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A First Look At Obama On The Go

BY Justin Oberman | Friday, June 22 2007

With little fanfare the Barack Obama campaign has followed the Edwards and Hillary campaign in launching a multi-faceted mobile campaign. Obama supporters were emailed about the announcement with an emphasis on taking Obama's "movement for change" "offline." And by "offline" they meant your cell phone. Supporters can join by either texting the word "GO" to the short code 62262 (OBAMA) or signing on via the mobile registration API on the website.

The campaign is the first to utilize its own Shortcode (OBAMA/62262). The Edwards and Hillary campaign both utilize a shared shortcode that is used for other non-profit or commercial campaigns, though apparently the Clinton campaign is rumored to be working on getting its own. While it's too early to comment on the quality of the campaign, the Obama people are showing a little ingenuity here in a number of ways.

At first I was a little puzzled as to why the incentive being offered to join the text message campaign was a free bumper sticker. Ringtones have been recently labeled "the new bumper sticker" and it would seem to make a lot more sense to offer up one of those. Then I realized, after texting in, that to receive the bumper sticker I had to text in my address. While I am sure a plethora of the people texting into the service are already registered supporters, this still is a great way to gain some more mailing lists and or update already existing ones.

The campaign is also one of the first to offer campaign-based ringtones (what I refer to as the mobile bumper sticker) and wallpaper that can only be sent to your phone by texting or "opting" into the campaign. The ringtones are a fabulous compilation of various Obama speeches (including his famous 2004 NC speech) fixed with a hip beat, one of which is just an Obama chant (to listen to some of them go here). The Obama wallpaper/ringtones are delivered via the standard method of WAP push in which a link to a mobile web page where you can download the tone or image is sent to you via text message. Simply click the link and the dowload should, depending on your phone and carrier, begin automatically. The ringtones and wall paper are free but, of course, standard text message rates apply. Of course this also requires your phone to have data and web access of which standard data rates apply as well.

I also found the little note under the ringtone section to be a little interesting and perhaps and hint to the future... Under the credits for the ringtone's and wallpaper is a message telling people where to send their own Obama ringtone or wallpaper ideas. Now there is an idea that blows a "vote for my campaign song" idea out of the water. Do not just let people vote for a campaign song... let them create it and then let hundreds of thousands self express it on their cellular devices.

Now the challenge will be to make these tones and wallpaper viral enough that people do not have to visit the website in order to learn how to download them. A little outside marketing could do the trick: placing a random combination of "text 'RINGTONE1' to OBAMA (62262) under various signs or outside marketing or speeches would be an interesting idea.

Also, since the campaign has its own shortcode they could be spending some time convincing people to "put Obama in their phone book." That way when the text messages come in it looks more personal and also makes it easier for people to access the shortcode, for whatever reason, if so desired.

As per what the campaign will be doing with the text messages sent to your phone it seems like it will be some of the standard campaign text alert stuff or as the email put it:
Be the first to know about local campaign events. Get reminders about debates and important public appearances. And connect to our organizing staff to build the movement in your community.It looks like it has been a smooth launch for Obama mobile. I hope the campaign keeps the alerts focused on the mobile medium and doesn't just send out reminders to visit websites and watch television. The mobile medium is best accessed as a form of digital self expression and call to action. Obama has been good with that in the past, now let's see if he can translate it to the fastest growing digital medium in the United States.

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