code "green" to allow consumers to text in updates and win giveaways in connection with its sponsorship of the AmsterJam concert scheduled for Aug. 20 at Randall's Island in New York City.

Fresh off a successful co-promotion with the House of Blues (see sidebar), McDonald's is launching a Hispanic-targeted music promotion called LoMcXimo, with an on-pack text-messaging code and a reference to text messaging as a response mechanism in supporting TV ads, an executive familiar with the program said.

Even TV commercial pioneer Timex plans a fall text messaging campaign touting the "new face of Timex" with a text-messaging vote on preferred watch faces.

Some marketers have gone farther. In an innovative use of text messaging, Johnson & Johnson will target patients awaiting eye exams in the doctor's office with a point-of-sale poster asking patients to text in the code "MYEYE." About 15 minutes later, when the marketer estimates the patient will be in the doctor's office, it will ping a reminder to the patient's phone to ask for the J&J brand. The marketer declined to comment on the promotion.

"Mobile is no longer a new media-it has been tested and there is a protocol" for developing campaigns, said Nihal Mehta, president and co-founder, ipsh!, a San Francisco based mobile-marketing technology firm.

That's not to say there aren't hurdles. An executive with one prominent package-goods firm acknowledged that mobile marketing is at the tipping point, but said brands are having trouble finding the resources to help them in the mobile space. "Brands want to go to the agencies and the agencies should be out there. They're not, because they don't see the scale."

contributing: kate macarthur

Text book

2 billion The number of text messages sent by mobile-phone subscribers in December 2003

4.66 billion The number of text messages sent in December 2004

150 million Number of text-capable U.S. phones

190 million Number of U.S. mobile-phone subscribers

36% of total mobile subscribers who sent a text message in April

65.7 % of mobile subscribers age 13-24 who sent a text message in April

Source: CTIA, MMetrics

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