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That next text may be an ad

BY JOSIE D'AGOSTINO - SPECIAL TO THE DAILY IOWAN | DECEMBER 18, 2009 7:30 AM

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Twenty percent off tanning lotion.

A Wich, chips, and a drink for $5.50.

Free cover at the Union Bar.

These are just some of the deals being sent to students’ cell phones, thanks to UI marketing student Eric Procaccio.

He owns the Iowa City franchise of College Mobile Deals, and he began sending out mass text messages with promotions more than two months ago.

The texts are part of “mobile marketing,” Procaccio said. The texts “use value-based messages to drive traffic into local companies,” he added.

Approximately 94 percent of college students nationwide have cell phones with text messaging, according to College Mobile Deals, making the strategy more direct in reaching students than do traditional forms of advertising.

Though Procaccio did not develop the business model, he is responsible for its use in Iowa City.

In a little more than two months, he has worked with more than a dozen Iowa City businesses, including Planet Beach, Which Wich, and Liquor Downtown, and he has deals in the works with Zephyr Printing and Design and Active Endeavors, he said.

There are two different ways, he said, that UI students can have deals sent to their phones:

• With a one-time text by going online to collegemobiledeals.com and selecting a specific coupon to have sent to their phones.

• Becoming subscribers to the service and receiving mass text messages whenever there are limited-time-only deals.

Procaccio has approximately 1,800 subscribers to his service, which, he said, has been achieved almost entirely through “word-of-mouth.”

UI junior Sky Denny heard about the coupons from a friend while walking to class.

“I thought it was cool,” Denny said. “So my friend gave me the number, and I got my first text before I even got to class.”

As a college student, Procaccio said, he understands the need to save every dollar.

“I’m here to save students money,” he said. “I want to find the most aggressive deals to send to your phone daily.”

Students are not the only ones benefiting from Procaccio’s business.

John Hanna, the franchise owner of Which Wich, 23 S. Dubuque St., has used the service since it began in early October, and he said he plans to use it again next semester.

“It’s great,” he said. “The text goes right out at 11 a.m., when people are sitting in class.”

UI student Rachel Johnson, an employee at Which Wich, said the days the establishment sends out mobile messages seem to be busier.

Bob Cline, a UI marketing lecturer and adviser to students in advertising, said he is excited about seeing what happens with the “mobile thing.”

Cline, who spent 26 years at a midsize advertising agency before becoming a teacher, said he has seen the industry continually reinvent itself as the competition among companies grows.

“Advertisers have to continually find new and unique ways to communicate,” he said.

For Procaccio, that’s a quick, simple 160-character message packing what he labels as big savings.


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