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Battery Power

Free mobile calls and texts in return for receiving brand owners' messages is set to become a predominant brandcasting model of the future, predicts Ardi Kolah

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While user generated content (UGC) and its impact on brand communication has occupied a fair amount of marketing media coverage lately, the next wave of consumer communication has only just begun.

Later this year, users in the UK will have the chance to make free phone calls and texts on their mobiles.

That sounds like an offer too good to be true. And of course there's a catch. Subscribers will need to opt-in to receive brands' messages. On the face of it, this looks like a fair compromise.

However, critics are sceptical that the "free rewards in return for advertising" model won't work as users will soon get fed up being bombarded with junk mail and offers they've no interest in. That's been the experience to date.

But this hasn't dissuaded City investors in looking for new ways to use mobile technology to reach 16- to- 24-year-olds with a greater degree of accuracy and fluency than has been done at present.

According to telecom industry analysts, advertising and marketing on mobile phones is set to become the next marketing phenomenon -- worth $6 billion a year within the next five years. And this will take place against the background of a shrinking market for traditional voice services that have become so commoditised that they've dropped from the bottom of the value chain.

For example, Skype already allows millions of users to make free calls anywhere in the world and it won't be long before technology allows you to do this from your mobile.

So the recent announcement by Blyk -- the pan-European free mobile phone operator that'll launch its service in the UK this summer -- is evidence of "battery power" in the marketing mix.

"For decades, marketers have been dreaming of a medium that has the distribution effect of broadcast, targeting capabilities of direct marketing and interactivity of the internet. And now it's here," claims Ala-Pietila, founder of Blyk.

What's interesting is that Coca-Cola, Buena Vista, L'Oreal Paris, and StepStone have been the first brand owners to sign up to use the Blyk network (provided by Orange).

They've been seduced by the prospect of reaching consumers in real time, creating innovative content that will allow dialogue as well as being able to closely match the needs and interests of the customer segment.

And it's likely that these brand owners won't stop at advertising but will create campaigns around "mobisodes" as well as offering branded-downloadable content such as music, games and other entertainment -- for free.

And of course it's measurable -- allowing a deeper level of behavioural data to be captured.

Provided these brand owners engage rather than antagonise these customer segments then the future's bright for Blyk's new service.

And it could make paying your phone bill a much less painful experience.

Ardi Kolah is a sponsorship practitioner and works with a range of brand owners to maximise the return on investment from sponsorship. He can be contacted on mobile 077100 77941 or

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