Self-Regulation of Mobile Marketing Aimed at Children: An Overview of the Spanish Case

Article excerpt

Abstract

Mobile phones have changed consumer and company behaviour and today they constitute the most direct means of communication between them. Many groups are targeted through promotion campaigns using mobile phones. Children, who in the future will be the largest consumer of new technologies, are one of these groups. Given that current Spanish legislation does not clearly establish what company policy ought to be in relation to promotions aimed at children, self-regulation of the mobile telephone sector is imperative. Spain is already among the developed countries in which one out of every two children has a mobile phone. Firms should pay special attention to this target group. Firstly, because promotional campaigns aimed at children have their peculiarities and secondly because of the legal and ethical protection that children deserve. Company policy, in this sense, should include the drawing up of Codes of Conduct. This article begins by analysing the child segment as mobile phone consumers. It then highlights the legal and ethical problems of mobile campaigns aimed at children, and looks at some studies carried out by the European Commission and the Spanish government. Finally, this paper draws some conclusions about the measures companies should adopt and offers practical help for self-regulation of the mobile telephone sector in Spain and, if possible, in other countries (especially other European countries within the framework of the agreement signed by the leading European mobile operators in 2007 to develop self-regulatory codes by 2008). Moreover, future research needs to centre on whether these measures increase child protection.

Key words: Mobile marketing, Permission marketing, Corporate social responsibility, Selfregulation, Child safety and privacy

1 Introduction

Mobile Marketing or M-Marketing is a direct marketing tool. It seeks personalised communication or dialogue with its target audience via the mobile phone. This medium allows users to interact with television programmes, download tunes and receive customised information, for example. It is becoming increasingly popular in promotion campaigns.

There are two strategies frequently used in promotions, known as push or pull strategies. The mobile phone opts mainly for a pull strategy as it publicises promotions via another medium (television, radio and packaging). This means it is the customers who initiate the relationship by sending a message to take part in the promotion [14]. Thus, a database of the consumer's tastes is created with the latter's prior consent. The current difficulties involved in obtaining a mobile telephone number database make this type of strategy more suitable.

Promotions via mobile phones are, however, much more profitable for the major mobile network operators - MNOs- (in Spain: Movistar, Vodafone and Orange, and recently Yoigo-GSM) than for mobile virtual network operators - MVNOs - (Carrefour, Happy Móvil and Euskaltel) or Mobile Service Firms (such as the members of AESAM, Association of Mobile Service Firms), since they retain over half the revenue [2], [32]. These major operators are also present in other different channels and manage their own information services (alerts, draws, logos, etc.).

However, Corporate Social Responsibility forces these companies to meet the needs of present and future stakeholders, thus going beyond legal requirements, by integrating the economic, social and environmental impact of an organisation's operations within the organisation's strategy [11].

Children are one of the profitable segments for mobile firms.

2 The Mobile Phone Market in Spain

The use of mobile phones for personal use has been growing exponentially in Spain since the 1990s, when the operator Moviline (Telefónica) began to offer this service.

In 2004, the Spanish National Statistics Institute (INE) estimated that 76.89% of Spanish homes had one or more mobile phones and the number of subscribers exceeded 37 million. …