More than a few industry observers say the most stupid piece of
marketing communications in the history of cyberspace was last year's BT
Cellnet 'surf the internet' campaign.
'There's a company with its finger on the pulse,' one source
'It assumed that people wanted to do the same on wireless as they do on
the internet. I mean, why, exactly? Did they actually ask anyone what
they wanted? And then, having raised the issue, of course, they failed
At the time, the hype bubble was ripe for popping and people were
already toying with mischievous slogans involving ingen-ious
combinations of the words 'WAP' and 'crap'. It heralded a bleak period
for those who believed in the future of mobile advertising.
The line taken by many advertisers and agencies was that this sort of
thing should be put on to a back burner until credible third generation
mobile technologies had established a decent penetration in the
Mobile, ironically, was the medium going nowhere. Or at least that's
what people thought. It seems that mobile has got its skates on again -
and for this it has to thank a certain Ms Bridget Jones, the neurotic's
neurotic whose British film premiered last week.
To coincide with the said premiere, the wireless entertainment
specialist Riot Entertainment has signed a partnership with Helen
Fielding, author of the Bridget Jones experience, to develop SMS content
for mobile phones.
Users will receive daily diary updates in the inimitable Jones style and
the commercial benefits will extend far beyond the marketing of the
The target audience of this campaign will obviously be Bridget Jones
fans - according to Riot-E, that's 'late 20- to early 30-year-old women
and curious men'.
Just how curious are these men, exactly?
Anyway, Riot-E believes that 80 per cent of this audience are likely to
be keen mobile users. And the diary style seems to fit not just the
mindset of users but the constraints of the medium.
It's an initiative that's exciting many. According to Lars Becker, the
chief executive of Flytxt, the mobile marketing company, the mobile
renaissance has already begun. It started, he argues, when people
realised they had to make the best of what they had, rather than
fantasise about what might be. He comments: 'We focus on SMS - something
that consumers use and like.
It reaches a mass audience. And, yes, you can argue that by its very
nature it's a limited medium, but you just have to accept that if you
want to get a message across you have to do it in 160 characters. That's
the essence of mobile - it has to be relevant and hit the spot.'
Pete Robins, the director of media at Beyond Interactive, would agree
with much of that. He says: 'The business is always making excuses about
the technology not being right. But even when a new technology does
appear we rediscover the fact that, when it comes down to it, it's about
quality of ideas. I like the Bridget Jones idea. It's perfect for that
audience because they all have mobile phones which they use for text
They're almost in Bridget Jones mode and if you can build on that, then
it could be powerful.'
But are many clients currently reassessing mobile? Paul Longhurst, the
managing director of Quantum New Media, says that it's on the radar -
but still at a pretty experimental stage. He states: 'There is often a
gimmicky side to this. With text messaging you have to be absolutely
sure that it isn't deemed to be intrusive. You have to give them
something they want and if that also carries branding, then great. It
will be very interesting to see if this Bridget Jones can create a cult
effect - though I suspect that to achieve that, they need to underpin it
with public relations and other media.'
Longhurst argues that mobile is still of most interest to advertisers
targeting the 13- to 18-year-old age group - the heaviest users of text
services. But if you believe some viewpoints, that perception of mobile
may be changing. The Bridget Jones target audience is older, after
Becker concludes: 'When we talk to agencies about SMS, the common
response is 'that's what my kids are using'. But actually, usage is
migrating upwards through the age range.'