Lisa Simmons: The dangers of unprotected text

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The Independent Online

MTV claims it has trebled its audience figures following an SMS marketing campaign for its Video Clash programme that encouraged viewers to text message their votes to determine which videos would be aired. Working with the mobile portal Yourmobile.com and Clickmusic's entertainment-focused ad sales network, Sonic Advertising, it claims to have received more than 250,000 SMS messages each day.

MTV claims it has trebled its audience figures following an SMS marketing campaign for its Video Clash programme that encouraged viewers to text message their votes to determine which videos would be aired. Working with the mobile portal Yourmobile.com and Clickmusic's entertainment-focused ad sales network, Sonic Advertising, it claims to have received more than 250,000 SMS messages each day.

SMS-based marketing has caught the attention of big names such as Sony, Mars, GlaxoSmithKline, Intel and Deutsche Bank, all of which will be attending a seminar on 22 March, organised by the mobile commerce provider m-Wise (www.m-wise.com) to hear how SMS can help build brand recognition and establish personal ties.

No mention of how it can destroy marriages, though. I'm reading Man and Boy by Tony Parsons at the moment, in which the main character's wife leaves him after hearing a voice-mail message from his lover on his phone.

This will all get a lot worse if EU laws on location-based marketing are not adhered to, according to John Strand, CEO of the Danish research firm Strand Consulting.

Strand tried to frighten a Scandinavian mobile operator into considering the importance of adhering to laws about location-based marketing by painting the scenario of a man who visits a bar one night with "champagne and lots of beautiful girls and he has a good time, you know what I mean, wink, wink. He is tracked and the next day he is sent an SMS message by the club, thanking him and giving him future discount on his next visit.

"He takes his wife's phone to work by accident and she takes his. On seeing the message, she decides to divorce him, and, being so wealthy, he sues the mobile operator for the half of his fortune she got."

It's a crude example, but it demonstrates why a marketing technique that is so successful because it is so intimate must be handled with utmost care.

There he goes again

The new-media job market has never been known for its gold carriage clocks, but Julian Hardy, ex-Freeserve managing director, must have the hottest feet and the most fiercely bullet-pointed CV out there. He pops up all over the place. Last week, he "resurfaced" again, announcing that he was heading a start-up a software company called X-Imp.

Hardy, who quit Freeserve last August after just five months in the job, said he was approached by X-Imp to be a customer while he was still at Freeserve. He has been at the helm since Christmas. The company has so far been run on about £500,000, but is now seeking to raise £5m.

X-Imp is developing software based on Extensible Markup Language (XML) that will build complex e-business systems, "the likes of which have never been seen before", Hardy claims. Before joining Freeserve, Hardy was the commercial director at IPC Electric for only three months, and prior to that he was the head of MTV interactive businesses in Europe.

And just as I have become addicted to Lycos's £10,000 Fetch competition along with bananalotto.co.uk, thedailydraw.com, uproar.com and tombola.com, Hardy has decided to develop his own online lottery, backed by private equity investors. It will go live in two months.

Bang a gong

Wanting to outdo the Brits (and, after this year's dull, prank-free ceremony, that wouldn't be hard), Revolution magazine decided to enlist Media Wave, fresh from broadcasting the Brits, to webcast its annual awards ceremony last Friday evening. Jumping on the SMS bandwagon, it also enlisted the SMS shopping service, SCAN, to alert users to the names of the winners of the coveted gongs handed out at the Commonwealth Institute in Kensington. For those who forgot to attend, Reed Exhibition, organisers of the International Direct Marketing Fair, has developed a service that might be of use in the future - an on-site text-messaging service which reminds attendees, via their mobile phones 30 minutes before an event, to get their act together. It's one of the first examples of SMS marketing in a business-to-business environment and it makes sense in a world of bulging diaries.

Let's face it, the Bridget Jones star Renee Zellweger could have done with an SMS message to get her off the loo and on to the stage to collect her Golden Globe a few weeks back.

But with the search engine AltaVista sponsoring the Revolution awards, and having threatened to send representatives with giant comedy hands and sniffer dogs (to do a "search", geddit?) into the loo when your name is announced, you probably would have been hunted down anyway. Check www.revolution.haynet for the winners.

lisa.simmons@haynet.com

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