The US$90 million class action lawsuit in the US against a company for the implementation of a mobile marketing campaign highlights the need for companies embarking on such initiatives to ensure that campaigns comply with legislation and are well-administrated.
The CBS-owned Simon & Schuster is back in hot water after a new US Court of Appeals ruling which overturned a lower court's ruling that had dismissed the case. Class action certification is therefore still pending.
The case stems from a three-year campaign run by the publisher for the Stephen King horror novel, The Cell, when Simon & Schuster sent thousands of unsolicited text messages to consumers saying that the ‘next call you take may be your last.'
Laci Satterfield filed the suit on behalf of 60 000 people after her son apparently received the text message late at night. The 60 000 people stand to receive between US$500 and US$1500 each if the suit is successful.
Locally, there have been a number of campaigns that have drawn the fire of the media and public. Given that it's a new industry, it's not surprising that challenges occur in administrating competitions or promotions over SMS or MMS, especially when mass media is used to drive awareness of the campaign.Guidelines from campaigns
There are some base rules that need to be applied when running a campaign:
- First, campaigns need to comply with local legislation. Given the sensitivity around this new medium in the media and public eye, any violation of legislation is likely to be punished.
- Secondly, the communication around what the campaign is about needs to be clear and easy to understand so consumers are aware of what they are responding to. This prevents unhappiness when consumers find out the campaign is not actually what they thought it was when they responded.
- Thirdly, the position and privacy of consumers needs to be respected. The US case is a classical example of this because it is contested that the campaign was unsolicited according to American law, plus the person who received it was a child and the time they received it was late at night.
Satterfield obviously felt strongly about her son receiving scary messages late at night in a campaign that promoted a horror novel, which is probably why she resorted to legal action.
- Fourthly, companies need to use service providers which have the right systems and administration processes in place.
Mobile is instant and it is mass market. Campaigns can go out to millions of people within hours and they can respond at the push of a button. Companies need to ensure their service providers can handle that kind of volume and manage all the responses as they flow in.
While mobile marketing has had its teething problems, the reality is that it's the way of the future. Mobile ad spend is on the rise (while traditional ad spend is declining) and consumer response rates to campaigns are astounding compared to response rates from traditional marketing channels.
However, campaigns need to be well-administrated to protect the consumer and maintain the integrity of the brand which is being marketed.