Text message begins to market the Middle East

If you thought text messaging was a curious habit of the younger generation, think again.

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By  Shilpa Mathai Published  December 31, 2003

If you thought text messaging was a curious habit of the younger generation, think again — marketers are convinced this is a potent direct marketing tool. When Pepsi wanted to create and develop a buzz around the launch of its Pepsi X in Saudi Arabia, ad agency Impact Proximity decided to launch a campaign that included sending text messages to consumers in the market. Dimitri Metaxas of Impact Proximity says this was one of the earliest mass mobile marketing campaigns in the region which included the use of imagery via SMS. “We communicated with 125,000 Saudi consumers between the ages of 15-25 across the Kingdom,” says Metaxas. “The campaign proved to be extremely accurate with only seven mobile number bounce backs. It was also cost effective as the cost per message was only $0.08.” Metaxas says the campaign has delivered thoroughly on objectives and far exceeded industry benchmarks for cross mobile/Internet campaigns. The total cost incurred for the campaign was the equivalent of six full-page insertions in a popular monthly publication (@ $5,000 per ad average). “Couple this with the lack of incentive integrated in the Pepsi X launch and the metrics speak for themselves,” he says. However it is still early days for mobile or SMS marketing in the Middle East. Brands are only beginning to realise the benefits of including such a medium in their overall marketing mix, and as yet, the majority of brands have yet to establish mobile/SMS marketing as permanent fixtures in their strategy. “However, for those that have, the benefits have been more than compelling as this is a fully trackable medium,” explains Metaxas. According to him mobile marketing can be used to directly increase sales hit rate by generating personalised cross-sell, up-sell product/content recommendations based on recent or pre- purchase. It is an accurate medium with low bounce back rates of around 1-3% average and allows advanced segmentation to deliver campaign messages to the specific customers based not only on demographics but also past purchase history/behavior. It can be executed with unparalleled speed-to-market allowing brands to respond to key market developments within the same day. It is also effective to create a two-way dialogue with consumers and track the results and helps a campaigner gauge targets responses and needs with real-time statistics and reports. “Mobile marketing works most effectively when integrated with other media such as TV and Internet/email. In this way, brands can integrate “call-to-action” messages resulting in high response/interactivity rates, whilst all the time building rich databases based on consumer responses and profiles,” says Metaxas. However, SMS marketing has come under an intense barrage of criticism of late, most notably in the UAE, where Etisalat has been very active in commercialising the service to marketers. Because direct marketing is still under-developed in the Emirates, consumers are not used to this level of intrusiveness, particularly without their permission. Pravin Pai, associate director at OMD in Dubai, however, belives SMS is good for direct messages that have simple and single-minded propositions. Relevance is key, otherwise SMS can be seen as a disturbance. Consumers should have the option to opt out so that it does not create any negative feeling towards the brand. Until MMS fully becomes available, Metaxas says agencies will be limited in the scope and creativity of messages.

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