Mobile Marketing: It’s Here and It’s Real

Peter Fuller is the executive director of the Mobile Marketing Association. Carrie Himelfarb works as VP of sales for Vindigo. Nihal Mehta is president of ipsh! Mike Troiano is senior vice president of business development for m-Qube. And Nathan Woodman works as an account director for MPG\Media Contacts.

Peter Fuller is the executive director of the Mobile Marketing Association. Carrie Himelfarb works as VP of sales for Vindigo. Nihal Mehta is president of ipsh! Mike Troiano is senior vice president of business development for m-Qube. And Nathan Woodman works as an account director for MPG\Media Contacts. During the panel discussion at Ad:Tech 2003 this afternoon, the group talked about how mobile marketing can be used to enhance brand communication on a personal level. Using several case studies, the panel addressed campaign strategy, execution, and ROI. Here is a rough transcript of their conversation:


Peter Fuller: I don’t know how long you’ve been coming to Ad:Tech, but it’s amazing to see how many companies are still around and how many technologies there are. The economy has been growing faster than it has in the last 20 years in the last quarter, and it looks like that’ll keep happening. How many of you are familiar with mobile marketing? That’s a little bit better than when I was in San Francisco. How many have run a mobile marketing campaign? A third. That’s about the same as San Francisco, but I got several calls asking whether we did traditional mobile marketing with vans and banners. My name’s Peter Fuller, and I’m executive director of the Mobile Marketing Association. Our members include content providers, the six biggest carriers, advertisers, and technology partners. The idea of this panel is to give you a good idea of what mobile marketing is and how you can use it to reach customers where they are.

Nihal Mehta: We’re a mobile marketing firm primarily focused on media and entertainment and the younger demographic. Messaging in the United States right now is being driven by the younger demographic. Roughly 30 million Americans are using text messaging. 150 million phones can receive text messages. 80% of the traffic comes from age 12-30 year old demographic. It’s growing fast. A lot of people compare us to the trends in Europe and Asia, and we’re catching up.

You might be familiar with the Reebok Whodunit? campaign. We integrated SMS with an IVR, which is an interactive voice response campaign. In essence, the Whodunit? campaign was a scavenger hunt. We reached out to 60,000 people with SMS. One of our pride and joys is with the hip-hop artist Nelly. It shows the sheer power of mobile marketing. There’s a video request show called 106&Park on BET. We registered 30,000 mobile phones, and 15,000 people voted. The video went to No. 1 in a week. Madonna’s also one of our big clients. Her manager sits on our board. This reflects one of our viral campaigns. A user can send an audio message to their friends. They’d get a text message that says, “Hey, Nihal wants you do press Talk to hear Madonna’s new track.” Roughly 60% of people are pressing Talk.

Starburst is another implementation. We call it ipsh! P2P, and you can send a message to a friend. The recipient gets the message, and it’s tagged with the message “powered by .” A quarter of recipients go to the Web site to see how they can send messages. We did a similar campaign for a movie called “What a Girl Wants,” a Mandy Moore film. We love teenage girls. These are the people who are driving messaging, 12-16 years old.

One of our most recent campaigns utilizes short codes and interactive SMS. We worked with the band Radiohead to create a real-time chat application. You can actually feel like you’re chatting live with the band. But they’re canned messages. The band’s not actually not on the phone. But you get that experience, and the campaign follows the tour, so you can get playlists. We’ve seen roughly 3-4 text messages per user. Most users go to listen to the tracks. It’s extremely viral, and that’s how the applications are growing.


We see the most success in music and entertainment because they target the younger demographic, Generation Mobile. It’ll be awhile before it expands past 30.

Nathan Woodman: I represent the advertising agency or advertiser point of view. I’m going to talk about why at a high level mobile marketing makes sense for advertisers. There are lots of devices that can be useful for mobile marketing. They enable advertisers to get messages to consumers in a way that’s intimate and immediate.

We look for several things. The client’s product needs to be intimate. It needs to be immediate. With some clients, we use mobile marketing because of their brand essence. The client does something cool or innovative. It also makes sense because there’s a certain audience. The mobile audience skews toward a certain target or demographic, such as teens or business travelers.

In the case of some of the things we’ve done for Comedy Central, we did a Dave Chappelle campaign. We used mobile marketing because the intrinsic audience skewed younger. We sent out a bunch of messages to the hip-hop community on the day of the launch of the show.

We’ve also used mobile marketing for Amtrak with the provider AvantGo. The intrinsic audience was people who use PDAs. That matched Amtrak’s business traveler target. It’s very hard to reach them because it’s such a cluttered environment. On the AvantGo page, we promoted the Amtrak Acela. They could click through within the PDA and get a response marketing message they next time they synch up. AvantGo also made a channel for Acela on the advice. They could get up-to-date Acela schedules, sign up for the guest rewards program, find Amtrak stations, and get contact information, Amtrak could add a lot of value to the people who use Acela.

