consumer experience, technologies

118’s new ‘laser-targeted’ SMS ads

Something quite interesting for mobile advertising churned through the mobile news mill today.

New Media Age reported that the directory enquiries service (or DQ) market leader, 118118 has signed up its first brands to advertise within text messages using new, ‘laser-targeted’ SMS inventory.

While I’m doubtful that this technology uses lasers of any kind, it could be rather significant in terms of mobile advertising, targeting and relevancy.

Having taken their first call in 2002, 118’s long experience and substantial ongoing message traffic means they can command enormous power when it comes to user information and personalisation. In the same way that Amazon struck out ahead in online retail, 118 did in the mobile DQ space.

Yes, there are competitors that may even have superior offerings in terms of response times and accuracy: AQA and Yell amongst them. Texperts too, before they were acquired by 118 holding company kgbkgb around a year ago and absorbed into 118. But sustained promotional clout has seen 118 make great strides technically and commercially.

As a wholly owned subsidiary of American DQ provider, Knowledge Generation Bureau (branded kgbkgb / 542542), 118 has enjoyed generous funds to help the push. Branding London taxis, having daily cartoons in widely-read free commuter newspapers like the Metro, enjoying a generally hefty print advertising budget, forcing those ubiquitous moustachioed men onto our television screens every other ad break: it all helped raise public awareness.

So their numbers should be impressive enough to appeal to brands like Rimmel and Twentieth Century Fox, both of whom have signed up to advertise within the unused space of courtesy messages following mobile voice calls, and direct answers to SMS questions.

More than this, it’s the targeted element which holds vital appeal. Mobile advertising and marketing is rife with those who extol the virtues of relevant targeted content to drive figures, use and audience. And rightly so. Blindly spamming to big lists of supposed “subscribers” is bad, largely ineffective and shouldn’t happen.

Yet SMS remains the most popular mass market mobile technology outside voice calling. It holds the common appeal of familiarity for almost every mobile user. So for large brands who want to see results now, not further down the line, owners and controllers of data like Amazon and 118 are vital.

These providers know mass user behaviour and what questions are being asked when, so are able to programmatically deduce relevancy via keywords contained in inbound messages – before automatically generating a suitable ad in the empty space of a response. Development of handsets means this ad, though limited in character number, can contain a click-to-call link or a URL to further online content.

The Rimmel and Twentieth Century Fox campaigns are said to be achieving click-through-rates of up to 5%. And given 118 are looking to build a roster of sales agencies, it’s something we can expect to see more of.

Not that SMS ad-insertion was a concept invented by 118. Many have attempted it: initiatives and pilots have been carried out. I don’t recall seeing any results and still haven’t received an ad-inserted message though. For the maximum possible impact right now, which large brands so crave, it’s the volume which remains critical.

Robust volume integrated with intelligent targeting that consistently returns results: that’s the Holy Grail. So the promise of delivering relevant advertisements to any service user on any device, with no fears of incompatibility or fragmentation, has to be the most compelling prospect for mass market mobile advertisers.

Unless they actually do use real lasers to target the messages, which might be a little bit more compelling.


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