The forgotten child of the social revolution

Is…mobile.  Everywhere I look, there are postings, articles and features on blogging, podcasting and vlogging (is that the right term now?) and all focus on using PCs and laptops as the engines to these shiny new channels.

Internet penetration and, more importantly, broadband  penetration levels are rocketing as ISPs preach to the converted and market to consumers hungry for more and more bandwidth.

But something’s being overlooked.


Mobile phone penetration levels are, and have been for years, skyrocketing almost to the point of saturation.  Two of the most important emerging markets (from BRICK), Brazil and China, have had huge levels of mobile phone adoptance and now the new breed of tech companies, Google especially, are charging in there head first.

My feeling, thought or take on the matter is that as PRs we’re neglecting to harness, or at least to attempt to harness, the awesome power of mobile.  Plus, using a sophisticated mobile marketing campaign in partnership with a MSM partner, could actually generate revenue, turning marketing from a cost centre, into a profit centre.

Let me tell you how, and then I’ll go on to talk a bit about some other interesting mobile products, services and partnership options that I’ve seen recently.

In the fall of last year my old client, a major city listings site, asked me to advise them on how they could generate revenue from SMS text messages.  A few months ago, my company also asked me to look into ways we could generate revenue in the same fashion and a month before that, I annoyed one of the VPs by suggesting a way that we could give away a condo from one of our clients without costing them any money, and in fact could even make some money.

I gave the same concept, with varying degrees of research, it must be said, to each of the stakeholders.  No one except the client liked the idea, and even they didn’t go for it in the end.

The idea was simple and wasn’t even that innovative although I’m yet to see it put into practice over here in North America despite various other SMS marketing schemes.  It was a reverse SMS auction.

If we take a condo as an example, the PR company would approach a major broadcast partner (in Canada it could be Canwest or Corus Entertainment) to set up a nationwide co-promotion.  The media partner would record a number of spots, to be integrated into their normal programming over the course of the co-promotion, that hype up the prize and provide a call to action for listeners/viewers to text in their lowest unique bid (in cents) to a premium rate number.  Each text message would cost the consumer around $3.50 (CAN) and the winner would be the person that sent in the lowest unique bid and would then have to pay that amount (in cents) to buy the prize.

Say the condo cost $350,000, the media partner would have to have around 100,000 respondents in order to generate the money needed to buy the condo from the client.  Any more, and I would say there would be a lot more than 100,000 SMS messages, would be profit to be split between the media partner and the client – the agency would also be in on the profit sharing but from the client’s share of the pie and would write the script for the presenters to read as well as set up the premium rate line.

To build interest, there could be a reply component telling the respondent whether they’re in the poll position or not.

Sounds complicated?  Go to Talksport and have a listen.  I'd be surprised if it takes more than 15 minutes for the presenters to mention the current contest.

They’ve been running reverse auctions (called “How Low Auctions”) for more than a year so they must be making a ton of money.  Prizes I’ve heard included Ferraris, holidays and even straight up cash.

With premium products, the reverse auction provides a new twist on the boring old co-promotion tactic that so many agencies use these days. 

Because it’s in the media partner’s interests to publicize the promotion as much as possible, the client gets amazing exposure for both the brand and product.  And the promotion is credible as it’s being pumped up by the same hosts that everyone hears on the station.

So what else have I seen or heard?

Well, back in the UK I was quite the clubber and a great little trick in clubs was if a great song came on that you didn’t know, you could, and still can, call 2580 and hold your phone up.  The company tagged the song and sent you back a text message (premium rate of course) with the name and artist so you could hop onto iTunes and buy it the next day. 

Two things from that; why not have the service hooked up into iTunes automatically so that the next time you opened iTunes up, it started downloading the song?  Second, any company wanting to get involved in music sponsorship could sponsor the service for a night or for a set number of messages – “bought to you for free by SPONSOR.  TAG LINE”.  Really simple, probably quite cheap marketing to get exposure to the people on the edge that are likely to tell their friends about it…and your brand.

What cool mobile cheats do you have?  Leave them in the comments section!

**Update** Check out this link –

2 Responses to The forgotten child of the social revolution

  1. […] I’m a huge fan of the potential of mobile in PR (it’s a long one) – here are some great tips on how to create content for the third screen from Canadian Business. Basically, keep it visual, heavy on the close-ups and light on the dialogue […]

  2. shelly says:

    i love that desk!

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