Billboards come to life by adding mobile

For EZ Lube, a car maintenance franchise based in Southern California, mobile marketing has brought the marketer’s billboards to life and given its customers a way to interact with the brand. In a recent campaign, the oil change company ran a series of billboards with the tag line, “One year of free oil changes,” near EZ Lube locations. Consumers that texted to the short code on the billboard were automatically sent a discount for an oil change and entered into the contest.

“Billboards are two dimensions, but by adding a shortcode, the billboard becomes interactive,” says Dan Jones, VP of channel development at SmartReply, the mobile services company that works with EZ Lube. “It brings the billboard to life and makes a more lasting impression than your standard billboard.”

Mobile is the tool that enables consumers to read a barcode on a movie poster to connect to buy tickets or transforms a print ad into a voting booth.

“We are seeing mobile as a remote control of an overall marketing or ad campaign,” says Mike Wehrs, president and CEO of the Mobile Marketing Association (MMA). “It is the central device that connects people to all of the different media.”

As mobile becomes a more important channel, marketers are finding that it is crucial to integrate their mobile efforts with other channels.

“We call mobile the connective tissue,” says Patrick Moorhead, director of emerging media at Razorfish. “Mobile is the personal technology that allows for the activation of all kinds of messages and all kinds of other media. It can bring to life some other forms of static advertising.”

EZ Lube is using its integrated mobile efforts to help build a mobile database for remarketing and targeting.

“When people interact with programs and contests like this, even if they don’t win, they are still getting an offer and we can invite them to be a part of the EZ mobile club,” says Jones. “It is about building a proprietary loyalty database.”

This kind of interactivity helps marketers measure ads that have otherwise been more difficult to quantify.

“I think the big opportunities are really going to come in the integration of mobile into out-of-home advertising,” says Moorhead. “Companies are spending a lot of money on out-of-home advertising, and mobile is a new way to measure that medium and prove ROI.”

He adds, “It has the most sophisticated analytics data available in the digital space right now, since you can look at both mobile Web and text to learn a lot about a consumer.”

While mobile can help make traditional channels more interactive, those traditional channels can certainly be used to help promote mobile.

On its own, mobile “probably is not going to be nearly as effective, because you have limited opportunities to make consumers aware of what you are doing,” Moorhead notes.

For Publisher’s Clearing House (PCH), a direct marketing veteran that has mastered media channels from direct mail to online gaming, getting into mobile was a natural evolution. However, to help promote its new mobile WAP site, iPhone app and mobile gaming elements, the marketer used more traditional channels such as e-mail and display ads to help get the word out to their existing database.

“It is the mantra of multichannel that everything has to be integrated,” says Alex Betancur, VP and general manager of the PCH Online Network at Publisher’s Clearing House. “We’re at the stage right now where we are using our traditional channels to feed the mobile channel, to see how it works for us.”

The sweepstakes company is in the business of driving people to enter sweepstakes so that they can present these consumers with advertisements, magazine offers and coupons, and the goal is to build lists and engage consumers, no matter what the touch point. Mobile makes sense to integrate into this mix, because that is where consumers are these days.

“We’re looking to make sure that our brand is relevant to the changing needs of consumers,” says Dennis Vukelic, director of online strategy at PCH. “As they move onto the mobile phone, we have to be there to remain relevant. But we are not trying to create another business around mobile. I think all of the channels work together as a support for our core competency, which is to sell advertisements and magazines.”

One of the challenges with integrating mobile into a campaign is to make sure that the mobile effort is not an afterthought.

“The earlier you bring mobile into the equation, the better,” says Wehrs. “If you are incorporating mobile into other channels it tends to work best when it is part of the planning strategy and not something tacked on at the end.”

While integrating the mobile planning at an early stage is important, it can be difficult on an organizational level.

“We know that mobile is the connective tissue, but in order to do that you often get some strange bedfellows, at least in a large organization,” Moorhead says. “The people coming out of interactive groups have to work with outdoor media people and these two groups don’t always cross paths.”

To address this challenge, Moorhead recommends that companies select the right group of people to work on these campaigns from the beginning to avoid conflicts.

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