Monday, January 29, 2007

To bluespam or not to bluespam, that is the question

I've just been catching up on my blog reading and quite a few of my regular reads are commenting about bluespam, or bluecasting if you're being posh.

First off, the Square Group is sending out free video clips from Avenue Q to passers by who happen to have their bluetooth switched on on their phone. The claim impressive results (well if you're in Direct Marketing or Sales Promotion they are). 9,595 active Bluetooth devices were detected and sent messages. Of these, 703 people accepted the offer of the video download – an average of 87 people each day. Seems good on the face of it. I applaud Square Group and Avenue Q for giving it a try. But how targeted was this audience if it was targeting passers-by? [of course, if it was aimed at fans of the show who were inside the theatre, then I could better understand it.]

Ewan shares his feelings about why bluetooth isn't designed for marketing or file sharing and is an, at best, clumsy user experience. Whilst David, from Mobile Marketing Magazine, wonders if these results are acceptable. David continues,
"Put another way, the campaign achieved a (positive) response rate of just over 7%. That, of course, is a response rate that any direct marketer would kill for, But that’s the point. Mobile marketing is not direct mail. It’s more personal than that, and brands that ignore this fact do so at their peril. And while Bluecasting may be legal, to my mind, if 93% of the people you offer a free download to decline the offer, that’s not really a success."

I actually doubt if 93% of people were annoyed at getting the bluetooth message. Some would have been mildly irritated, some would have ignored it completely, some would have left it to sort out later not realising that it was location specific and related to a bluetooth broadcasting system in the theatre, and for some, they may well have clicked on the system and it just didn't work (as in my Casino Royale experience), in which case the logs are likely to be inaccurate. And of course, there would be some people who would be annoyed and consider it as spam and completely evil. We just don't know what the breakdown is.

Putting the legalities aside which I discussed last week in relation to Virgin/Qwikker, I think this begs a larger question of marketing and advertising more generally which Carlo over at Mobhappy also hints at.

It's harder and harder to generate interest in products and services via *any* marketing methods - new or old or mobile or whatever. It's a law of diminishing returns and the youth of today don't understand the economics behind it all - i.e. that advertising has funded the majority of our entertainment for the last 50 years. So what do you do? Of course, there are clearly some wonderful success stories out there, but they are few and far between. If it was *that* easy, then we'd all be rich, but we're not - even when we have fabulous products and services to promote. It's not an easy equation to work out, even when you have the goods to start with.

I also understand why Avenue Q would use something like bluecasting - there's no messaging cost to the network operator. This makes it hugely attractive financially. And it is marginally less intrusive than a text message as your mobile number is kept private. And for any marketing campaign, 7% is a good response rate. And after all, we live in a commercial world and if the maths adds up, then the maths adds up.

But you know what, bluecasting will be an interim technology at best. At some point in the near distant future, we will be always on on our mobiles with wap access, flat rate data charges, pre-installed QR code readers and phones that just work. In that scenario, we won't need bluetooth to file share, we'll just do it over the air, like we do from our PCs. We'll take a picture of a QRcode, it will link us to the wapsite and we'll download away to our heart's content and maybe even share with a friend via the 'send to a friend's phone' link.

So traditional marketers, take heart, we'll still need magazines and posters and audio and video communication in our digital nirvana, it's just we'll be more seamlessly connected so you need to understand how this digital jigsaw fits together rather than looking at channels in isolation. So you could do worse than check out the mobile marketing course next month from e-consultancy.

Maybe I'm dreaming of a future that's 20 years away but hey, a girl can dream. I do know that in the future, we'll also have a lot less tolerance for any kind of push messaging as it will be considered spam and unwanted and will have a negative effect on the brand. And we'll be even better at ignoring it all, which we're already pretty good at as the Avenue Q campaign demonstrates - 93% of the potential audience ignored it.

Right now, we're in a transition phase. The laws are still being worked out. The technology is still flaky some of the time and we're still in a trial and error stage. But try and err you must in order to learn. We're still not quite sure how this mobile game will pan out. But in this 21st Century age of blogging, file sharing, instant access, always on digital overload, there are no easy answers. You will never be able to please all of the people all of the time, but you'd better do your best because if they're unhappy, they're going to tell all their mates pretty quickly with all these new-fangled communications methods flying around.

