Mobile Phone Advertising That's Pull, Rather Than Push
By Mike Masnick, Wed Aug 25 23:15:00 GMT 2004

In an age when mobile marketers are still trying to figure out ways to use SMS and MMS to spam users, some are realizing it's better to engage them.


Marketers have been drooling over the idea of mobile marketing for quite some time. The problem is that many still view marketing in the broadcast mindset: they see themselves pushing an advertisement to people they see as some form of captive or (hopefully) receptive audience. Unfortunately for those marketers, as the world becomes more interactive, the concept of the "captive audience" starts to go away. There are always competing choices for attention, and an advertiser who is too pushy, too intrusive or too annoying will find themselves ignored and avoided. The audience will go elsewhere.

Some marketers, however, are realizing that in a world where there are choices, winning the attention of someone is more important than forcing a message on them. This has been seen, for example, in advertising campaigns that ask people to SMS a billboard in exchange for watching someone get soaked. The billboard is actively engaging the user, giving the user a reason to see what the ad is all about while letting them initiate the contact via the phone. It also gives them a reward (in this particular case, the "soaking" of a passerby) for taking part.

In an age where camera phones are becoming more common, some advertisers seem to be catching on and looking for ways to update such engaging forms of advertising for a camera phone generation. It's almost surprising to find out that it's an old media publication that's one of the first to catch on. While some magazine publishers have been worried about "digital shoplifting", where people were snapping camera phone photos of magazine pages and sending them to friends (mainly to point out a hairstyle or piece of clothing), "lifestyle" magazine Jane seems to be embracing the concept. The marketing staff at the magazine realized that if someone is taking a camera phone photo of an advertisement, at least that means they're looking at the advertisement -- and they might as well encourage that type of behavior.

With that in mind, the next issue of Jane will encourage readers to snap mobile phone photos of the ads to be sent to the magazine. In exchange for each photo, senders have the opportunity to win prizes. Again, like the SMS soaking promotion, this is a form of mobile advertising that is engaging and rewarding. It draws the person in, rather than bombarding or annoying them, and it gives them a reward (or, at least, the potential for one) in exchange for their attention. While it's likely this type of advertising won't appeal to everyone, those that it does appeal to are much more targeted, and much more likely to remember the advertisement.

These are still the early days of mobile advertising, so there's a pretty good chance this particular promotion may not be a runaway success. However, the realization that the mobile advertising campaigns may be more successful via "pull" than "push" is a major step forward.