Best Practice for Text Message Marketing

The following is an excerpt from the MDA (Mobile Data Association) and is a suggestion of how to ensure your customers receive a good experience from your contact with them;

Mobile marketing guidelines and regulatory information: The IPA (Institute of Practitioners in Advertising) have launched guidelines for mobile marketing campaigns. The guidelines have been created by the IPA's Digital Marketing Group, which is dedicated to raising the digital standard of the industry, to help ensure that IPA members utilise best practice, are aware of regulatory requirements and avoid inadvertently 'spamming' when executing their own SMS campaigns or working with mobile marketing agencies and mobile network service providers.

The option to ‘unsubscribe’ from receiving SMS messages is also covered.

The IPA mobile marketing guidelines have been created to complement existing British Codes of Advertising, Sales Promotion & Direct Marketing and ICSTIS Codes of Practice. The IPA recommends familiarising oneself with these codes before embarking on any SMS campaign. "Importantly, the document is comprehensive and provides guidance on a wide range of topics from consent, response rates, technical & media planning to utilising third party SMS databases. This level of detail is not only essential for ensuring the advertising industry understands the key issues surrounding mobile marketing and how agencies can best exploit this new media to build on brand equity, but also will ensure that SMS remains a viable and effective media option for the long term."

The Guidelines recommend:

  1. Offer the target audience of your SMS campaign the opportunity to 'unsubscribe' from receiving further SMS messages from the outset of the campaign and to further remind them in every fifth message thereafter throughout the campaign period.
  2. Only send SMS messages to those mobile phones that have specifically 'opted-in'. Request that the target audience text a word i.e. 'YES' as a clear confirmation of their 'opt-in'.
  3. Avoid sending unsolicited SMS messages to your target audience. Always seek an 'opt-in' with your first SMS message before sending further SMS communications.
  4. In competitions and prize draws, provide clear and simple means to request terms and conditions. Include the identity of the promoter within the SMS competition.
  5. Verifiable parental consent should be obtained before communicating via SMS with minors and expert legal advice sought beforehand.

The Guidelines also highlight:

  1. SMS media has a successful history of generating high response rates. Large volume on-pack promotions have produced response rates ranging from 8%-20%. Responses from 'opted-in' mobile number databases have averaged at 15%.
  2. Numerous factors worth considering when developing creative solutions for mobile marketing campaigns, some include: ensuring sender identity is included within the copy of the SMS message and that text language is gauged appropriately to your target audience.
  3. Typical mobile marketing reporting metrics and the category of charges associated with SMS campaigns
  4. Technical planning recommendations for high to low volume SMS campaigns
  5. Best practice for utilising third party SMS databases

Says Nigel Gwilliam, IPA E-Commerce and New Media Consultant: "SMS represents one of the most powerfully intrusive advertising media available in the marketer's armory. However, this very intrusiveness brings with it a major responsibility for advertisers to use the technique sensitively and ethically. These new guidelines are the collective work of the IPA's Digital Marketing Group working together to bring about better clarity to IPA member agencies who are exploring the benefits that mobile marketing has to offer in increasing numbers. These guidelines provide invaluable information for people new to the medium and a framework to avoid any risk of upsetting the consumer." The IPA is the industry body and professional institute for UK advertising, media and marketing communications agencies and was established in 1917 as a servicing body and to negotiate on behalf of its members with media bodies, government departments and unions.

IPA tel: 020 7201 8237 IPA Press Office tel: 020 7201 8240

Regulatory Information OFCOM - OFCOM is the independent regulator and competition authority for the UK communications industries, with responsibilities across television, radio, telecommunications and wireless communications services. For help and advice, please visit

PhonepayPlus (formerly known as ICSTIS) is the regulatory body for the premium rate telecommunications industry. For further information, please visit

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