The Future of Mobile

Participation TV Explained

David Murphy

Im_a_celeb_jIn the third part of her ongoing series looking at the 20 key mobile marketing applications,  Helen Keegan, MD and founder of mobile marketing agency, Beepmarketing, looks at Participation TV...

Unless you never watch television in the UK, then you must have seen programmes incorporating text messaging as an intrinsic part of the television programme. That might be for voting, such as Big Brother, X Factor and even the recent British Comedy Awards. This has been a nice money-spinner for the broadcasters and network operators alike, as the figures below show. If you imagine that each vote costs a minimum of 25p + your standard text charge, and that the broadcaster is probably getting a return of around 11p on each text, the numbers soon add up.

Programme                       Votes Cast by Text

Big Brother                                5 -10m+

I'm a Celebrity...                       10m+

X-Factor                                    5.4m

Big Brother 3                             5.3m

Big Brother 4                             3.1m

Fame Academy 2                       1.6m

Eurosong 2002                          700,000

Source: Data Association  

obThis is all well and good, but there's a massive missed opportunity
here. On the rare occasions that I have voted on TV or sent my comment
in to a TV or radio show, I've had the most rudimentary reply (if I've
had a reply at all). And all this reply message does is to confirm my
vote. It doesn't ask me to opt in to a database. It doesn't ask me for
any feedback. It just assumes probably - that I'm a fan of Big
Brother, ergo, I must be male or female between the ages of 16 and 30.
You'd think the broadcaster, and advertiser for that matter, would be
interested in knowing a lot more about its viewers.

But there's more to Participation TV than text voting. GMTV, This
Morning, Richard and Judy et al regularly run premium rate competitions
for a chance to win cash or a holiday. These usually ask a very simple
question with an A/B/C answer, and the viewer pays between 1 and
1.50, plus the usual standard text rate.

And at last, this year, we're beginning to see more interesting ways of
interacting with consumers via mobile, that leverage the popularity of
key TV shows. The BBC is the trailblazer in this respect, offering free
mobile games to support its programme, Spooks. And although they're giving the game away free, the Beeb warns
that it could cost you up to 2 in data charges from your network
operator for the full game experience. Hmm.

We're also seeing WAP sites supporting youth programming in particular.
So for Channel 4's Totally Frank for example, you can see exclusive
mobile episodes and download pictures of the girls. The SMS link to access the WAPsite is free and accessible for all users,
except Three customers. But you pay to view the video clips and they're
using Bango for billing. But what price that video clip is, I have no
idea. I didn't sign up as a Bango user as I was worried I might be
charged a lot of money. Nowhere could I see how much the video clip was
before paying for it. There is no mention of price until you get to the
'Download  this Video'  stage. You're then given an option to read the
Terms and Conditions, though there is no mention of a specific price in
there either, and way too many pages for comfortable reading.

I wonder how hard it would be to put 'Download this video for x?' And
I wonder if this pricing strategy has had an effect on the number of
downloads they've actually sold? I'm guessing that many people get as
far as 'Download this Video' but when they realise that they can't find
out how much the video is, they simply exit the browser altogether.

To view it for yourself, text MOBILE to 83188 (UK only)

So this is another case of a company nearly getting it right.

10/10 for creating mobile specific content and the WAPsite to go with
it. But 0/10 for not making the pricing clear. I'm not suggesting that
all mobile content should be free. But if you are charging customers,
then you have to make it easy for them and tell them how much you're
charging, especially when you're appealing to predominantly under 18s.

0/10 too for data opt-in (there wasn't one) or finding out about the
audience. And again, 0/10 for
interacting with users and getting
them more involved with the characters. Maybe a simple voting
mechanism, an optin message for further information (which could be
advertiser-sponsored), or simply a 'Give us your feedback' prompt would
be enough.

I guess they need someone like Beepmarketing to help them make this a more rounded proposition. Channel 4, you know where I am...

Copyright Helen Keegan 2005. All rights reserved.

Helen Keegan

Next time out, Helen will look at Quizzes. To read more of Helens thoughts on mobile marketing, visit her blog.

Mobile Marketing Defined Overview. Read

Text 'n' Win Explained. Read