Another client we’ve used mobile marketing for is Volkswagen. This case is more in concept. The reasons we used mobile are a bit different. Their entire brand is being this quirky, hip, cool car. Being in that space, we had some of that essence. Volkswagen also has an initiative to bring to the advertiser. It’s more of a push effort than a pull effort. The ideas that are in concept is VW’s positioning with things that are trendy and smart. Volkswagen was already sponsoring the Sundance Film Festival. We developed an application through which people could go through the Sundance Film Festival. We’re also developing devices where people can customize their own cars. You can register to receive a quote, and the next time you synch, it can push you to a dealer.


Fuller: I’ve got a question for you, Nathan. I’ll put you on the spot. As an advertiser, why do you feel clients are including mobile marketing in their campaigns?

Woodman: It’s kind of what hits a home run and makes sense. If you can prove that the audience you’re going after uses mobile marketing, that’s the in. MPG worked with McDonald’s in Spain. In Spain, a lot of kids get out of school early on Friday. We selected lists to push messages to kids’ mobile devices and send them coupons they could use to go a McDonald’s. When a client wants to be innovative, when the intrinsic audience is right, it makes a lot of sense.

Carrie Himelfarb: I’d like to answer that question, too. We build mobile information entertainment products. We’ve worked with more than 100 advertisers. What keeps them coming back is this entirely new context for a marketer. It’s one thing to see an outdoor ad. It’s another to see an interactive ad online. But to hit them at the right time in the right place is extremely powerful.

How many people are responsible for buying advertising? How many are just interested as a consumer? Here’s the story: The reason why things are becoming interesting is because we don’t need to compare ourselves to Europe any more. There are 1 billion IM and text messages per month. 91.5 million people play games. We now have MapQuest on the street corner. That’s when I need it, not when I’m sitting at my desk! The timing is so, so right, finally.

My company builds data products for phones and PDAs. Our flagship product is Vindigo. How many people have seen or heard of Vindigo? Huh. Not bad at all. We just launched a MapQuest application, a Vibe application, a New York Times application. The moral of the story is that we’re starting to make money off of this stuff.

Technology and numbers are one thing. How an advertiser can exploit this is another. The ad model on mobiles should remain pull and not push. It’s meant to be an extension of what you’re already doing. Of our advertisers, 70% have renewed.


In the entertainment industry, it’s obvious. That’s where most of our case studies are coming from. When someone’s looking up a movie, they can request a reminder of where and when the movie is showing. There’s a lot of different ways you can get to the person at the right place and right time. The entertainment industry uses it to get butts in seats.

The spirits category is another natural. We’re a city guide, and these clients can drive people to an event as well as do branding campaigns so they’re part of the conversation at bars. Retail is also really interesting. I’m on the street corner looking for a product. That’s a good time for Best Buy to talk to me.

And then travel. Over 71% travel for leisure. 69% travel for business. We can tell what markets they’re going to without knowing who they are. We work with airlines like Delta, American, and JetBlue.

Part of our job as panelists is to evangelize mobile marketing. If it’s going to work, it needs to be done right.

Fuller: You said you were making money? That’s amazing. Two years ago, people asked how many eyeballs you had. The second question was, well, what’s your burn rate. It’s exciting to find out you’re making a profit. Let’s go into m-Qube now.

Mike Troiano: We have a little different take on our position in this industry. We think of ourselves as a technology company with ideas. We have extensive relationships with the major carriers. And we do what we do in the interest of consumers. 100% of participants in our campaigns are opt in.


We did a program for Warner Brothers with AOL. m-Qube is about reach. We’ve focused on the lowest common denominator among these devices, which is SMS text messaging. What can you do that’s interesting with that? Not a whole lot. We came up with an interesting idea for the movie T3. What if Arnold from the first movie, T1, was injured in a battle with someone from the second movie, TX, and had to track down some information from the earlier films. Warner Brothers was worried that people wouldn’t remember anything from the first two films.

The objective was to create a more intense experience. There was a sweepstakes. You could get a set of questions over the course of three weeks leading up to the film. People could interact via SMS or using AOL instant messenger. A bunch of promotions were served up by AOL. Promotion is a fundamental element of success.

In the matter of 16 days, we got 53,000 people to play. More than 650,000 messages were generated, and more than 50% of participants answered all of the questions. Clearly, we’d tapped into people who were excited about the movie. A little less than a third participated by SMS. The opt-in media drives that, and clearly, it was AOL.

ClearChannel is also a partner of ours. Their hip-hop station in Boston is Jam’n. We picked a winner at a concert, and they got an instant front-row seat upgrade. Next year when we do it, we think a record store will be interested in sending them a promotional offer. Another client is Procter & Gamble and their Dare to Streak product. Here, again, we think of mobile as an out-of-home direct-response channel.

Agency partners are a big part of the m-Qube family because mobile marketing needs to be fully integrated into the bigger picture.