SMS/Mobile Web promotion for In Plain Sight

Today’s Mobile Marketer has a long article about promotion for the a new USA Network series:

“This [In Plain Sight] program relied a lot less on our technical ability and more on our creative and strategic ability,” Ms. Lawrence said. “So, from conception to execution, the content of the [mobile] campaign was created by the Hyperfactory with collaboration with the USA Network.”

I’d love it if they had shared more of the thinking behind the strategy and the creative. The article also doesn’t detail the working of the program, but I like to try as many of these as I can.

Turns out, It doesn’t work on my iPhone, and it doesn’t seem to be well-promoted.

Still, it’s an interesting project, the problems are fixable, or at least worth learning from.

I haven’t seen TV spots for this promotion, but I hope they include them during the show and throughout the week. Mobile programs only work as well as the promotion for them.

You start by browsing to a website (online or mobile) where they ask for your phone number. They send you a text message.

Why not let me start by sending in a text message? Isn’t that faster to explain in a TV ad anyway?

Plus, that would save me a step.

It’s still difficult on the majority of handsets to browse to a specific URL. It takes even longer to go get on a laptop and find where to sign up for this mobile promotion on the USA Network website. Plus, I have to know what WAP is, since that’s the name they use in a list of games.

Why not speak in the user’s language and call it “mobile” or “cell phone” instead of “WAP Witness Challenge”?

Once I found the site online, I pick one of four characters to play, then entered my cell number. In a few mintues, I got a text message to my iPhone, replied, then got another:

49737: IPS: Welcome to WITSEC! To confirm your witness, please reply Y to this message.
me: Y
49737: IPS: Ur all set.U’ll reeive 1 msg/wk.Text STOP to end msgs. Follow the link to help Terry in his 1st situation. http://game.inplainsight.mobi/k.jsp?k=14

I wanted to know where the shortcode was hosted, so before I went on with the game, I also sent the ‘help’ command that carriers require:

me: help
49737: Nintendo T&C’s: http://professorlayton.msite.tv Max of 5 SMS/month. To stop, txt STOP. Std rates apply.

Hmm. Looks like this still needs to be updated and the shortcode is being re-used from a prior promotion, whoever is hosting it.

I went back to the earlier message and clicked the link in the text message. My iPhone browser loaded http://game.inplainsight.mobi/te.do.

This rendered a blank screen!

I reloaded and got the same blank screen again.

I copied it into a browser window on my laptop and was able to see the web page I couldn’t see on my iPhone.

It explained a simple scenario and offered me three choices.

The text seemed like it could be tighter, and I don’t understand why this refers to my witness, Terry, as “them” and “they.” Why pick a witness character at all if the following text would be generic?

I tried each of the three choices, each leading to a screen explaining the complications resulting from my actions.

My life as a Witness Protection agent sounds difficult.

All three screens end with the text:

Thanks for playing the IPS Protect Your Witness Game! Continue to secure the safety of your witness by making the best decisions to keep them alive to see another week. Good luck!

So I can look forward to another text message next week, hopefully this time it will render correctly on my iPhone.

Presumably they might also want to send me messaging reminding me of the air time for the next episode.

I like the idea of having a simple game to play along with a series. Getting a weekly text message along with the weekly show makes sense, especially if it serves as a reminder of the airdate.

To ensure the game stays interesting, all witness situations are rotated to make sure that no two witnesses receive the same question each week.

Also, the witness status is completely customized to a particular witness and the answer that the players chose. In essence, there are more than 290 different witness statuses that the players can uncover.

This part of the program doesn’t make sense to me and makes it sound like the program is more complicated than it needs to be to meet the strategic goals or to be creatively compelling.

It doesn’t look like the complexity actually enhances gameplay.

What is the strategic or creative imporance behind having players choose from between several witnesses anyway? Is the suggestion that someone might play this game with more than one witness (or more than once)? Isn’t the whole point to create a mobile subscription list and provide short, compelling content once a week to provide a airdate reminder and that little engagement extra?

I don’t see why this game wouldn’t be good to implement with a text-only option, dropping WAP altogether. The descriptions are text, the choices are text and the result is text. The only picture is of my character.

Sure, it’d take some fancy editing to cut down text to 160 characters, but it looks to me like that might result in an improvement. Mobile thinking requires focus that gets across the most important points and drops the rest.

We like mobile for it’s forced brevity: make things clear and respect our time.

As well, few mobile users in the US consistently browse the mobile web (latest public M:Metrics numbers: less than 15% access it in a given month), so that would have a major impact on potential reach of this promotion. Did they have a strategic reason to accept limiting the demographics targeted to mostly to those with smartphones and the few other regular mobile web users?

Taking that with the quote from the beginning of the article, it sounds like Hyperfactory avoided complex custom programming for SMS in favor of building all the complexity into WAP, and got a little carried away with the creative beyond what would enhance the actual user’s experience.

A different set of compromises could have stayed on strategy, increased reach, maintained creative integrity and been implementable on a budget with many mobile platforms without custom programming.

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