Hong Kong phones help keep an eye on nanny

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A mobile phone service operator in Hong Kong has created a high-tech solution to an age-old problem-helping parents at work or on the move keep tabs on children back at home.

New World Mobility introduced its HomeCare Mobile Viewing Service last month with an integrated marketing campaign by Bates Advertising, part of Cordiant Communications Group.

"This service is for people, particularly women, who are always on the move yet care about what's happening at home. There are similar services offered over the Internet. From your office you can dial up video images from home, but in those cases, you are bound to your computer. I haven't heard of any other monitoring services using mobile phones," said Jeffrey Yu, Hong Kong-based regional president of Bates Asia.

real time

"We are definitely not the first to use GPRS mobile technology for real-time video screening, but we are quite sure we are the first to allow this service to monitor a home environment in real time," added Melanie Lee, New World's marketing director.

The service works by linking a computer's Web cam to a compatible handset using high-speed Internet access. The company charges a $13 sign-up fee then $1.30 per 10-second real-time video clip transmitted.

Hong Kong has 5.3 million cellphone subscribers, roughly 80% of the population. New World Mobility has 800,000 of those subscribers. Ms. Lee declines to reveal how many subscribers signed up for the home-monitoring service in the first two weeks but calculates the market is sizable.

"There are 1.6 million households in Hong Kong, about 30% of which have broadband connections," she said. "Among those, about half have babies. Assuming all of those are two-income families, the norm in Hong Kong among middle-income families, there are 240,000 households who may be interested."

The ad campaign includes two spots that air in the evening, usually after the late news, and print ads in newspapers and women's magazines, according to Yvonne Tang, director-client services, Bates, Hong Kong.

"We are targeting working mothers, since most of the women in this market are working adults with domestic helpers taking care of the child. This service allows access and piece of mind for parents-or even cat and dog owners."

The campaign includes below-the-line and in-store promotions, such as point-of-purchase stands with dynamic picture displays demonstrating how a handset shows a video clip of footage from home. New World is the first advertiser to employ this type of picture display on a large scale in Hong Kong.

The campaign will run through mid-December, but in the future the approach may change. "We created this service for women, but to my surprise, it's always men who come into our shop to subscribe," said Ms. Lee. "I don't know why yet, but we will research this over the coming months."

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