The Mobile Marketing Association was not best pleased when its code of practice was upstaged by the recent trailering of new IPA mobile marketing guidelines.
Who: The Institute of Practitioners in Advertising
When: February 2003
The UK's leading trade body for advertising, media and marketing communications agencies, the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising ("IPA") announced the impending launch, on 20 March 2003, of its new guidelines for mobile marketing campaigns. Devised by the IPA's Digital Marketing Group with traditional advertising and media agencies in mind rather than specialist digital marketing agencies, the idea is to provide guidance to mainstream marketing agencies on the issues to take into account when contemplating the introduction of mobile marketing into the promotional mix. Areas to be covered include consent, response rates, technical and media planning and the utilisation of third party SMS databases. The introduction of the guidelines has also been driven by concerns about the growing tide of mobile "spam" and (it says here) a related desire to see the industry regulating itself so as to preserve SMS as a vibrantly and effective media option for the long term.
The guidelines include recommendations that marketers:-
offer the target audience the opportunity to unsubscribe from receiving further SMS messages from the outset of the campaign and then remind them in every fifth message thereafter that they can do so;
only send SMS messages to those mobile phones that have specifically "opted in" and even then also request that immediately after the first text is sent, the wording "yes" is texted back so as to confirm the opt-in;
in competitions and prize draws provide clear and simple means to request terms and conditions, and include the identity of the promoter; and
obtain verifiable parental consent before communicating via SMS with minors and seek expert legal advice before embarking on such a campaign.
Why this matters:
On marketinglaw we have previously expressed the opinion that most sending of text messages for marketing purposes amounts to the making of "automated" calls for marketing and is therefore legally an "opt-in" situation under the Telecommunications (Data Protection and Privacy) Regulations 1999.
Despite this, regulatory action to enforce these rules in this way has been virtually non existent to date, although in the premium rate line sector the ICSTIS watchdog has meted out some significant fines on irresponsible users of text.
In the circumstances, the IPA's initiative is clearly of interest, but it has been the butt of criticism from organisations such as the Mobile Marketing Association, who have already long since put out their own code of practice (though it is not currently accessible on the MMA website and marketinglaw's request to the MMA to be sent it or a link has gone unanswered.
It has also been suggested by the MMA that unlike its own code, the IPA guidelines do not appear to be the result of any extensive open consultation process involving companies involved in this practice from day to day. Whether as feared by MMA, the IPA's guidelines will introduce more, not less confusion in the marketplace in this area, time will tell. Perhaps this is another argument in favour of the umbrella regulator OFCOM taking control of all codes of practice operating in the marketing communications sector, whatever channel is being used.