Why are ringtones-for-good so hot?

Posted by KatrinVerclas on Mar 20, 2007

In addition to Twitter and mobile phones as a vehicle for economic development, mainstream press and the avant garde public are fascinated with ringtones for good.  It is the one topic in mobile campaigns for a cause that consistently get press and attention from mainline journalists.  A case in point is the recently featured endangered species ringtones which have the press all, well -- ringing.

This from Peter Glavin's press release from the Center for Biological Diversity:

Your chances of hearing the song of a killer whale, the howl of an endangered Mexican gray wolf or the roar of a polar bear in a major metropolitan area have just improved dramatically. The Center for Biological Diversity’s endangered species cell phone ringtones, available for free download at www.rareearthtones.org, have been so popular since they were unveiled on December 18th that more than 50,000 people have the endangered species calls on their cell phones.

Cell-phone users in over 50 countries have downloaded the ringtones, primarily in the United States, Britain, Italy, China, Canada and Brazil. Currently there are over 1,000 new downloads each day.

The Web site features free ringtones of the howls, croaks, chirps, songs and calls of more than 40 rare and endangered animals from around the world. A ringtone roar of a polar bear was added today. The polar bear ringtone is also being made available to the 10,000 or more friends of the polar bear signed up on the Center’s polar bear page on myspace.com.

The most popular ringtone species are the orca and Mexican gray wolf, with over 10,000 downloads each so far. Other popular ringtones are the barred owl, tropical birds such as the blue-throated macaw and Peruvian plantcutter, and amphibians including the Cascades frog and Pine Barrens treefrog.

“Ringtones with a conservation message are quickly spreading across the globe. We are delighted at the overwhelming response and the opportunity to educate people about endangered species,” said Peter Galvin, the Center’s conservation director. “Now you can easily download the sound of a polar bear, educate people about global warming each time your phone rings, and with one click send a comment letter supporting endangered species protection for this vanishing arctic species.”

The story ran on the AP thanks to a local AP writer in New Mexico and got a ton of press as a result, including: CNN, National Public Radio and in more than 25 newspaper articles nationwide including Fox News, San Francisco Chronicle, Contra Costa Times, San Diego Union-Tribune, Stockton Record, Houston Chronicle and Seattle Post-Intelligencer.  And USA Today... 

The endangered ringtone site was the "Cool Site of the Day" on March 4 on the radio show of Kim Komando, America's Digital Goddess.

Clearly, lots of press and lots interest by the public as a result.  50,000 downloads (and email and phone numbers) isn't bad. Clearly, the PR is good for the bottom line, and with ringtones, PR is still realtively easy with a little work and cleverness.  It helps that unlike the ringtones of others such as the World Wildlife Fund or the New York Philharmonic, the Center's ringtones are free. 

Having downloaded a ringtone (yep, the popular wolf) I am getting plenty of marketing messages, alerts for action, and appeals for donations from the Center for Biological Diversity already.  Clearly, they hope that my interest in the endangered specied ringtones translates  into support for the cause in other ways.  I am curious whether this is indeed true.

Lesson is that innovative mobile campaigns (and those with ringtones especially) get press which translates into eyeballs and possible supporters, if the campaign is well executed. And the Center did that quite nicely. 

And now I need to run, my wolf tone is howling... 






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