Marketing Study Says SMS Ads Change Voter Intentions

Posted by CorinneRamey on Feb 17, 2008

Limbo, a mobile marketing company, provided three of the U.S. presidential candidates with free mobile advertising. The goal was to measure how voting intentions and perceptions change with SMS advertising.

The results were surprising, Limbo's Chief Marketing Officer Rob Lawson told MobileActive. SMS advertising changed the "voting intentions" of 28% of the people who received the messages and about 14% of recipients said they viewed the candidates more positively after the campaign. "I was surprised by the impact on voting intention," said Lawson. "I thought people would be comfortable receiving them, but I didn't think it would cause them to pay more attention to the candidates."

In January 2008, Limbo sent over one million text message ads advertising the campaigns of U.S. presidential candidates Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, and John Edwards. Edwards has dropped out of the race at this point. The ads, each about 30-40 characters long, were placed at the bottom of "lowdown" text messages sent by Limbo that contain information such as daily horoscopes, diet tips, or sports scores. Each of these free messages contain a short ad at the bottom, usually sponsored by a commercial company. "The mobile is a powerful advertising channel and we were interested to see if SMS would hold up as a sort of viable medium for politicians," said Rob.

Following the ad campaign, the company used an outside research group to conduct a survey on a random sampling of people who had received the messages. The five-minute survey measured factors such as voting intention, change in perception of the candidates, and how the SMS messages changed the receiver's interaction with other media.

The study found that voting intention changed in the following demographic groups:

  • 6% overall reported significant changes to their voting intentions.
  • 9% of African-Americans reported significant changes to their voting intentions
  • 7% of those aged 35 and up reported significant changes
  • 22% overall said their voting intentions had been changed a little.

Interactions with other media also changed as a result of the text messaging campaigns:

  • 37% paid more attention to news coverage about the candidate
  • 12% became more aware of other marketing for the candidate
  • 7% visited the candidate’s website and 24% intended to do so in the future
  • 5% visited the candidate’s mobile Internet site and 9% intended to do so in the future

Limbo also asked message recepients about how "happy" they were with the SMS advertising.

  • 56% of people said they were happy
  • 13% said they would have preferred not to see SMS advertising from political candidates
  • People in the 25-34 year age bracket were 'mostly happy'

Part of the reason the results were surprising, Lawson said, was because the advertisements were so short that they couldn't communicate a substantial message, but merely contain the candidate's name, webpage, and other short text. "The mobile channel is so direct and personal for people that it stimulated extra perception," he said. "It sort of proves that we all have a direct and personal relationship with our phones."

Although Limbo is a commercial company, Lawson said that he sees mobile advertising as a powerful tool for NGOs, too. "Brands increasingly look to mobiles as a way of reaching people," he said. "I think the same is true for NGOs, political messsages, public service messages. There's no reason it can't be used by anyone who wants to communicate a message, commercially or not."

Read more on the use of SMS messaging by the U.S. presidential campaigns on the MobileActive blog.

Photo Credit: Photocapy 


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