Magazine article Marketing

Mobile Marketing: Letter of the Law

Magazine article Marketing

Mobile Marketing: Letter of the Law

Article excerpt

As mobile marketing enters the mainstream, the ASA has issued guidelines that should prevent newcomers to the medium harming their brands, says Philip Smith

Wherever marketers venture, regulation is sure to follow.

Digital marketing is no exception, as the Advertising Standards Authority's (ASA) Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) has shown by issuing its first set of guidelines for marketing via mobile phones. The increasing number of brands - from Coca-Cola to yoghurt drink Yop - using mobile as a channel to drive sales and relationships, underlines the necessity of CAP's 'Help Note on Mobile Marketing', which states that consumers must either give their explicit consent or be existing customers to receive mobile marketing.

This is particularly important in view of the limitations of SMS, the predominant form of mobile marketing. The direct and intimate nature of texting is a strength, but coupled with the 160-character limit for a message, it has the potential to be misunderstood and cause offence. Complaints about text messages to the ASA increased by 500% in 2003 to 353, compared with 65 in 2002.

The guidelines are partly a response to this rise in complaints as well as a means of preventing a growth in mobile spam. CAP chairman Andrew Brown says they should ensure the effectiveness of opt-in communication.

'It is important that marketers targeting consumers via their mobiles conduct their business responsibly in this very personal medium,' he adds.

Carsten Boers, chief executive of mobile marketing com-pany Flytxt, which has run campaigns for Coca-Cola and Orange, points out that the actual number of complaints made about the medium is small. He adds that, unlike email, where problems with spam are well-documented, there is a cost associated with sending out texts on a mass scale.'Mobile spam is not as big an issue as the media coverage suggests because the economics of mobile do not work for spammers.'

Peter Larsen, European managing director of mobile services provider Enpocket, which has worked with William Hill and the NHS, agrees. 'The technical dynamics of mobile make it easier to nip spam in the bud,' he says. 'There is an incremental cost to the spammer not found elsewhere and the sector has been very proactive about the situation.'

Nevertheless, some promotions cross the line inadvertently. Tim Gardner, managing partner of mobile consultancy iris-north, which works with Million-2-1, the holder of a UK permit for SMS lotteries, explains that there is a fine line between gaming regulations and the rules regarding SMS promotions. Many brands, he says, are running SMS pre-diction promotions and are not even aware that they are potentially breaking the law.

Gardner says marketers must be '100% compliant' to avoid damaging their brands. Million-2-1 has invested more than pounds 500,000 in ensuring it does just this, by working closely with the Independent Committee for the Supervision of Standards of Telephone Information Services (Icstis), gambling addiction support organisation Gamcare, Ofcom, the police and the Gaming Board of Great Britain.

Opportune intervention

If prevention is better than cure, the CAP guidelines are timely. As the successes pile up, so the number of brands using mobile will grow.

Cadbury cited SMS as a key mechanism for boosting sales in 2003 and newcomers such as Yop have used it in on-pack promotions to boost loyalty and create a database of opted-in consumers for future promotions.

The CAP is not the only body to have produced guidelines; the Mobile Marketing Association (MMA) issued a more comprehensive set last year. But the CAP's profile with marketers who are new to mobile as a marketing channel has lent it credibility. As Flytxt's Boers says: 'Mobile has the potential to grow as a medium. Although companies are increasingly using mobile, there are plenty of brands that may only be familiar with the ASA. …

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