Saturday, July 22, 2006

Interactive Advertising with SMS/MMS

One of the features that ought to be a no-brainer for advertisers is to include an sms short code on all their advertisements. This means that people can see the ad and instantly fire off an sms with their ever-present mobile and get a response just as instantly. Examples might be to claim a coupon, find the nearest stockist, arrange a test-drive for a car and any number of other groovy marketing enhancements.

But at least 6 years after sms became mainstream, this feature is still far from common and what should surely be as automatic as putting a web address on an ad, still gets omitted.

One reason could be cost. While most people would think nothing of firing off an sms to get more info, the advertiser normally faces some cost from the service provider, along with a set up fee. And when the set up fee is amortised over the total response, the cost per response can be pretty hefty.

So it’s interesting that have launched a totally free service for advertisers in the UK - the user pays the normal cost of the sms. So that means no set up or ongoing charges and really, removes any commercial rationale for not embracing sms interactivity. Their business model , if you’re curious, is to sign up customers and sell them other services in due course. A pretty common plan these days.

However, I suspect that one reason why agencies especially are reluctant to go down this route is that it introduces a frightening level of accountability. Currently, assessing advertising effectiveness is pretty woolly in most cases, involving measures like the number of people who could see an ad. If you start to prove how few people actually notice an advertisement and then engage with it via an interaction, it might begin to call into question the whole point of running a campaign in the first place.

Having personally experienced a meeting (a long time ago now) with a marketing director of a major brand where we both knew that his campaign had very few redemptions, there’s just no way of getting round the facts. Sure, you can fall back on mumbling about coverage, opportunities to see and other marketing-speak, but if no one felt inclined to respond to the offer and that’s 100% measurable, how can you persuade the guy to carry on using the channel?

However, in these days of increasing media accountability, with budgets migrating online and now to mobile, where payment by results is increasingly the norm, old media needs to fight back. If your poster, TV commercial or print ad isn’t engaging the consumer and isn’t generating a response, maybe it’s better to know that and identify what’s wrong with it, rather than pretending everything in the garden is rosy.

Pay per click (via a mobile) and pay per call is coming to old media as inevitably as England losing on penalties in Euro 2008. And that’s going to be another head-butt in the chest of an ad industry already dizzy with the pace of change and largely unable to understand that the world has drastically changed on them.

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