It’s hot and it’s happening. An industry in the making; the Short Messaging Service industry, a.k.a. the SMS industry has grown by leaps and bounds. AirTel is currently logging over 7.5 lakh SMS messages per day and Idea Cellular has logged on an average of 65,000 messages per day in the AP circle alone. BPL Mobile recorded more than 5 lakh messages per day in Mumbai alone.
With such sizeable numbers in the log and increasing by the day, what potential does the SMS hold for the advertisers and marketers? Let’s have a peek. But first things first! A quick look into why SMS is the newfound way of communiqué.
"A comparison of SMS with some of the other means of communication will give you the answer”, says Raj Singh, Business Director, Active Media Technology and member, Mobile Marketing Association. “E-mailing requires one to be logged on to the net and telephones require both parties to be present at the same time. SMS requires neither. It combines convenience and speed. And to top it all, it is a low cost medium.”
With such distinctive features, SMS is surely high in popularity amongst mobile users. But how popular an advertising tool can SMS be amongst advertisers and media people is the question. While Singh opines that the potential of SMS as a parallel medium to TV, Radio or Print is fairly good because of its personal nature and the fact that it allows interactivity, Sulina Menon of Carat India, feels that advertising via SMS can be compared to junk mails in ones e-mail box; they are the most irritating to anyone and hence SMS does not hold much interest for a media planner. She feels that the consumer’s privacy should not be invaded and that he should be left with the choice of receiving any kind of SMS from a marketer.
Yet, planners are using SMS, if not for sending ads, for using the less obtrusive and hence less dangerous pull strategy. Here the tactic is to promote your brand using SMS, but instead of advertising, you provide an interactive platform to the customer. Carat India, for example is currently using SMS as an interactive medium, for one of its clients. Even media marketers are using SMS to promote programs and increase awareness and viewership. Partha P. Sinha, Director Marketing at ZEE comments, “We at Zee had recently used SMS to promote our new programme, ‘Jeena Isi Ka Naam Hai’ by sending text messages using user groups”. Similarly, Pepsi, during one of its cricket promos, had used SMS as a medium for cricket lovers, where they could send in their cricket queries to be answered by the cricket players.
Although media planners are using SMS for their brands, it is quite early to say what potential SMS holds as a medium. With the new Multi-media Messaging Service or MMS, which allows not only text, but also sound and colour graphics, one can never say how soon the mobile industry will see the demise of SMS. Says Singh, “Yes, down the road, MMS is going to affect the SMS market, but this might take some time for the simple reason that you require special handsets for MMS and also upgraded infrastructure on the part of the operators.” But going by the lack of enthusiasm for WAP, which, according to Singh, failed partially because one needed a special handset for it and partially because the user interface was not user friendly, you can never be so sure about MMS also.
All said and done, both SMS and MMS have their pros and cons. What can be said for sure is that media planners and marketers have been using SMS and will continue to use it for some time. But what is uncertain, is how creative they can get in exploiting the medium’s potential keeping in mind the medium’s somewhat intrusive in nature. A time to test their creativity!