RealTime IT News

Talking On The Same Wavelength With SMS

People will do anything to get through to that critical 15-24 demographic. And then there's SMS, which is virtually an open front door to the mobile-owning population online. One company with an understanding of both is 5th Finger, which is running SMS campaigns for Sydney's newest FM station on the block, Nova 96.9.

In the Asia-Pacific region, and bear in mind that companies like 5th Finger, Edgematrix and Webcom are happily engaged in all the territories of the Asia-Pacific region (particularly the Asian bit), mobile phone use comes close to outrating the rest of the world, particularly with respect to two very critical and often lucrative age groups.

Hong Kong has the highest mobile phone ownership in the region with 83 percent of adult population (15-65) owning one, followed by Taiwan (79 percent) and Australia (69 percent). But break this down further into the 15-24 demographic and the penetration of these devices actually gets higher, with even WAP registering a pulse in Australia.

For 5th Finger, the growing number of companies that want to target the dangerously fickle 'youth' market have learnt the hard way that young people don't click banner ads. Of course, while the consensus appears to be these days that no one clicks banner ads, the news on the SMS front appears to be positively uplifting.

Interactivity and business-to-one marketing are all the rage again as brewers, nightclubs, and even the police use the 160 characters available to them to do anything from plugging short notice club specials to delivering discount coupons or entry.

It is one of those dangerously simple technical solutions that has crept into the public's psyche, lodged itself and is here to stay, at least until the next thing comes in.

But in the area of youth marketing it is very much that next thing that can steal a march for a business over its competitors, because in a marketing sense being seen to be hip, is as critical as being hip, even if you're not hip.

For Radio Nova, launched on March 25th 2001, audience knowledge was always going to be critically important, particularly as the station isn't going to know about how it rates until July, or possibly August, because of a ruling by the Federation of Australia Radio Broadcasters (FARB).

Along came 5th Finger, a company based in Sydney's Surry Hills and boasting a CEO and founder, Steen Anderson, who incidentally also founded RealNet Access.

5th Finger, in whom handset manufacturer Ericsson has taken an interest, was featured in a story on australia.internet.com, during which founding member and business development manager Anthony Howe said that the company's AirCast SMS technology is the SMS representation of the killer app of the Internet -- instant messaging.

"It's also technology agnostic; we're working on SMS because a lot of people are using it at the moment, but when GPRS and instant voice comes along, we'll be on these platforms, too. We do have a WAP implementation as well, but its been shelved for the time being because no one is using WAP."

5th Finger set about creating an SMS solution for Nova -- which has only one presenter over the age of 30, and fewer on air commercials than any other radio station -- and is essentially targetting the same audience as rival station Triple-Jay, with perhaps a broader appeal into some of the other radio stations' listenerships.

Nova's solution involved the incorporation of radio ads and a competition, for which the prizes were trips to New York or Milan to catch a Madonna concert.

The competition, for which the winners were drawn less than a week ago, featured 200 announcements over two weeks on the station, divided up between prerecorded radio spots and live radio reads by announcers across the company's timeslots. It was significant, though not ultimately surprising that the 'live reads' got the best response, for radio's ultimate killer app is intimacy, unique for a broadcast media where in spite of the existence of large audiences, the radio listener always hears an announcer's delivery as coming just to them.

It's also an old trick of radio that announcers speak as if to one person, which further reinforces the illusion of a one to one relationship. It's a tanget, but probably forms some of the reason why SMS and radio go hand in hand, so to speak, something Andersson agrees with. "People have a strong connection with SMS, you can associate a level of intimacy and a strong personal relationship with it".

"What Nova liked about us is strict privacy policies about how we run campaigns, we have a formula for opt-in," Andersson said, discussing the company's mode of conduct when it comes to the customer experience. "permission equals value plus enjoyment", he said, citing the ultimate value of not just being seen to ensure consumer privacy, but actually enabling the process to be littered with opportunities for the reciever to opt-out, going so far as informing users that they were part of a campaign, and one with an option to opt-out, at any time.

Andersson made some telling points about the nature of privacy in the electronic media marketing age, saying that "Privacy concentration is paying off -- it's almost an opportunity, respecting individual privacy and building an understanding with a customer, if you utilise their info in a respectful way, will create a positive brand loyalty".

The response, said Andersson, made Radio Nova, which had expected 'seven or eight thousand,' according to Andersson, "go ga ga". Nova ultimately received 36, 000 entries, with 95 percent of respondents giving their first name, 75 percent overall giving both first and surnames, and 3 percent giving Nova their addresses, age, contact numbers and even song requests. For Nova, this has been a rich haul of information about a listenership that is critical to its ultimate success. Nova, which is running the second of its campaigns with 5th Finger, featuring a promotion for Robbie Williams that starts soon, has a storehouse of data which it was able to incorporate into other promotions during the period of the campaign, all protected by the integrity of regular opt-out opportunities.

For 5th Finger, which Andersson said hasn't spoken to a potential client that isn't happy to try SMS, suggested that those concerned with retrun on investment, as well as results, should investigate it.

"The cut through is significant, the dollar figure you would have to spend is less, it's the medium has a strong association with this audience, the 16-25 has a strong propensity to engage with SMS".