This post was written by Shira Simmonds, President, Ping Mobile.

A 2007 study by the Nielsen Company reported that 35 percent of American "tweens" (kids 8‑12) now own mobile phones. How can we reach them via mobile marketing programs without violating any legal or ethical guidelines?

The answer turns out to be remarkably simple. The potential is enormous for mobile marketing to be used as a learning tool and to promote healthy, educational products and services. There is a tremendous opportunity to use mobile in creative ways that actually support good parenting while teaching kids how to be responsible, discerning consumers.

Here’s how:

  • Implement safety measures, such as parental consent – Smart kids with cell phones can easily respond to a call-to-action on a cereal box or TV commercial, and opt-in to promotions without their parents’ knowledge or consent. As such, advertisers will often be required—or at least strongly encouraged—to add legalese that may range from asking respondents to confirm they are of a certain age, to expressly prohibiting the participation of certain groups from a program or promotion. Sometimes the best approach is to add extra precautions on top of the legal requirements, such as sending a confirmation link to a parent or guardian’s e-mail address before anything is activated. Some mobile phone providers, such as Kajeet, offer computer programs that allow parents to monitor activity on the child’s cell phone account. 
  • Market to both parents and kids by creating a marketing message that would be parent-approved and kid-friendly –If a brand’s mobile marketing campaign offers healthy, educational products, such as an opportunity to join a book club, discounts on a local art class or coupons for healthy snacks, parents will be happy to opt-in. No matter how tech-savvy a 12-year-old might be, it’s the parents who make the purchase. A brand is basically marketing to a parent via the child’s cell phone. Promotions should be created with the parent in mind, but should be designed to appeal to the child.
  • Follow all legal guidelines – Ad campaigns and programs targeting children should be analyzed on a case-by-case basis to determine both the legal requirements and the potential risks associated with such programs. This is an evolving area, and many issues still sit somewhere within a spectrum of different shades of gray. The laws and regulations governing this area of business can be complex and even conflicting at times. They can range from Federal Trade Commission laws (COPPA – Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act) and various state laws, to self-regulatory principles and best practices, like those promulgated by the Direct Marketing Association, the Children’s Advertising Unit of the Better Business Bureau, and the Mobile Marketing Association. While government regulators and self-regulatory agencies alike understand that no sweepstakes, contest or program is child-proof, they do expect advertisers to do their part to protect the safety of our kids. Along with a whole host of information on-line, sound legal advice in this area is key. Get it and follow it.
  • Empower kids by giving them a voice, create a campaign that lets kids voice their opinion – In order to engage kids, create an interactive environment, such as a mobile game, a poll where they can vote for something, or interactive SMS or IVR that enables kids to participate and play. Kids learn through play, and brands will be most remembered when kids have had the opportunity to interact with the brand.

Mobile marketing doesn’t have to turn kids into mindless consumers. Instead, it can open up a world of educational and developmental potential that parents can embrace rather than resist. Managing time and texting costs is a great way to teach kids how to budget their resources. Using advertised toys as an incentive for performance is an effective motivational tool. And mobile coupons that encourage kids to read books or participate in physical exercise is an idea that any parent would love.


Ping Mobile is a full-service mobile marketing and technology company providing a complete range of mobile marketing services, including SMS, MMS, IVR, WAP applications and Bluetooth. With an industry-leading focus on consultancy, reporting, data analysis and client services packages, Ping Mobile is the mobile marketing agency of choice for clients that have included Warner Brothers, Ford Motor Company, Days Inn, Disney’s Soap Channel, Kentucky Fried Chicken, Arby’s, Pizza Hut and Hawaiian Airlines.

Ping Mobile is headquartered in Englewood Cliffs, NJ with offices in Los Angeles, CA, Atlanta and Tel Aviv, Israel. For more information please visit