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AT&?s It Can Wait texting campaign adds hashtag, sends unclear message

Given more than 5 million users have taken a pledge to avoid texting while driving, wireless carrier AT&T?s It Can Wait campaign has received a makeover with a mobile optimized Web site and a hashtag initiative aimed to resonate with social users and discourage texting while driving.

AT&T is asking smartphone users to use the hashtag #X to alert friends and family members when they are about to be driving and are not reachable. Among the many efforts made to discourage the dangerous habit, the hashtag implementation could have a reverse effect and encourage users to be more attached to their phones.

?This is a hot space right now, and there are other apps available that are based on speed,? said Anurag Lal, CEO at Infinite Convergence Solutions, Washington D.C. ?For example, where if you're moving more than 5mph and a message comes through, it automatically sends a predetermined text saying you're unavailable. 

?Either way, if you're actually sending the text yourself or if your phone is automatically sending it based on your speed, these efforts are aiding awareness even if they don't ultimately work.?

Mr. Lal is not affiliated with AT&T but agreed to comment as an industry expert. 

AT&T did not respond by press deadline.

A controversial request
AT&T introduces the new hashtag with a YouTube video alongside the mobile optimization of its Web site, where users can find shortcut tutorials for making the hashtag #X easier to use in everyday life.


AT&T's #X

IPhone users can go to their keyboard settings and create a shortcut including the hashtag to deliver through SMS or iMessage more quickly.

These recent efforts follow the introduction of AT&T?s DriveMode and SafelyGo apps available on Android devices. AT&T is also asking consumers to submit their own solutions to safe driving on Twitter using the hashtag.

As hashtags have become quite mainstream on social media, there is not a valuable place for them in mobile messaging, which could cause young consumers to not take the hashtag seriously. Hashtags serve as redirecting links to trending topics on social media, but they do not have that type of capability via messaging. 

Users could as easily compile an authentic message by saying, "Leaving now," or "On the road," rather than inserting a hashtag into their texts.

While AT&T?s efforts aim to be socially involved and relative to young smartphone users, the network carrier is inadvertently encouraging more mobile usage, which is what caused initial concerns as teens began using their phones constantly and even while driving.

Promoting safety
Establishments within the automotive industry have also promoted efforts to cease the trend of texting while driving.

A Volkswagen AG advertising campaign targeting distracted driving put a group of mobile phone users at a movie theater right into the automaker?s message about the deadly hazards of texting and driving.

The ad used location-based text messaging to force the theatergoers? attention away from a film featuring a driver?s-eye view of a car traveling down the road just before it crashes. The strategy points to how brands can use mobile to engage audiences and increase their relevance when they insert themselves into a conversation on an important issue such as texting and driving (see story).

Similarly, a Canadian automotive supplier group unveiled an advanced connected vehicle that includes on-board technology such as hand gesture recognition, an alcohol sensor and a fleet communication system.

Partnering with BlackBerry's QNX, the Automotive Parts Manufacturers Association at its annual conference in Windsor, Ontario on June 4 presented a 2014 Lexus RX350 crossover that featured software from 13 companies operating in Ontario. The demonstration vehicle is meant to spotlight the country?s supplier community and technology while pointing to the game-changing mobile technologies that await vehicle design (see story).

Efforts to promote safe driving have a broader appeal and reach through the overall, bigger message rather than its minute features, such as a hashtag.  

?It might not work, but it's more about providing a good start to solving this very real problem,? Mr. Lal said. ?It provides a start to a solution and I hope that it pushes other carriers to work on changing how people communicate on the road."

Final Take
Caitlyn Bohannon, editorial assistant for Mobile Marketer, New York