• July 29, 2009
  • By Jessica Tsai, Assistant Editor, CRM magazine

Marketers and Mobile Carriers Put Best Practices in Motion

The Mobile Marketing Association (MMA) recently released the fourth version of its "U.S. Consumer Best Practices Guidelines for Cross-Carrier Mobile Content Services" (You can find the report registration and cost-free here: http://www.mmaglobal.com/bestpractices.pdf). The report details industry standards produced by the MMA's Consumer Best Practice (CBP) Committee in collaboration with mobile carriers, mobile advertising agencies, brands, and technology enablers. The purpose of the document, explains Christine van Dillen, director of industry initiatives and partnerships at the MMA, is to protect the consumer's best interest around cross-carrier mobile content services. With the release of the MMA guidebook, the top four United States mobile carriers-AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless-have eliminated their own "carrier playbooks." Now, van Dillen says, "all of the consumer best practices to protect consumers are in this single document."

Cross-carrier mobile content services account for:

  • text messaging (SMS);
  • multimedia messaging (MMS);
  • short code programs;
  • interactive voice response (IVR); and
  • mobile Web.

Earlier this past March, the MMA made the announcement that the top four U.S. carriers had agreed to collaborate with the organization to create one industry guideline. "What this points to is the industry's commitment to protecting the consumer," van Dillen says. "This is where the industry weight is." Once these guidelines are actively adopted, the MMA predicts that industry-wide savings can amount to at least $200 million annually.

For technical reasons, the Consumer Best Practices is applies specifically to the U.S., but was created keeping in mind a "global code of conduct," van Dillen says. Because of the way short code programs are implemented and regulated in various regions-as determined by the specific carriers-it is therefore very difficult to apply global regulations.

The CBP committee consists of 30 members who represent different areas of the mobile marketing ecosystem, all of whom weigh into the creation of the CBP document. Committee members bring ideas to the table which is then shared with the group and is included in revised document. The committee then participates in a democratic vote on the new and existing proposals before the document is finalized. "The theory is that every time we create a new version," van Dillen says, "we're identifying the best practices to protect consumers."

As it exists, the mobile marketing community is self-regulated and the MMA aims to keep it as such. "We don't want different regulations for different regions, or different states for that matter," van Dillen says. "We want one global standard, so implementing a program globally can be very simple." Brands engaged in mobile marketing initiatives are required by carriers to follow these guidelines in order for their programs to be approved. If in violation, they are subject to campaign termination.

Moreover, she believes that the mobile marketing industry should be run by those who are its strongest advocates. "We've got thought leaders on all the technology that's evolving," she says. "We know what's coming up. We're able to see and predict what type of issues will affect consumers,...and make sure the marketing and advertising is what they expect and what works for them."

While the MMA is comprised of officials in the mobile space, consumers are encouraged to review documents published by the organization. Moreover, consumers are invited to "report unsolicited or inappropriate mobile marketing messages" on the MMA Web site at mmaglobal.com.

The decision by the carriers to collaborate with the MMA was long-awaited after fears of losing a competitive advantage were assuaged. The CBP guidelines focus on standards that need to occur for the growth of the overall industry, van Dillen says. When carriers previously had their own "playbooks," confusion in the market inadvertently resulted in term violation simply because marketers were unaware or the terms were too complex and varied. For instance, instead of "standard rates may apply," which formerly caused confusion among customers, the MMA now requires marketers to use variations of the message: "Message and Data Rates May Apply" (others include, "Msg&Data Rates May Apply, or "Msg&data rates may aply.") Ultimately, these regulations will simplify the way the industry is able to run a mobile program, and in turn, increase time to market and, ideally, increase return on investment.  

No matter where the industry is headed and what new-fangled technology comes out onto the market-Proximity marketing? Location-based services?-the consumer will always be top priority. "They're given a choice on how they're being target, how information is being used," van Dillen says. "We need to make sure that these marketing programs are valuable to them."

News relevant to the customer relationship management industry is posted several times a day on destinationCRM.com, in addition to the news section Insight that appears every month in the pages of CRM magazine. You may leave a public comment regarding this article by clicking on "Comments" at the top; to contact the editors, please email editor@destinationCRM.com.

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