Drugfree.org's first SMS mobile ad campaign reaches 2 million

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The Partnership at Drugfree.org and ChaCha, a free real-time answers service, ran a massive mobile public service campaign late last year, reaching more than 2 million users. The campaign, aimed at preventing teens and tweens from abusing drugs and alcohol, encompassed online marketing, as well as SMS text messaging and mobile video advertising, garnering “an incredible” response rate, says Hilary Baris, direct media and marketing director at Drugfree.org.

The campaign took advantage of ChaCha's extensive question-and-answer database at which users post questions and, while waiting for responses, receive targeted advertising. Mobile users can ask several questions for free before they receive a survey asking for their birth date, gender, geographic location, and type of phone they use. ChaCha collects the data to better target ads to that demographic, she says.

“We never just send stuff out. We always wait for them to initiate the conversation,” says Cat Enagonio, ChaCha VP marketing. “If you ask, for example, about whether James Taylor is playing in your area, while you are waiting for your answer, we might send you something like ‘Did you know there is a great new album coming out from the Eagles?'” The ads sometimes include “click here” buttons or “text this code” instructions for users to get more information.

The campaign with Drugfree.org ran much the same way, sending educational content about health risks posed by medicine abuse to users asking questions about drugs, alcohol and related topics.

ChaCha has 32 million mobile and online visitors per month, 13 million of whom are registered SMS and mobile video users, Enagonio says.

“One of the reasons I chose ChaCha is because of its reach, which is large and targeted with great scale,” Baris says. “But what really impressed me was its ability to inject our educational and promotional messages into their question-and-answer service.”

The SMS text user response rate was “above average at 4% and some of our most top-performing text ads received a 9.8%,” Baris says. “In addition, we saw a jump in mobile Internet service access of our site.”

This was the nonprofit's first use of a text feature in a mobile ad campaign, she adds.


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