World: Analysis - Economist treads a fine legal line with its bluejacking drive

campaignlive.co.uk, Friday, 16 July 2004 12:00AM

Bluetooth campaigns need element of surprise in order to work, Philip Smith reports

How would you feel if your mobile were hijacked by a brand that sent you a cheeky one-liner just because you had taken the time out to attend a business event?

Business executives in Asia now know exactly how it feels, thanks to The Economist, which has been bluejacking people at events in the region.

The opportunity to bluejack (sending messages via Bluetooth technology to relevant mobile phones) saw The Economist brand first approach people at the Asia Businessman Readership Survey in Singapore with the message "caffeine-free stimulant" as the delegates tucked into breakfast. Similar tailored messages from the brand greeted mobile phone users at Media's advertising awards ceremony this year, as well as sports fans attending the Hong Kong Rugby Sevens.

Bluetooth allows messages to be sent between devices some ten metres apart, which, as The Economist has found, makes it appropriate for event-based marketing. Yet, to date, bluejacking has been little more than a social craze where people use the technology to communicate with strangers in a crowd. There is even a seedier form of the craze - bluedogging or toothing, where people try to use the technology to find sexual partners. But, in an increasingly technological world, this year's social phenomenon (or sexual peccadillo) is next year's fashionable marketing tool.

Dominic Goldman, the creative director at OgilvyOne Worldwide in Singapore, which, along with Red Card, worked on The Economist's campaign, says the social popularity of the technology was a trigger: "We first heard of bluejacking as a phenomenon sweeping the UK and thought that it would be a great medium for The Economist as it's the perfect brand to talk to people in an unusual and innovative way."

He thinks it worked for the brand: "The Economist was very aware that many people weren't going to see this. However, it did receive huge amounts of buzz and PR due to the fact that this was the first use of this medium in a commercial way."

The number of mobile phones that can use Bluetooth is growing rapidly.

According to Forrester Research, 20 per cent of all phones sold incorporate Bluetooth chips and this figure should increase to 75 per cent by 2008.

Stephen Waddington, the managing director of Rainier PR, which has produced pioneering studies and reports on bluejacking, explains that The Economist has picked up on a technology that is capturing the popular imagination.

"I haven't found anyone else using it as an advertising vehicle," Waddington admits.

"It gives The Economist recognition for being on the bleeding edge of technology. It works for the magazine, but I would have thought it would also work for urban brands in particular."

He believes bluejacking offers three distinct opportunities for advertisers: it's a form of viral communication, where consumers can share content, as brands such as Budweiser, Honda and John West Salmon have found to their success on the internet; it's a community activity, billed by proponents as a "superb physiological tool for communication"; and it's a boon to location-based services, which could send consumers electronic coupons or promotional messages.

It has some way to go before it becomes a major digital marketing channel, Lars Becker, the chairman of the mobile services company Flytxt, which creates mobile campaigns for brands such as Emap, Orange and Coca-Cola, says.

That's not to say the medium doesn't have its appeal. The advantage it has over other forms of mobile marketing, including SMS and MMS (picture messaging), is that advertisers do not need phone numbers to target their audiences.

The downside to this ease of contact is that if advertisers fail to collect details from the individuals contacted, then there is no dependable way of resuming contact with them.

"In a public place, such as a bar or a restaurant, it could be used by beer brands as a funky new way of getting their message out there," Becker suggests. "As it is location-specific, it shows your audience is over 18 too." At least, in theory.

But, as both Waddington and Becker point out, using Bluetooth in this way takes advertisers into a legally grey area. Who regulates it? And how do you ensure that you are not irritating the recipients of the message?

"As it is a very localised form of advertising, you can put up posters to point out that the bar, say, is Bluetooth-enabled and ask drinkers to 'switch off your phones if you don't want to participate'," Becker suggests.

However, Goldman says The Economist campaigns were not flagposted this way. "That was the point. To make the idea effective, it had to be received by unsuspecting people."

Either way, it is a technology that can enable advertisers to contact people at the crucial point of sale.

One problem with a promotion is that while Bluetooth-enabled mobile phones are becoming increasingly commonplace, not everyone has their Bluetooth connection switched on. "They need to know about it," Goldman explains. "And that usually means other media should be utilised."

The lessons learned with other forms of mobile communication hold true for any new technology such as Bluetooth, Becker concludes. "You don't have a set idea of what the consumer is doing when you contact them," he says. "The mobile may not be the centre of attention. When you see some online advertising, you are likely to be sitting at a PC. It is not the same for mobiles - send a message out at 9am and people have a very different focus compared with at 6pm."

HOW TO BLUEJACK

- Find a busy place where there will be lots of mobile phones and a concentrated target market. Shopping centres, trains, bars or business events are a good bet.

- Create a new entry in your phone's address book - for instance: 'Hi, you've been bluejacked.' Attach a picture if you want to.

- Use the search function on your phone to find other Bluetooth-enabled phones to contact, and choose one.

- Send the new entry. Keep a look out for the puzzled expression on your victim's face when they receive it.

Source: TagText.

This article was first published on campaignlive.co.uk

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