Time Inc. Dips Into Mobile

Time Inc. is bundling mobile interactivity into its People and Teen People titles, and the company is in talks with advertisers to integrate their campaigns with the channel.

“What we’re doing is seeing whether we can effectively create an opt-in list of consumers who like our magazines, and provide things to them through that channel, whether it’s breaking news or other assets,” said Edward Desmond, executive editor of Time Inc. Interactive.

Those assets will include advertising and promotions, though Desmond insists third party messaging will only appear in a form that adds value to its audience. Time Inc. has not yet signed any advertisers, but he expects marketing tie-ins with its mobile audience to be a relatively easy sell.

“We’re finding a lot of interesting responses from advertisers in Teen People, but nothing we can talk about yet,” he said.

Time tapped Flytxt, a U.K.-based mobile company, to enable its mobile messaging and consult on strategy. Under the two-year contract, Flytxt will develop and implement all wireless programs on People and Teen People. The firm has a staff member working out of Time’s offices, consulting on both the editorial and marketing side.

Flytxt Director of Corporate Development Pamir Gelenbe said any advertising on the magazines’ mobile channel will be tailored to provide value based on audience characteristics.

“What we’ll probably do is send a message that comes from Teen People,” said Gelenbe. He said the message might say the magazine and an advertiser are jointly giving away gifts, such as a make-up box. “You can reply and then get another message.'”

Initially, Teen People will receive the most comprehensive wireless tie-ins of the two magazines involved in the experiment. Readers will often be invited to vote and enter competitions. One feature called “yeah or yuck” lets readers rate the clothes worn by pop stars and celebrities. Horoscopes and news alerts are also available.

The deployment is perhaps the largest mobile initiative undertaken by a traditional media company to date in the U.S., according to Vikrant Gandhi, mobile communications analyst with Frost & Sullivan. Many media companies have dabbled with wireless, but the extent of their involvement has been limited to several weeks or months.

Mobile marketing ubiquity in the U.S. has been something of a mirage over the past several years, long expected but never delivered. However, the mandate from brands to produce large campaigns in the medium may be on the upswing. Global agency BBDO this week issued a report highlighting the strong relationship people have with their phones and the “level of rewards when brands get it right.” Last week, Starburst launched a major on-pack SMS promotion involving the distribution of 100 million wrappers with a wireless call-to-action.

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