Publishers Clearing House outlines 2009 mobile strategy

Publishers Clearing House, a longstanding sweepstakes giant using the direct mail and TV channels, is targeting a younger demographic with online and mobile initiatives.

PCH is seeking Apple's approval for two free, ad-supported apps for the iPhone and iPod touch, which would be distributed via the App Store. PCH has also added social networking feeds to provide tech- and mobile-savvy consumers with updates on games, sweepstakes and other opportunities to win prizes.

"We are the premier sweepstakes company in the U.S., so people know who we are, but the challenge is maintaining relevance for the changing population that is using Internet and mobile applications more and more," Alex Betancur, vice president/general manager of the PCH Online Network, Port Washingon, NY.

"The younger generation we're targeting includes not just teens and twenty-somethings, but consumers 35 to 55 years old who have embraced the Internet and who are starting to adopt mobile applications and social networks," he said. "Publishers Clearing House is positioning for the future."

The two iPhone apps are focused on entertainment. One app is a slot machine game, while the other is a trivia game.

With both apps, consumers can gain points. Once they've received a certain number of points, they will be able to spin a prize wheel to win money.

PCH partnered with Griffin Technology to create the slots gaming app and with TriviaTown for the trivia gaming app.

"When we decided we wanted to attack the mobile space, the first thing we did is look for best-of-breed developers, and these are some of the premier Apple developers out there," Mr. Betancur said. "We're the sweepstakes people, we're not mobile phone app guys -- we didn't do it all by ourselves."

PCH has deals in place with AdMob and Millenial Media to host mobile advertising on the two iPhone apps.

"There is room for expansion -- we could create paid apps, develop one or two more free ones, refine the ones we have, and go from there," Mr. Betancur said. "We look at the world in multiple channels, and we've had a lot of success with direct mail, TV and even the Internet, with the creation of all these Web sites.

"Now we're looking at the mobile channel as another exciting opportunity," he said. "We're bringing the same excitement and inventiveness we're known for and applying that to the mobile channel."

Social media
As the popularity of social networks and the ability to receive online and mobile updates continues to grow, the Publishers Clearing House Online Network has announced the launch of its social media sweepstakes on Twitter, Facebook and MySpace.

To help promote these new efforts, the PCH Online Network has developed profiles and RSS feeds to direct users to designated contest entry pages where they can enter this unique sweepstakes opportunity.

By following PCHWinningWays on Twitter or becoming a fan or friend on Facebook or MySpace, users will stay up to date on monthly winners and other PCH Online Network updates.

"As far as the social networking stuff, the Facebook, MySpace and Twitter initiatives are mostly Web based, although we hope to have more robust presence in the mobile Internet in the future by launching a WAP site," Mr. Betancur said. "We knew we were reaching out to a new type of consumer who wouldn't necessarily enter traditional sweepstakes, but would enter via social sites.

Consumers can go to a PCH portal on their social network, which links back to a sweepstakes entry page.

"If individuals have mobile alerts turned on, they can be alerted if they've won or not on their handset, and give them details about special promotions, events and news pertaining to the PCH Online Network," Mr. Betancur said. "Social networks are another direct marketing channel for PCH to step into to attract a following and grow our consumer base.

"We want to take advantage of the new types of communication that have been created in the social space," he said.

The landing pages, http://www.pch.com/socialnetworking/tw/pchtwitter.aspx, http://www.pch.com/socialnetworking/ms/pchmyspace.aspx and http://www.pch.com/socialnetworking/fb/pchfacebook.aspx, will provide consumers with opportunities to win a monthly $100 drawing.

Winners are announced through Twitter feeds, Facebook notifications and on MySpace, and entrants are encouraged to log on, sign up and check in to see if they've won.

The PCH Online Network is the Web destination for Publishers Clearing House, a multi-channel direct marketer of value-based consumer products and magazines.

The company promotes its products by providing site visitors with a chance to win valuable sweepstakes prizes.

With more than 3.5 million new registrants per year, more than 5 million unique visitors per month and a database of more than 10 million customers, the PCH Online Network continues to be a viable opportunity for advertisers to reach a diverse group of men and women online.

"We are depending on word of mouth to spread buzz about the apps virally, and we'll be promoting them in our email programs as well -- we have a massive email infrastructure," Mr. Betancur said. "We're willing to see what these things can do via standard distribution and virally.

"It will be interesting to see how it takes, because it's a different demo, different customers that we're targeting," he said. "We are direct response marketers, so we test the waters, and once we get the formula right, we push advertising to make it successful."