Mobile spam matters
Last Friday it became apparent that the mobile operators in Ireland have a way to go when it comes to dealing with mobile spam.
They were all present at the first Mobile Marketing Conference, held at the the Guinness Storehouse in Dublin. It was organised by the crew at Digital Media Intelligence, who were no doubt pleased with the turnout. Some 80 percent of seats were sold.
Much discussion centred around the exciting possibilities that would be offered with MMS and the slew of new colour handsets appearing on the market, capable of handling this new 'media-rich' format. Of course, it was also recognised that, for the immediate term, the future remains with SMS with its huge installed base.
Apart from some interesting demonstrations of mobile marketing in operation, the more telling comments of the day came from senior members of all three Irish mobile networks, held as a Q&A session towards the end of the day. When asked what they would do about the potential problems of mobile spam, the most surprising aspect of their replies was how candid they were about this issue.
Essentially the story was, they do promote best practice amongst their customers - in this case marketers using SMS to reach a target market - but it is very difficult to enforce. Therefore the perpetrators of messages must police themselves.
This poses some real concerns for the long-term future of mobile marketing as a viable channel. People initially had quite high response rates to Web and e-mail marketing, but the danger must be that, if abused in the way these media have been, the mobile platform will also lose its appeal to the consumer. Why, after all, should they put up with a barrage of unsolicited messages from a variety of brands, or worse still, entreaties to call back on premium rate numbers?
So when the question was further posed, would the networks be putting into place some preventative measures, such as a cross-network body to allow people to de-list their numbers, in much the way you can already prevent snail mail marketing hitting your letterbox, it was plain that the networks hadn't even begun to address this issue. In fact the responses boiled down to the argument that mobile is different from Internet or print mail, it's harder to police and de-listing numbers probably wouldn't work anyway!
Well perhaps, but that's hardly a reason not to be looking at workarounds to a problem that will plainly become a rather serious issue in the years to come. We already know how much of a pain unsolicited messages are with e-mail. Do we really have to go through this all over again with mobile spam?
Do the mobile networks want to get the blame for their customers' receiving masses of junk on their fancy new MMS-enabled colour handsets? That is what will happen if they don't act now. It isn't the mobile operator's fault that unscrupulous people will exploit their networks for immediate gain. However, the customer won't care and will blame the network service provider when they are bombarded with irrelevant messages, mobile porn and a variety of scams aimed at exploiting the gullibility of those on the receiving end.
It's time for the networks in Ireland to lead by example and tell the public what they plan to do about this problem now, in order to prevent it becoming that much worse a few years down the line. Let's see them drive the discussion rather than be prodded into responding to customer and industry concern.
When next year's mobile marketing conference comes around, maybe they'll have some answers to these questions.