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Text message marketing shifts up a gear

Users "welcome" multimedia ads but want freebies in return

The growing trend for MMS (mobile messaging service) technologies has opened a doorway for retailers to advertise their products via mobile phones and PDAs (personal digital assistants), which could mean hi-tech spam mail for consumers.

Wireless applications service provider iTouch has developed a scheme which allows retailers to send direct marketing to their customers.

But iTouch insists this is not spam.

"Permission is the single most important element in all disciplines of direct marketing. Mass messaging only serves to devalue the market place and the industry as a whole," said Rob Ellis at iTouch.

"SMS marketing is only undertaken on an opt-in basis, and it is targeted by pre-profiled demographics in terms of age, geography and so on," added Ellis.

Analysts at research firm Forrester
have often warned marketers not to get overly excited about direct marketing. Its research has shown the average response rate for SMS advertising is 11 percent, which doesn't provide much hope for MMS, which will eventually supersede today's SMS marketing.

The advertisements will be a series of colour videos and include polyphonic ring tones and other exclusive downloads.

"The advances of SMS to MMS will allow wireless marketing to offer very rich services. Instead of telling a consumer about a single, with MMS we could download a polyphonic ring tone and attach a picture of the album cover," said Ellis.

A study conducted by mobile telco Nokia earlier this year showed that of 3,300 mobile users worldwide — a whopping 86 percent — welcomed SMS advertising so long as they got something in return, such as vouchers or money-off coupons.

Customers will be charged at premium rates, which could be as much as £1.50 per minute to reply to messages.

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