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Sunday, August 24, 2008
Who's Texting Whom at 3am?

The original plan of getting Obama supporters to hand over their cellphone number in return for the promise of being the first to learn the official VP choice -by SMS, was an inspired one. This was also a vote-catching tool targeted to younger voters, especially those who believe that politicians don't get it and therefore don't deserve their vote. In this election cycle, younger voters could control the outcome on a historic scale.

Marketing by cellphone is an idea whose time has come. Not only do you get instant access to your supporters, but it's also a convenient means of determining geographic identity and other important demographic clues.

That's important when compared to the minimal info gained from an email address, especially as email addresses turn bad quickly. A 20% annual churn rate is considered normal for most large email lists. So an opted-in cellphone number provides an instant, reliable and probably long-term means of disseminating messages. This was the biggest marketing benefit of the "VP by SMS" campaign.

However one of the first things I did after receiving this message was to send a reply to the Obama camp saying "STOP." Meaning they don't have my permission to text me again. I was annoyed with the execution of this campaign. Clearly the intent was there to give a first heads-up to loyal supporters of this important news announcement, but the way it dragged on after Obama himself announced that he had made his choice, was intolerable.

I understand the need to milk the waiting game for as long as possible, but obviously the tenacity of the mainstream media in undermining the official announcement by any means was all but ignored. At a minimum there should have been a backup plan in place for the (inevitable) moment when the news got leaked to the press. The reality became, the SMS went out at least 12 hours too late and five hours after CNN and ABC News had "officially" announced Biden's appointment based on "informed" sources.

Given the provocative undertones of Hillary Clinton's infamous 3am attack ad "It's 3am and the phone in the White House is ringing..." It's doubly ironic that in this new world of interactive Presidential marketing, this particular SMS text message was received by most people around 3am, when most people were not available to hear what their President-in-waiting had to say.

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