The Ambiguity Surrounding Bluetooth Marketing Explained

We’ve talked a lot about Bluetooth marketing in the past.  Still, many users and even industry experts are still confused with the technology and the surrounding regulation and anti-SPAM laws that enter the picture anytime marketing messages are “pushed” to users via a Bluetooth connection.

Despite its relatively low-cost of deployment and high conversion rate, many advertisers shy away from the medium- fearing angered users and a lack of long-term customer interaction.  While this may be true for many campaigns that weren’t well thought-out, education on the ins and outs of the technology and the subsequent regulation goes along way.

I came across an interesting article written by Mark Brill of the Direct Marketing Association Mobile Marketing Council, who laid out the basics of marketing via Bluetooth, and the changes marketers must make- now that the ambiguity of Bluetooth Marketing regulation has become more clear.

As a new and underdeveloped marketing channel, there’s been significant confusion within the industry as to the issue of securing consent from consumers to reach them via Bluetooth.  Until recently, it was widely assumed that Bluetooth was covered by the Privacy & Electronic Communications Regulations of 2003.  However, in 2007 the Information Commissioner ruled that Bluetooth is not part of the “mobile network” and therefore is exempt from the 2003 Regulations.

Furthermore, the rules that require opt-in for email and SMS campaigns don’t even apply to Bluetooth.  This means that there’s little to prevent seedy marketers from bombarding every consumer in the vicinity who happens to have Bluetooth enabled on their phone.  It’s been this lack of regulation that has let Spammers run wild with Bluetooth, and therefore ruined the public’s opinion on the medium.

The ASA’s CAP Code is also vague on the matter, as Bluetooth is not covered by the code’s data section. Furthermore, if the advertiser is not using a private network or paid advertising space, Bluetooth may not even be covered by other areas of the CAP Code.

The DMA’s Mobile Marketing Council produced the first set of best practice guidelines for Bluetooth proximity marketing to help fill in the grey area, and give some form of regulation to the industry.  The guidelines stress the need to gain clear consent from mobile users and provide the opportunity to opt-out, as well as setting out the terms for broadcast range and the management of contact retries. These guidelines currently stand in lieu of government regulations. While they hold no legal power, the Direct Marketing Commission – the independent body responsible for monitoring compliance with the DMA Code of Practice – could impose sanctions on member companies found to be in breach of the guidelines.

While it’s just a first step, it’s a step in the right direction to getting Bluetooth Marketing regulated enough to become a major tool in any mobile marketer’s tool-chest.  As more and more Bluetooth campaigns are conducted within the guidelines that have been set fourth, the public will slowly realize the benefits of the medium, instead of seeing it as just another avenue for SPAM.