SMS: The Energizer Bunny of Mobile Advertising

Like everyone else with a pulse, Paul Rand, president and CEO of Zocalo Group, has noted the phenomenal growth of mobile advertising. Statistic after statistic confirms such observations, including the latest from the Interactive Advertising Bureau, which last week reported that mobile advertising revenue leaped an eye-popping 82.8 percent to $8.9 billion in 2012.

“Within the last 18 months, consumer mobile usage has exploded,” Rand told CRM Buyer. “As of March of this year, Facebook is seeing over 750 million monthly active users on mobile and predicts this will outpace desktop usage altogether soon.”

In response to these trends, Zocalo has created mobile ad programs to help its clients take advantage of these opportunities. There are traditional mobile ad campaigns, of course, but Rand also tells of a propensity for clients to ask for SMS-based functions as well.

Is something wrong with that picture? Actually no. Although someone not well-versed in mobile ad trends might assume that the sexy and eye-catching display campaigns, or the utilitarian search format, would be in top demand, many people steeped in the trade will tell you that texting is a fundamental part of any mobile ad campaign.

A More Targeted Approach

“With so many people now texting instead of talking on their mobile devices, not including SMS as an integral component of a marketing program is short-sighted as long as users have the ability to easily opt out after receiving the first text,” Ritch Blasi, senior vice president for mobile and wireless at Comunicano, told CRM Buyer.

“Texting can be a more targeted approach to reaching customers, specifically in geographic areas,” he continued. “For example, Home Depot might have a national sale campaign, but the local store can text additional specific offers to its current list of customers.

“They could also couple texting with location-based services to send discount messages to people within a given distance of the store,” Blasi added. “‘Hey, you’re near our store, stop in today to receive a 15 percent discount on power tools.'”

Adding Value

To be sure, not everyone is as enthusiastic about SMS messaging as a campaign device.

The IAB’s latest report bears this out. It broke down the categories of growth for mobile ad spend and found SMS messaging was the slowest-growing category. Granted, it grew at a rate of 40.2 percent in 2012, but that was half the rate of search and display, which increased at 88.8 percent and 87.3 percent, respectively.

Part of that, no doubt, is that SMS is one of the older formats, so its initial growth spurt has already been realized, but there is also a sense that texting is more of a low-rent format.

The Bottom Line

Such figures and perceptions must be absorbed, though, as part of a bigger picture about texting — namely, it has a good track record and it is remarkably cost effective.

“With 90 percent of text messages read within three minutes, SMS messaging has the potential to be an effective and low-cost mobile marketing strategy for many brands,” Ashley Twist, mobile innovation strategist at Engauge, told CRM Buyer.

Because most people check their text messages so quickly, brands can customize messages to the day of the week and even the time of day, she said.

“These unique and personalized messages could improve response and conversion rates,” Twist pointed out. “Messages pushed to email or a social network often get lost in the sea of notifications.”

SMS is also significantly less expensive than most media placements on other mobile platforms, she added.

“Freeing up that extra budget could be an opportunity to develop alongside other technologies, such as a mobile landing page,” Twist suggested.

In other words, SMS mobile marketing doesn’t have to be an either/or proposition.

Erika Morphy has been writing about technology, finance and business issues for more than 20 years. She lives in Silver Spring, Md.

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