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Targeting youth on mobile: adidas, Nickelodeon, Sony

The youth demographic is more inseparable from its mobile device than any other and is the bread-and-butter of many marketers, though marketing to that segment presents its own unique challenges.

Young people are assaulted constantly with a barrage of advertising in various media, from television and movies to the Internet and neon signs and billboards. A common theme voiced by mobile marketers is that to get high response rates from young consumers, they have to issue a simple, direct call-to-action that is tied to an appealing incentive and with the need to be informed that they have the ability to opt out at any time.

"Our proprietary motto of the best practices for reaching young people via mobile is P=V+E, participation equals value plus entertainment," said Steen Andersson, co-founder and vice president of marketing for 5th Finger, San Francisco. "This is an equation that we created as a result of many campaigns.

"We found that the most effective campaigns were ones where we used entertainment as the catch with a valued reward at the end," he said.

5th Finger was one of the pioneers of mobile marketing in Australia and has since opened an office in the United States.

"The immediacy of the mobile medium works in our favor, but there are challenges," Mr. Andersson said.

"Some of the most common are getting prominent display of the call-to-action, such as in-program TV placement, getting all the stakeholders to buy in and rising above all the noise," he said.

The company's clients include the Live Earth benefit concert, LG, Cricket Wireless, Virgin Mobile USA, Sony and Nickelodeon.

"We try to engage young people using different media to get the call-to-action out and to get responses," Mr. Andersson said. "Using ringtones and videos as lures for the youth segment has been very effective.

"Rich content download is key -- the richer the content, the higher the response rate," he said. "For example, offering full MP3s gets more responses than offering a ringtone download."

5th Finger ran a Yu-Gi-Oh! Monster Duel campaign for Nickelodeon to promote a three-day marathon of the eponymous TV program.

Nickelodeon ran 5th Finger's call-to-action with a keyword and a short code urging kids to text in for a chance to win one of 50 instant-win prizes. Every entry went into a drawing for a free trip to Sydney, Australia.

The campaign reinforced the notion that mobile is a new way for kids to interact with the Nickelodeon brand.

5th Finger received 50,000 SMS entries in three days, which was Nickelodeon's biggest response to a competition.

"The highest degree of engagement was a result of visual feedback, getting some sort of content back to their handset and providing instant gratification," Mr. Andersson said.

"Instant gratification is an effective way to engage and also get repeat users," he said.

The Mikey's MP3 Club campaign that 5th Finger ran for Sony showcased that strategy by creating the first direct response digital music service on TV. It had the side benefits of generating licensing revenues and supplementary revenues for the producers of the show.

TV viewers were prompted on air to text their email address to buy a track and join the club. 5th Finger sent the download verification code via SMS.

A branded HTML email was sent to their email inbox containing a download link.

When consumers clicked on the download link to the Mikey's MP3 Club site, they were prompted to enter the verification code from their SMS in order to download the track to their Internet-enabled device.

The results? Direct response MP3s outsold ringtones promoted on the same show 4:1 and direct response MP3s outsold online credit card purchases of the same tracks by 1,450:1.

In addition, 25,000 dance music tracks sold at $4 each during the trial.

Brotherhood in the neighborhood
"The use of mobile marketing and messaging during NBA All-Star Week in Las Vegas was successful for Adidas in many ways, both the event itself and driving additional foot traffic into the NBA store that's on the Strip," said Dan Miller, Sarasota, FL-based executive vice president of Neighborhood America.

"It saw 20 times the revenue in terms of daily sales compared to prior weeks," he said.

The success of the NBA All-Star campaign encouraged adidas that mobile was an effective marketing tool. The footwear manufacturer began to think bigger.

"All the several thousand participants in that campaign from all over the world became registered members of this mobile community," Mr. Miller said. "It allowed Adidas to leverage that same group when they launched the Brotherhood campaign."

