Magazine article Marketing

Marketers Warm to Voice Service: Interactive Voice Technology Use Is on the Rise. but Can It Beat the SMS Options. (Mobile Marketing)

Magazine article Marketing

Marketers Warm to Voice Service: Interactive Voice Technology Use Is on the Rise. but Can It Beat the SMS Options. (Mobile Marketing)

Article excerpt

The fledgling mobile marketing industry's biggest success story so far has been text messaging. But in order to leverage the saturation of the mobile phone market and take advantage of the latest technology, it is also moving into voice-based alternatives.

Operators are now exploiting the potential of voice-activated services by using the latest interactive voice response (IVR) technology. Agencies are also getting involved, combining IVR offerings in mobile marketing campaigns. This is due to the perceived cost savings over SMS and the potential to generate cash from call charges.

"Marketers and advertisers are becoming aware of IVR's potential to save money," says Neil Wooding, head of persuasive technology at Ogilvy Interactive. "Budgets are tight, so if something can generate revenue or cut costs it's attractive."

Voice-activated executions are a long way from outstripping those which are SMS-based in the mobile marketing popularity stakes. Consumers are using SMS heavily, with 1.2 billion text messages sent in October 2001 alone, according to the Mobile Data Association. But it could be only a matter of time before SMS is super-seded by IVR.

[O.sub.2], the brand formerly known as BT Cellnet, has developed its FINDme service, where IVR technology enables users to dial to listen to services such as traffic updates or tourist information.

BT Group division BTexact Technologies is creating its own voice-activated interface, Gabrielle, for multiple platforms including interactive TV, mobile and internet.

And Virgin Mobile is the latest convert, making a big commitment to IVR with its 4321 portal service, launched in November. With it users can hear music, film, TV soaps, news and sport through their phones. They can also enter a virtual shopping mall and buy concert tickets and CDs or DVDs.

Emotional experience

Marketers are certain to be studying the possibilities of this portal, though opportunities such as sponsoring news categories are a long way off according to Steven Day, corporate affairs director at Virgin Mobile. "We've not averse to sponsorship, "says Day." But this is a new technology and we want it to establish itself first."

Eckohtec, the developer of Virgin Mobile's 4321's IVR technology, has its own IVR portal, Eckoh, and has already begun exploiting its marketing potential. It's offered brands key words that link directly through to the brands' sections of the portal's shopping mall.

But it has not alone:mobile marketing agencies have not been slow to see the potential in IVR technology. Working for 20th Century Fox last August, digital agency l2snap added an IVR-based game to the promotion for the Planet of the Apes film. Players heard a recording from the soundtrack on their phones and had to shoot, using a number on their keypad, each time they heard an ape.

"IVR-based marketing can be a lot more compelling than SMS-based, "says Anne de Kerckhove, managing director at l2snap. "Our own research has found voice marketing, especially involving voice-based gaming, is a lot more of an emotional experience for consumers. Telephones were designed with the voice in mind."

Ogilvy Interactive's Wooding predicts that a wide variety of brands will turn to IVR as developments enable users to access the platforms from easy-to-learn 'short codes' such as the 4321 number sequence used by Virgin Mobile's customers. …

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