Navy Campaign Takes Bluetooth Plunge

From the Internet to GPS, the U.S. military often gets a first crack at deploying emerging technologies, so it’s fitting that a current U.S. Navy Reserve campaign is testing the Bluetooth waters. The effort aims to inspire today’s sailors through a mobile video to “Make a Difference a Few Days at a Time” by joining the reserve.

Fittingly, the campaign is highly targeted, reaching out to residents of 13 naval bases across the country. Locations such as mess halls and the NEX, or Naval Exchange store, are hubs of everyday life for sailors and their families on naval bases. And that’s exactly where the campaign’s developers decided to bivouac the Bluetooth-enabled ads: on payphone kiosks right outside those prime spots.

NEXs are “hugely popular,” said Scott Cohen, director of marketing at payphone ad firm Prime Point Media,” referring to them as the Navy’s version of Wal-Mart. “Some people go to them everyday or multiple times everyday.”

In a stealthy manner any submariner could appreciate, when someone carrying a Bluetooth-enabled mobile phone set to discoverable mode nears a payphone featuring one of the campaign’s ad wraps, the phone is detected by a device attached to the phone ad. The ad device then sends a message to the phone, asking if the recipient would like to download a video from the reserve. If the answer is “yes,” the device immediately uploads the two-minute clip, complete with patriotic testimonials and allusions to brotherhood and pride. The video clip prompts viewers to visit the Navy Reserve.com Web site, or call the reserve.

Following its launch in November and through December, about 11,000 Bluetooth phones in discoverable mode were detected, resulting in about 2,000 successful full video deliveries. Campbell-Ewald developed the campaign creative and placed media through Outdoor Services.

Reaching out to mobile phone users via payphone kiosks may seem a bit odd, but according to Cohen, it’s not payphone users the campaign is after. “We really want people walking by the phones…. We want to be in places where there’s a little more dwell time,” he said.

Indeed, the ability to linger is key, since Bluetooth devices only communicate with others within close proximity. Thus, if the target’s phone is out of range, the ad mission is aborted. When recipients choose to share the recruitment video with someone else, their phones also must be proximate. That need for nearness also limits efficacy of Bluetooth-enabled billboards and “makes payphone kiosks good places to put Bluetooth transmitters,” said Grant Connelly, CFO of outdoor media network OutdoorPartner Media, which acquired Prime Point in August.

The Navy campaign includes only video, but Prime Point’s Bluetooth offering, known as PrimeCasting, can also serve up images, MP3 audio, ring tones and games. The ad components are uploaded to user’s phones, where they are cached and accessible until deleted. The technology can also allow users to link directly to a Web site through their phones, or automatically place a call for more information.

Not only are current military personnel among the most prone group to enlist in the reserves, many tend to be gadget hounds. “From a consumer perspective, said Cohen, “I think right now it’s a little bit of novelty and curiosity when they get the alert on their phone.” Still, he added, “It will be very important to deliver content that provides value to the users.”

The Navy effort is the first PrimePoint has done using Bluetooth. The campaign is set to last for another month, and is located on bases in Virginia, California, Louisiana, Mississippi and elsewhere. PrimePoint has placed non-Bluetooth kiosk ads on military bases for Kawasaki and the Paramount Pictures flick “Get Rich or Die Tryin’.”

The company plans to launch additional Bluetooth campaigns for advertisers this Spring, but many remain unsure how best to use media employing the technology. “It’s a really new medium for creative agencies; they don’t really know what’s possible,” said Connelly.

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