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Advances in MMS add interactive tools for mobile marketing

By Rich Eicher

The anticipated improvements in application-to-peer MMS (MM7) interoperability this quarter and next, as announced by the Mobile Marketing Association, will offer cross-carrier, interactive multimedia marketing opportunities for engaging consumers through their mobile devices.

Mobile marketers have extensively used text-based SMS messaging because it has broad reach and it is quick, simple and relatively inexpensive to deliver.

These campaigns are often accompanied with hyperlinks to a mobile Web address to enhance user engagement with the brand and provide additional content beyond the 160-character limit.

However, marketers often ask themselves if there's enough meat in the SMS text to entice the user to click the link. And if an end user does not click, did the brand still get their message across?

A complementary service used by marketers is MMS, an extension of the SMS standard. It is a rich multimedia messaging technology, including options for audio, video, images and thousands of characters of text within a single message.

The growing use of peer-to-peer and peer-to-application picture messaging, especially for social networking and picture sharing, and marketers' increased interest in application-to-peer (A2P) MMS have been catalysts for carriers to upgrade their MMSC infrastructure and to apply more universal standards for bulk MMS delivery and reporting.

MMS platform providers have correspondingly added advanced features for the deployment of A2P MMS technology in the marketing space, improving the creative presentation and interactivity of the service, including:

â?¢ Multiple slides of content or marketing "events" in a single MMS message
â?¢ MMS delivery receipts
â?¢ MMS device discovery and content adaptation of images, audio and video
â?¢ MMS hyperlink adaptation, shortened and click-through instructions based on device
â?¢ Multiple click-to-call links in a single MMS message
â?¢ Multiple click-to-web links in a single MMS message
â?¢ Optional terms and conditions slide, with text or spoken audio
â?¢ Incoming MMS keyword matching
â?¢ MMS bar code and NFC (Near Field Communication) object delivery
â?¢ DRM technology to manage the right to share and forward content

MMS is not a stand-alone technology but actually complementary to SMS.

Marketers will employ SMS call-to-action marketing in broadcast, print and online, which then triggers an MMS message response with content delivery.

On the flip side, they may ask end users to submit pictures to their short code using MMS and then respond with an SMS or MMS.

Importantly, content and messages sent via MMS are delivered to and opened within the recipient's inbox in the same familiar way as SMS.

There is no software to download or application to launch. And end users can reply to an MMS with an SMS, and vice-versa, on the same short code.

End users usually now have SMS and MMS bundled together in their messaging plans.

However, A2P MMS, at least for now, is more expensive than SMS delivery for marketers. Whether the higher cost is justified depends primarily on the marketer's objective and its use of the benefits of MMS.

Marketers currently leveraging an SMS platform provider's infrastructure will most likely -- depending on the aggregator -- be able to use their existing SMS short code for MMS delivery as well.

While some SMS platform providers may be developing their own MMS technology, others are integrating with established MMS platform providers to extend their own platform and capabilities.

The choice of MMS platforms is far more difficult than for SMS.

The quality of SMS text is indistinguishable between handsets. so platform providers compete mainly on reliability, throughput and price.

However, MMS capabilities will vary greatly between each provider, based also on message quality, message format, delivery latency, handset support and carrier reach.

MMS will continue to complement SMS and the mobile Internet so content providers, brands, retailers and agencies can create and deliver rich, interactive content and messaging to the largest possible audience.

More importantly, MMS is likely to stand apart as a messaging technology offering marketers rich media opportunities, the immediacy of a user's inbox, interactivity, the viral component of content sharing and an audience already familiar with and using messaging.

Richard Eicher is founder CEO of Skycore LLC, the Boston-based developer of Cellyspace.com. Reach him at .