The SMS Meme

I’ve been (and am) involved with two separate groups of people who think SMS is the biggest thing to hit advertizing, and the fastest way to make a buck. Interesting to think that SMS-ing (or text messaging) isn’t popular in the US at all: rather it seems to have taken off really well in the Asian countries, especially Japan, Singapore and the likes. But is such a model of advertizing, and any model of business based on it sustainable?

I ask this question because of the increasing saturation of the market: ringtones, wallpapers, chain messages, “SMS blah-blah to number” ads, and voting, responding, and even dating through SMS seems to be the in-thing now. It’s obvious that the next generation of computing will all be done on something small, and getting a jump-start on that medium is definitely a Good Thing. But is SMS itself a palpable medium of communication, let alone advertizing?

There is a soft limit on the medium: 160 characters: that’s on an average 30 words, and hardly two sentences. I was hardpressed once to find a good caption that fits into 15 characters. Besides, the World Has Moved On: while SMS and its cousins are increasingly suited for short pager-ish messages, mobile phones now are hardly Pager 2.0: even my Nokia phone has a camera and a photo gallery. Hell, it has an OS and a Python intepreter for it!

My predictions? Someone along the line is going to invent a way for fast, easy and intuitive text-input for mobile phones [My bet is on chord keyboards or gesture recognition, but shush, don’t tell anybody – I want to be that someone ;-)]. The next generation mobile device will have everything from video telephony to voice recognition, and people will communicate the way they do now… seeing, talking and listening to each other. Any advertising medium used will be far more immersive, and far more interactive.

So how does the current breed of SMS advertizers survive? Diversify, branch off, evolve and innovate.

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