Adidas launched an integrated campaign "Basketball is a Brotherhood" to coincide with the kickoff of the 2007-08 NBA season, and the arrival of Adidas' Team Signature footwear and apparel in stores.

The campaign, which featured some of the biggest NBA stars teaching young players the value of playing as a team, included TV, in-store, print, online and mobile components.

Adidas wanted to empower consumers to spread the brand message by providing an interactive experience where the consumer becomes a part of the conversation.

The goal was to create an awareness of brotherhood through mobile and involve consumers in the creation of that content.

The campaign targeted boys and girls ages 13-19.

"The idea was that adidas was promoting team basketball to the youth demographic, which is a wholesome message," Mr. Miller said.

"We ran 15-second broadcast commercials showing a select group of five NBA All-Star players teaming up with students in a camp environment and asking views to send a text message in to participate in the new campaign," he said.

The mobile piece was created by ad agencies Isobar and Carat. Neighborhood America integrated with EVB, TBWA and Varitalk to manage the text message opt-ins, reminders and voice calls.

The creative strategy involved integrating the mobile call-to-action into all aspects of the media plan. Each medium was tagged with a different keyword for measurement purposes.

Consumers could "join the Brotherhood" by sending in a text message to receive a personalized mobile voice message from their favorite NBA All Stars.

NBA players sponsored by adidas include the Washington Wizards' Gilbert Arenas, the Boston Celtics' Kevin Garnett, the San Antonio Spurs' Tim Duncan, the Orlando Magic's Dwight Howard, the Houston Rockets' Tracy McGrady and the Detroit Pistons' Chauncey Billups.

The Web site allowed consumers to experience adidas basketball through a series of Web episodes and other creative on-line activities that show the true meaning of "brotherhood."

A mobile site was also used to build purchase intent by providing dedicated pages for each NBA player and his shoe, plus customized ringtones and wallpapers downloads.

In the first week, 5 million mobile impressions drove 75,000 page views to the mobile site and nearly 8,000 people opted in. Some of the numbers have since grown to 88,000 text opt-ins, 100,000 voice calls and 300,000 SMS messages.

Results showed the purchase intent following the campaign was at 93 percent.

Throughout the campaign, mobile outperformed all other media for driving opt-in sign-ups -- and at a significantly lower cost than other media.

The campaign exceeded the client's expectations. As a result, adidas continues to use mobile in its campaigns. The company has been using its database to send text messages promoting events and driving traffic to retail locations.

"Connecting the dots from one campaign to the next to create a community is vital," Mr. Miller said.

"They've created an environment where people are interested in receiving valuable messages from adidas, which is an innovative, really cool use of technology that is very powerful," he said.

Integrating mobile with other media is also key.

"Mobile brings high value for interactive marketing campaigns and its measurability is important, but mobile doesn't stand alone," Mr. Miller said. "The beginnings of mobile campaigns have to be integrated into offline and online interactive advertising."

When issuing a call-to-action, it is best not to mince words, especially when courting young consumers.

"If you're specifically trying to attract the youth audience, the call-to-action must work on two levels: a creative call-to-action that has to be very clear and direct, and a direct incentive that is related to some type of prize or reward," Mr. Miller said.

"The messaging of the campaign should be very straightforward and feed control to the respondent," he said.

While the youth demographic may be the most receptive to mobile campaigns, other groups are catching on quickly.

"Mobile phones are the one common device that we have with us all the time, and the youth demographic is key, but its appeal is extending across all demographics," Mr. Miller said.

"Over time, mobile is appealing to broader and broader demographics, from older people and high-end, high net worth all the way down to blue-collar workers -- the complete socio-economic spectrum," he said.

What is clear is that mobile is a powerful, enticing channel for marketers. There has to be an incentive for the consumer, though.

"The challenge is, because it's a very personal device, making the offer incentivized, rich enough and fun enough," Mr. Miller said. "The challenge marketers have to get past is making the value of participation exciting and valuable enough that people actually do that."