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The price for being funny in an SMS message

Everyone loves a good joke. Well, maybe not everyone since humour can be very situational. That’s what a company called Parklife Weekender, who run Manchester’s annual festival, discovered last week.

Earlier this year they had sent a marketing text message out to their list promoting “after parties” for the annual festival. The message read:

“Some of the Parklife after parties have already sold out. If your (sic) going, make sure your (sic) home for breakfast! Xxx www.afterlifemcr.com”

By itself the message seems harmless enough. And it is. But instead of using their company name as the “from” name, they changed it so that people would receive a message from “Mum”.

According to a statement by the company, the change “was intended as a fun way of engaging festival-goers”. Unfortunately though, many people took exception to receiving the message. Among them people whose Mums had died. Some of them had lost her in just the few weeks before the message went out.

When people complained to the company, the response wasn’t sympathetic. It wasn’t until later they issued a statement saying they acknowledged the message might not have been appropriate for everyone.

The apology wasn’t enough though, and the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) issued the company a £70,000 fine last week. In a press release, the ICO said “This was a poorly thought out piece of marketing that didn’t appear to even try to follow the rules or consider the impact that their actions would have on the privacy of individuals.”

Anyone that runs a marketing campaign using electronic means needs to abide by the Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations (PECR). Most of the fines you hear issued have to do with spamming text messages to people who have not opted into receive them. But Parklife specifically violated the regulations by changing the name of the sender to be something other than the company. The result was a deceptive marketing campaign and Parklife was ordered to pay the fine.

Text message marketing is very effective, quick, and works for just about any industry. But this case underlines how important it is to be aware of the regulations regarding the marketing messages you send. The ICO has put together some guidance on helping organisations understand the regulations on its website.

If you’re considering a text message marketing campaign, don’t be put off. Give us a call and we’d be happy to help you understand what you need to know for your particular campaign.

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