Voce - the exclusive MVNO with the $1000 handset and $400/month voice plan finally launched this week. My colleague Joe Laszlo blogged on Voce earlier this year. He covers a lot of good ground in his blog with one of the more important points being that it is difficult to differentiate on quality of voice services. And ... who consumes $400 of service per month?

Interesting though, we've spoken to a number of MVNO's. Some claim to be making money with only 10,000 or so subscribers. Others claim to need closer to 500,000. Helio says they have a target of 3,000,000 in about five years. At $1000 up front (but, hey, you don't have to sign a service contract by paying for at least a year's worth of service upfront) and $400/month, how many subscribers do they need to be profitable? If a $100/month MVNO needs 500,000, these guys may only need 125,000 subscribers. That said, Paris Hilton carries a Sidekick.

There is a car on the front page of their web site.

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Taking branded entertainment up a notch

With the declining efficacy of the 30-second spot, more advertisers have been turning to branded entertainment.  Now, some players with big budgets are taking their efforts one step further.  Ford is mulling a reality show that's part American Inventor (the ideas), part America's Next Top Model (the aesthetics), part The Apprentice (the commercialization).  Procter & Gamble is planning a Martha Stewart-type show based on their Home Made Simple campaign.

Great strategy - if you have the money to do it.  Marketers should be careful though to not stray too far into the TV production business - it's a lot deeper than making commercials.  No word on whether networks will prevent competitive advertising during the shows - otherwise get ready for some interesting placements ala Domino's/Papa John's.  Either way, networks win.

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Pepsi Mobile Content

See story from www.MocoNews.net

It's exciting to see something like this be launched even if it isn't in the United States. A lot of applications developers, storefront providers, marketers, etc. having been dreaming of such a scenario here in the States. We've seen examples online (e.g., SoBe) where online sites - especially CPG sites - are offering mobile content (mostly ringtones and wallpaper) as part of a lifestyle image.

Challenges with carriers have inhibited offering such services in the US to date. Also, consumers here are less savvy when it comes to off deck content. This application is compelling in that once the user has loaded it on to the phone, the advertiser has a means of pushing out messaging and content to the mobile subscriber. Could also be sweepstakes, trivia, coupons, etc. - opportunities to get mobile subscribers to engage with the brand more frequently.

Lots of vendors here in the States waiting this for to happen here - ok, well not waiting, but selling hard to make this happen. Will be interesting to see what brands are strong enough to draw consumers in and whether or not CPG brands can.


Helio Launches

Helio launched today. There has been a long string of announcements leading up to the big day, and we are finally here. I'm anxious to get my hands on a device so I can try out some of the new features such as HOT, BEG and GIFT. They appear to be very cool devices with a rich experience built in. There is no doubt that it is one of the richer mobile data experiences on the market.

A lot of the questions I've been getting to date really aren't answerable, but I'll give it a shot.

Q: Are the handset prices too high?

Probably not for early adopters who tend not to be price sensitive. Vcast handsets also launched in the $200 to $300 price range and they sold a few. They sold a lot more once the price dropped below to the $100 price point in mid-summer 2005. We'll know when/if the handset price is too high when they drop the price. Most consumers want a less expensive device, but these aren't the consumers Helio is targeting. I'm more interested to see how long it takes for a more fashionable device from the likes of Nokia, Motorola or Apple to appear in their line up.

Q: Is the service priced too high?

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ad:tech: proof of bubble 2.0?

I participated in ad:tech San Francisco 06 last week and was blown away by the number of attendees and exhibitors.  While I was very excited by the energy at the event (great to feel marketers primed to invest in internet marketing, and vendors anxious to introduce new technologies), the cynic in me couldn’t shake the “been there, done that” feeling.

A feeling associated with what we at Forrester have dubbed “Bubble 2.0” -- the recent boom of venture-backed vendors touting very similar capabilities but with no clients (In fact, this trend is not unique to vendors.  There are content companies springing up too, that provide no actual content). 

Here are my observations from ad:tech about which areas are garnering the biggest vendor attention:

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