Mobile

Zoove: We’re ready to dominate SMS advertising

zoove suzukiMobile marketing company Zoove has been around since 2004, but president and chief executive Joe Gillespie said this is the year the company’s brand advertising campaigns will take off.

The Palo Alto, Calif. company just announced deals with Sprint and T-Mobile. It’s already partnered with AT&T and Verizon, so it now has more than 95 percent carrier penetration in the United States, Gillespie said.

Zoove operates a registry of what it calls StarStar Vanity Numbers. These numbers take the format **BRANDNAME, and they can be used for SMS text message campaigns. The problem, Gillespie said, is that each carrier has to agree to support the registry, and without all the major carriers on-board, the campaigns weren’t very appealing to advertisers. Asking consumers to dial **LATTE to receive a coupon is a cool idea, but if you have to add, “Only works on AT&T and Verizon,” that ruins some of the magic.

This sounds like a compelling and easy way to connect advertising in other media to mobile phones. To use a hypothetical example, the studio behind the latest Shrek movie could release a poster asking people to send a message to **Shrek, and then those fans will get a link to the movie trailer. Or, to cite a campaign that Zoove has actually run, The Early Show on CBS can ask viewers to use the StarStar Vanity Numbers to vote in different polls.

(Update: The comapny says users don’t send a text initially — they make a phone call to the vanity numbers and get a text message in response.)

Advertisers should get more response from Zoove than from normal text message campaigns, because consumers don’t have to memorize a random phone number. And unlike the QR codes that smartphone owners can scan to access additional content, Zoove isn’t limited to device with QR code readers — it works on any phone that supports SMS.

Gillespie said Zoove has created a pricing plan that accommodates large and small companies. Basically, the shorter your vanity number, the easier it is to remember and the more Zoove will charge you.

Zoove’s most recent funding was a $13 million round in 2009. Investors include Cardinal Venture Capital, Highland Capital Planners, and Worldview Technology Partners.


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