OPINION: Pamir Gelenbe

OPINION: Pamir Gelenbe

Mobile phones and the internet are two of the newest ingredients in the media mix - but are they friends or foes? They are both interactive, instantaneous and cost-effective, have both been adopted as direct marketing media and are now both contenders for some of the traditional media spend.

But are they competing for the same budget or are they complementary? While they have strengths in common, they also have different strengths.

Companies use their websites as virtual shop windows for products and services. By contrast, although MMS handset penetration has reached 15%, today's average mobile is far from being a shop window.

Another strength of the web is data collection. Electronic forms can be filled in with ease. SMS, by contrast, is limited in the data it can collect. Consumers can text information, but it is comparatively cumbersome.

However, mobile is more time-sensitive. An e-mail can take up to 24 hours to be read, but text messages are always likely to be read straight away.

This timeliness can be used to catch subscribers when they're most likely to be in the mood to react to the message.

The mobile medium's personal nature is another factor.

Mobiles are our communication gateways to friends, family, peers and colleagues. By contrast, the main reason we use the web and e-mail is for work.

The ubiquity, timeliness and personal nature of our mobiles make it easier to build relationships via SMS than the web.

Consumers' permission is key, but it is possible to keep in touch with the consumer anytime, anywhere.

The internet cannot deliver this as easily, unless your mobile has internet access or you are always at your computer! But how can the two media be harnessed in conjunction with each other? An example would be a recruitment campaign for contestants on a TV show. The show looks for particular characteristics in its contestants and screens them to determine who gets to appear on the show.

Leaflets and magazines promote the show and ask volunteers to text in to take part.

Once they've texted in, the show texts back a URL for them to fill out a form online.

Responses are tracked on the web, and if the respondent hasn't filled out the form, it texts them a reminder. Online, they provide the wealth of information the show needs. The next stage involves meeting potential contestants. They receive emails with details about the next test. On the day of the test, they are texted a reminder.

Another successful case of using text messaging as part of a website is with premium rate SMS - PSMS, a straightforward and convenient way to conduct micro billing where a credit card transaction is too cumbersome.

The answer to the question of whether mobile and the web are competitors is not clear cut.

In some instances, such as using electronic media as a direct response mechanism, mobile can be more effective than the web. Mobile can also be used to enhance the online environment and drive traffic.

Subtle yet highly effective techniques can enable brands to use both media to their best advantage to be the most helpful to consumers and get the best response rates.

Pamir Gelenbe Director of corporate business development, Flytxt

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