Tuesday, April 03, 2007

How not to do mobile marketing via bluetooth

Another grumble today (well, yesterday actually, just getting round to writing it up today having read coverage at Finextra). I spotted on the BBC London evening news last night that HSBC was trialling bluespam bluetooth marketing in London's Regent Street. It seems that if you have your bluetooth switched on, and passed by HSBC on Regent Street, you get sent a bluetooth message with an offer about ISAs.

The BBC reporter interviews several passers-by and not a single one of them wanted to get the message and all felt it was intrusive and definitely spam.

HSBC was not available for comment but said:
"that they're running a small scale trial and the feedback from passers by and customers to date has been very positive."
The reporter aptly pointed out, that the way to *not* get the messages was to turn your bluetooth off (assuming you know where the bluetooth controls are on your phone or that you even have it)!

I'm very suprised that HSBC is running a trial at all for something that is still a very grey area legally. I've written about bluespam before and I still don't see what's legal about sending me a message to my phone that I haven't requested in the context of the laws around electronic marketing. Just because you don't know my phone number doesn't mean you can send me anything you fancy.
Update: One of my readers pointed out to me via email that this 'trial' has been going on for at least a year... now that doesn't sound like a trial to me anymore...
Comments on any of the above anyone?


  1. Anonymous4:15 pm BST

    Nothing any of the big banks surprises me anymore. HSBC - The World's Most Intrusive Bank - how's that for a new ad strap line?

  2. Anonymous4:23 pm BST

    Bluetooth marketing is SPAM unless I specifically opt *IN*. Wasn't there a ruling on this? if not, what does the MMA have to say?

  3. @anonymous - brilliant tag line!

    @paul walsh - AFAIK both the MMA and the DMA have ruled against bluetooth broadcasting as HSBC is doing it currently. Anyone else have any details?

  4. Anonymous1:34 pm BST

    are you not opting in by agreeing to accept the message? you dont get sent any content til you hit OK

  5. @blippa It's the first message appearing on the screen at all that's the bluespam rather than at the point of accepting to receive content. Admittedly, that message doesn't get stored on your phone like a text message, but it doesn't make it any the less intrusive, nor does it mean it isn't spam just because it isn't stored, well IMHO anyway.

  6. Anonymous4:06 am BST

    I'm sorry, you can find it annoying, and most find it, but as it comes to legal/illegal, it's not a message. You can't argue about it. You're being contacted, yes. But you're not getting any message unless you accept it. It's the same thing as complaining about the Salvation Army person approaching you to talk about some of their yadda. Or, to be somewhat elusive, complaining about the phone ringing.

    And IMO, all this bluetooth discussion is starting to be too much biased, based on personal prefs mostly.

  7. @Terry

    You're right, a lot of this is based on personal preferences. That's what blogs are in general - personal opinion. I don't make any apology for that.

    However, on a more important note, my mobile phone is my personal space for which I pay handsomely on both the device and charges for calls, data and services. If I choose to opt-in to receive information, marketing messages or advertising on my phone, that's my choice, and I do this regularly.

    However, having a message sent to me via bluetooth from a company is not the same thing as having the Salvation army stop me in the street - that is public space not private space. Equally, if a shop assistant approaches me in their shop, then that is their private space that I'm entering and as such, should expect to be contacted in some way as I'm playing by their rules by entering into their space. And if my phone rings when I have not opted in to receive telesales calls from companies, then that's spam too and contravenes the data protection act. I don't see how any of these scenarios compare with bluecasting as it exists today.

    Equally, Terry, define 'message'. As far as I can see, anything that appears on my phone that includes words that are understandable to me and convey information equates to a message. You may want to see the definitions on wikipedia and the Oxford English dictionary which may help clarify that http://tinyurl.com/2s4lch and

    I am not against bluetooth marketing per se. I'm against being interuppted in my private space when I haven't given permission for someone to do that. Now if there was a clever application that I downloaded to my phone that meant my phone was recognisably opted-in to receive bluetooth messages, then great. And in the future, I have no doubt that there will be ways of recognising opted-in bluetooth customers vs non-opted-in. But as bluecasting stands today, it's intrusive and it seems to be in a very grey area when it comes to spam and the legal definition of it.

