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Unilever?s Shield sponsors mobile calls to drive in-store trial

Unilever?s Shield deodorant brand achieved one-to-one engagement with customers by letting them make a free call with a short code that triggered a callback, an audio ad and a coupon offer before the call was put through, driving up to 5,000 calls an hour at one point.

The 15-second audio ad included a call to action that gave the caller the option of receiving a discount coupon to buy the product. The campaign, which ran in South Africa, shows how mobile can be leveraged to achieve more personal interaction with consumers, a priority in the age of smartphones and tablets.

?For 15 seconds, before the call got connected, Shield could connect with consumers and incite these mobile users to try the new Shield product in-store,? said Patrick Palmi of marketing agency ?For mobile consumers, it was an occasion for them to talk to their loved ones for free and share an experience never seen before ? that of having a brand sponsor their calls.?
?Sponsoring mobile users? phone calls snatches their attention about a particular product being promoted,? he said. ?The platform creates easy word-of-mouth referrals to the brand in promotion as people inform their friends about the free call service offered by the Shield brand.?

Short code
In the campaign, Shield ads on Facebook and Mxit, a South African mobile social network, invited consumers to make calls using the code *134*130*Your Friend?s Number#.

The call used Unstructured Supplementary Service Data, which allows users to access various services through the use of short codes. 

Mxit ad.

?USSD is mobile phone agnostic and works across all networks,? Mr. Palmi said. ?Hence, it was the best mechanism to use for such mobile campaign seeing the low broadband and smartphone penetration in Africa.?

When the campaign launched, 300 calls came in the first hour. Within a few hours, the number grew to 5,000 calls per hour, Mr. Palmi said.

?Out of all the calls that were initiated, 22 percent of them requested a coupon to try the new Shield in promotion,? he said. ?Therefore, a great push for Shield sales and great conversion rate.?

As brands explore the potential of the phone, audio is generating attention as a medium for brand engagement.

Last year, Walgreens paired integrated audio messaging with pace and distance alerts, delivered directly to the headsets of runners and walkers during their daily exercise routine.

Pandora is one of the best-known platforms offering integrated audio and display ads on mobile, showing strong mobile revenue growth through innovation in product and sales efforts around mobile audio.

The Shield campaign?s objective was to create awareness about a new Shield promotion in-store and drive a product trial.

Call to action
The short ad had a call-to-action that prompted the caller to dial 1 if he or she wished to receive a discount coupon to buy Shield on promotion in-store.
Facebook promotion.

Those who were called received an SMS informing them that they could also call their friends for free on their phones.
?The mechanics of dialing a friend using the USSD short code is not new in South Africa,? Mr. Palmi said. ?Basically, consumers do the same to send a missed call to their loved ones when they run out of credit on their phones. This feature is enabled by the networks and very popular in South Africa and Africa in general.
?So, basically, the consumer experience in dialing the Sponsored Call service was painless and went in line with what they knew already.?
Final Take
Michael Barris is staff reporter on Mobile Marketer, New York.