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Advertising via mobile devices took a step forward this week when the company behind the first attempt to push a TV-style ad out to local mobile users declared its campaign a success.
Personal care product company Kimberly Clark used a mobile video ad as part of the local launch of a new tampon brand, U by Kotex.
Brand manager Tania Gluyas said the power of the phone as an advertising channel was demonstrated by the high response rate to the video ad.
Twenty-eight per cent of those who received the ad responded to the company's free sample offer, compared to the 5 to 10 per cent response rate typically generated by a direct marketing campaign, Gluyas said.
But mobile users worried their phones will be swamped with unwanted video ads can rest easy. Network operators Telecom and Vodafone prohibit spam messages, and a web link to the Kimberly Clark video ad was sent only to people who had previously signed up to receive text ads on their phone.
The database used by Kimberly Clark to send its video ad is managed by mobile marketing company HooHaa, which pays phone users 10c for each message they receive and has signed up 75,000 willing ad recipients since it launched in 2006.
Until now HooHaa's campaigns have been limited to sending text messages. The U by Kotex campaign was the first where the text has included a web link to a video ad.
It was sent only to Vodafone handsets because rival network operator Telecom does not have a system in place to allow phone users to access video clips without incurring internet data charges.
HooHaa founder Brian Hawker said the company was talking to Telecom about developing a "zero-rated" access system similar to Vodafone's network, but it was unclear when it would be available.
The 28 per cent response rate from those receiving the video ad via their Vodafone phones contrasted with the 17 per cent of Telecom mobile users who responded to U by Kotex's free sample offer sent by text without a video link.
Hawker said HooHaa's own research showed its members initially signed up to receive cellphone ads because of the payment incentive but they remained members of the scheme because of the value of the targeted offers they received from advertisers.
Ensuring the ads remained of interest to those who received them was vital to HooHaa's success, he said.
"The key for us is, it's our job to ensure it's relevant advertising. People don't just want to receive advertising. They can go to the letterbox any time they want to receive advertising."
Vodafone New Zealand chief executive Russell Stanners has previously said his company's research suggests the majority of its customers are not averse to receiving advertising messages via their phones as long as those messages have personal relevance.
Gluyas said mobile phone ads were a powerful way for Kimberly Clark to reach the young audience it was targeting with the U by Kotex launch, because they were a demographic that was watching fewer ads on TV.
"We wanted our target market to have a bit of fun with this campaign, so our ad is quite a fun ad and it's a fun way to watch it and share it with friends ... You're viewing the commercial in a fun environment rather than on TV where it's slotted in amongst lots of other ads."
Nick Baylis, New Zealand chief executive of advertising agency M&C Saatchi, said advertisers were showing increasing interest in using the potential of the mobile phone, and that interest would accelerate as the platform improved through technology developments such as faster mobile broadband access speeds.
"It's inevitable that mobiles will become a major video channel. It's just too good an opportunity for advertisers not to investigate," he said.
"Our job is to make it not intrusive. As always with these emerging channels it's about making it relevant, making it engaging and making it useful so that people actually want to download and view it."