Ignore new technology at your peril. It really is changing our lives.


  1. Anonymous7:57 pm GMT

    Great post Hellen. I agree that the tolerance for people getting bluespam or other push messaging is going to hit the wall. Permission-based messaging is the only way to go, but I'm sure people will always push spam whether it's mobile or email.

  2. Anonymous10:29 am GMT

    Good work Helen - I do like your blog.

    Keep it up..

    Interesting thsi as I'm going to see Avenue Q tonight, I'll look out for that...

  3. Pretty clear thinking... however, push in bluecasting is not the only way it can be done...
    as for the replacement for BT, it rather seems wi-fi than wap :)

  4. @nastaev

    Thank you for your comment - appreciate the feedback. Yes, I agree that push in bluecasting isn't the only way, but my experience of pull in bluecasting is equally poor to date as in my Casino Royale experience, my o2 VIP blueroom experience and Channel 4 FourDocs poster campaign... not one of them worked properly and, I imagine, different technology providers in each case.

  5. After reading all the thoughts about BT transmitting mrkting contents these days. I have had the following thoughts. People seems to like the idea of BT transmiting contents/msg/access to a potential user. But you guys seems to hate the way it is being implemented.

    Either its Bluecasting or Bluespamming, I think that the party implementing this idea to spam people, without people's notice, just simply lacked the responsibility.

    Although 3G's popularity in the future and everyone's access to wap sites non-stop. Don't forget about the "location-base" and "push" attributes that BT has.

    The invention of internet gave birth to many large corps such as Google, e-Bay, My Space etc. These companies actively do ads/PR/news release online. Why? Because online ads are the most direct way (with one click) to access these websites. Further more these people (sitting in front of a computer accessing the web) are the potential users of these websites.

    In the near future, when people will spend more time accessing the web via mobile, larger companies that provides mobility services will emerge. What will be the best way to push these "wap services" to a potential user's phone? Taking a QR code, send it and wait to be accessed? Yes, maybe, in some situations. In a lot of cases, it will be BT. When you're in an outdoor environment, activating your phone's BT to access mobile contents, will be the same as clicking a banner within a website to access

    BT cannot substitute other forms of ads, just like online ads aren't killing TV/mag/outdoor ads. It will be a tool that has to be integrated with outdoor ads to provide location/environmental base communication solutions to fulfill the whole chain of communication.

    So, for people who are pushing contents via BT, pls do it with responsible. Don't let people think that its rubbish!

  6. I can confirm that it's bluetooth marketing company, Alterwave, who put the Avenue Q campaign together. From their website:

    "Jan 2007 : Alterwave sends puppets via Bluetooth - London - The theater hosting the show Avenue Q, the famous musical performed by an unholy comedic alliance of humans and puppets, is sending video samples of the show via Bluetooth to people passing by."

    So, it wasn't targeted as it was aimed at passers-by who were just going about their daily business. I'd say that was pretty interruptive myself since your phone still beeps when you receive a bluetooth alert.

  7. Anonymous3:41 pm GMT

    Always enjoy your blog Helen.

    I've blogged on Bluetooth proximity marketing (student marketing) and Ave Q, might interest you:

    Also reported on Hotxt, which Beta Bunny (UK student community) recently looked at. I couldn't find any Hotxt blog posts from you, though I've seen your comments elsewhere.

  8. As an active advocate of Permission Based Marketing I do not see Bluespam as any different from SMS or email spam. I do not equate it with TV advertising, nor with static adverts.

    The interesting thing is that it brings the spammer within physical range of my complaint, an interesting concept.

    The UK Information Commissioner has a guidance note which interprets it as against the PECR, which is interesting, but requires that someone complains. I have an enquiry in to his office and will post the upshot on my own blog where there is some discussion about Bluespam currently

  9. @Tim Trent
    Thanks for your comments Tim. I'm really interested to see how you get on with the Information Commissioner.


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