Coldplay and Bluespamming

Mobile Burn feature the Press Release put out by Filter, the company behind the recent Coldplay Bluespamming campaign, analysing the results.

They call this activity Bluecasting and I wrote about it when they announced the launch in June. Unlike many bloggers, I’m actually very pro-marketing and mobile marketing (that’s my day job, by the beard of Harald Bluetooth), but only when it follows best practice and is thus strictly opt-in. Indeed, opt-in is also the law in Europe, these days.

So if Bluecasting involved building a database of interested users and then sending them messages by Bluetooth, I for one would shout "Hurrah" and raise a glass or two to entrepreneurial innovation. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work like this. It polls the area for mobile phones with Bluetooth in discoverable mode and then sends a message saying "Oi, we want to send you commercial messages, alright?". If the recipient presses "yes" they get sent the stuff and "no" they don’t.

To my mind, this is spam, pure and simple. What would you call it if someone sent you an email asking you if they could send you another email containing marketing material? You may be pleasantly surprised that the spammer was being excessively polite. But it would still be unsolicited and therefore still be spam. Carlo reprised the argument very nicely last week.

So, what were the results of the activity?. The press release triumphantly announces that "13,000 fans flocked to  download free pre-release video clips, never-before
seen interviews, audio samples and exclusive images onto their mobile"
. OK, so maybe I’m wrong. Maybe everyone really enjoyed the exercise if they all downloaded the stuff – especially if they flocked to do it.

After all, is spam really spam, if it’s welcomed by everyone who receives it? That’s a nice philosophical debate for your next geek dinner.

But hang on. The release goes on to say that 87,000 handsets were "discovered" by the system and sent the initial come-on. This means that 85% of the recipients didn’t want the information in the first place. And that it’s simply spam to the vast majority of people receiving it.

This channel will be shut down soon, whether voluntarily or by government intervention. I’d actually argue that existing data protection legislation doesn’t allow it anyway.

So you can dress bluecasting up any way you want, but it’s still spam. I’m surprised that Parlophone, the record company, would condone dodgy and arguably illegal activity, especially as they’re such sticklers for the law when it comes to other areas. Like, file sharing, for instance.

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