Many marketers are not fully complying with the code of conduct drawn up by WASPA, creating scepticism and mistrust among individuals who are increasingly receiving SMS and MMS-based marketing messages across South Africa's cellular telephone networks.
Mia Papanicolaou, e-marketing manager at electronic messaging specialist Striata SA said: “These are powerful direct digital marketing mediums but campaigns not executed within the code of conduct could seriously undermine the overall effectiveness of integrated marketing strategies where SMS and MMS direct digital communications are reinforcing the more conventional methodologies.”
Papanicolaou added that there are important “do's and don'ts” for marketers. The most important “do's” are:
Ensure there is a reply path so that the recipient can easily unsubscribe at least cost; Personalise the message with the recipient's name; Start the message with the sender's brand name so that it is identified up front; Regularly check replies and honour requests to unsubscribe; Clearly communicate how to unsubscribe; Use “STOP” as a general default unsubscribe keyword; and Report any unsolicited commercial messages to www.smscode.co.za or SMS to 32335 and help self-regulation of the industry.
There are five important no-no's. Do not:
Send messages exceeding 160 characters (or it requires two messages); Use sender ID because if the recipient responds the reply will be lost in cyberspace; Send messages from a premium rated SMS short code as this prompts reply without revealing the cost; Use capital letters unless it is to highlight something critical, or a capitals brand name, or the message's “call-to-action”; and Use SMS “talk” or “speak” such as phonetical abbreviations – the target market may not appreciate it.
WASPA has defined rules for most media, including TV, cinema, radio, newspapers and magazines, content booklets, outdoor billboards, below-the-line marketing, websites, email advertising and SMS/MMS advertising.
“The full cost of participating in the campaign or competition, including VAT, and the terms and conditions, must be included,” said Papanicolaou. “WASPA also has rules for each medium that govern aspects such as font size, frequency and length of airing, placement in relation to the short code number and how it should be displayed. For example, in a television advert the cost must be placed in a box or triangle in contrasting colours in one of the top corners of the screen while in print media the cost must be placed adjacent to the short code number.”
Papanicolaou adds that the “opt-out” is an important area for ensuring the code of conduct is strictly applied: “An SMS campaign must provide an opt-out facility for recipients to decline to receive any further SMS communication and it may not cost them more than R1.00 to do so. If a recipient requests details of how the sender obtained the cell phone number, the sender has 10 business days in which to provide an answer with specific details. It's not enough to respond with a generality such as ‘from a database'.
“The SMS must also include contact details of the sender, preferably a website address and include unsubscribe instructions if there has been no communication for more than 10 days.“
The code of conduct encompasses aspects such as competitions and distribution lists. In the latter, the code recommends that the sender must have had direct and recent association with the recipient and, if there has been no communication for 10 days, the message must include sender identification.
“Companies can and are making cost-effective use of these technologies to market products, special offers, events, competitions, promotions and new products and services. Correctly done they have great impact,” said Papanicolaou. ”However, it is most important that as an industry we ensure that the WASPA code of conduct is adhered to or the mobile marketing industry may suffer considerable harm.”
Striata offers a full spread of digital communications options, e-marketing strategy and execution over and above its market leading position in electronic billing and messaging – a complete electronic communication service from a single source with a single line of responsibility to reinforce conventional off-line marketing programmes.