Pushing the Envelope with Mobile Marketing

One of the biggest questions begging to be asked of the mobile marketing industry reared its head this week: Just how far should advertisers push the limit with questionably appropriate content in largely unregulated mobile marketing campaigns?

Virgin Mobile, which has a “proud history” of running risqué marketing campaigns to generate attention for its cell phones (including, as the Washington Post discussed, mocking religion in its holiday advertising and “plopping its parent company’s founder — in a nude suit — in the middle of New York City’s Times Square”)

Late last week, however, Virgin Mobile came under fire for running an online ad campaign that encouraged people to “disrobe for charity.” The campaign in question, called “Strip2Clothe,” asked people to disrobe on video and provide the footage in return for the mobile phone company donating a new article of clothing for each video posted to a nonprofit group that houses homeless youth.

After a resounding slap of criticism from an assortment of largely uptight but outspoken individuals, Virgin Mobile panicked and renamed the campaign “Blank2Clothe.” Now, instead of removing clothes, mobile users will be asked to do anything they want -thus the “blank” aspect” – to trigger views and therefore, more clothing donations.

Despite that Strip2Clothe videos have resulted in nearly 100,000 clothing donations since the start of the campaign, many are starting to wonder how far is too far for a mobile marketing campaign to go for the sake of generating views and traffic. Just as we’ve begun debating the most effective ways to reach mobile users with this new mechanism, our collective attention will just as soon turn to how to most “appropriately” reach them.