    Maybe the short-term compromise is to only run these promotions within a private [albeit commercial] space rather than out on the street? We know the physical limitations of bluecasting in terms of feet or metres so you can do the maths as to where you place your bluetooth broadcast system. That way you also probably have the media space available to let people know what you're doing (because you own the space) and you're possibly* within the law to broadcast messages in such a way.

    Of course bluecasting is a very different beast to a customer requesting content via bluetooth and being proactive about it (blue-pulling?) as in the Casino Royale example I wrote about before.

    *I am not a lawyer so I don't know the precise answer to this!

  8. From a technology perspective, the medium simply wasn't designed for marketing. There is no "opt in to bluetooth marketing messages" option in your phone's setup menu. Because there are huge security issues inherent in accepting unexpected Bluetooth connections, I think it is actually deeply irresponsible for anyone to use this approach, as it encourages people to accept unexpected messages and thereby opens them up to attack (Bluejacking?) Bluetooth marketing? Thanks but no thanks.

  9. Anonymous11:27 am BST

    I'll keep my comments brief:
    this is a stupid use of mobile by HSBC and the people at the agency that advised them to do it should be shot...

    ...there, got it off my chest.

  10. Anonymous11:33 am BST

    Here in Spain Bluetooth Marketing has been on for a couple of years now and with succes (we haven't heard about any bluespamming stuff really), but some issues need to be clear when planning such campaigns.

    When using bluetooth for a marketing campaign, it should be clearly anounced, ideally with some outdoor advertisement. The user always gets the choice to receive a message (it's like opt-in when I see an ad and want more info), if I don't want to receive any message, I just keep my bluetooth closed, no probs.

    I agree with Daniel though that bluetooth in the first place hasn't been really designed for mobile marketing, as for now only some brands have tried it but imagine I walk down the streets, and there's such a message at every shop I pass - this will definately not work on a longer term but by now I know there have been some really nice campaigns over here in Spain with very succesful results for the brands.

    Read more on Proximity Marketing on my blog http://www.m-trends.org/2006/10/

    More on bluetooth campaigns used virally in political campaigns here in Spain http://www.m-trends.org/2006/06/

    And even by FC Barcelona here

  11. Anonymous4:16 pm BST

    Seems to me, anyone who has received a Bluespam is in the same basket as people who complain about Double-glazing salespeople walking into their lounges and standing in front of the telly. If you don't want them in your space, lock the bloody door!

    (In this case, set your handset's Bluetooth to 'Hidden' once you've paired that new headset. AFAIK you can't be spammed if you are 'Hidden')

    Bluespamming just highlights how little importance people put on mobile e-security. No sympathy.



  12. Anonymous9:12 am BST

    Have to agree with all the negative response to this campaign, although we try to introduce BT for marketing purposes.

    I will disagree, though, with Dan Appelquist: there is a way around to make the technology work for good communication, and that is where TeriMobile are now.
    You do not get a message until you actively request for it, and, what is more, you are remembered by all transmitters registered to the system, and if you set up what you are interested in, you will be delivered only what is valuable for you personally.

    P.S. And no need to download applications, though, as Kitten said, that is also a way to do :)

  13. Anonymous8:46 am BST

    just to clear up some problems with opt in with bluetooth. when you receive a message from a marketing company via bluetooth you have to accept the message to view ( that is your opt in). if you say no you will never see the message.

  14. @anonymous
    Therein lies the problem. It's the first message telling you that you have a message that's the problem as that *isn't* opt-in. Solve that initial problem, and maybe you're on to something but until that point, unless perhaps it's on private property like a football stadium, that initial 'you have a message' is the spam element.

  15. It's not a failure. You must target a better location. Think about it, most of the users will accept if it's more for their interest and benefit. Financing is further down the line, but the public is not ready for it yet. Try small branding products.

  16. Anonymous3:59 pm BST

    we are a start up proposing technology for mobile marketers via bluetooth. We think that this solution is not intrusive as it should stand with a classical advertising campaign like a complement to a classic poster inviting prospect to activate his bluetooth if he is willing to download the message.

    please visit BlueMediaServer.com for more infos.

    Neil H

  17. Your home is also your personal space for which you pay handsomely and yet there is no stopping direct mail which also has greater environmental issues.

  18. @jules63 Actually, in the UK, you can counteract direct marketing by registering with the MPS or Mail Preference Service. It's free and gets you removed from mailing lists. And there are lobbying groups tackling exactly those issues. Agreed there are environmental issues with printed DM but there are still environmental issues with technology too - they're just different.


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