The effectiveness and service of SMS could decline if brands reuse them for advertising purposes in a massive way

Who still uses SMS today? SMS collapsed in Spain between 2007 and 2015, as shown by a Statista statistic. From sending 12,295 million text messages, when they were the cheapest way to communicate, it fell below 2,000 million, when messaging apps took that ground.

Things were reputed between 2015 and 2019, when the 4.7 billion text messages sent in Spain were exceeded. After an 85% drop in texting, there was a slight recovery as messages remained between businesses.

You just have to think about who are the last phone numbers that have sent us messages: in my case they are my bank, a supermarket announcing that my purchase would arrive home in the next 30 minutes and a reminder for a medical appointment. The rest of the list continues to be covered by brands and public organizations, with reminders, notices and messages of offers and discounts. SMS has become almost akin to the traditional mailbox. Most of what comes in is direct marketing and advertising.

It doesn’t bother for the same reason that the brochures and cards that a chain of perfumeries send me every month by mail do not. There are not many, they are the only thing that comes through that channel (more or less) and that is why they continue to be listened to and even, in the paper mail, it is a bit of illusion to have something in the mailbox.

But all that could change if the markings cross too many red lines. Too many messages would end up getting fed up and filling them with annoying items would make it even more so. This is what happens when you open the mailbox and you find something that is advertising camouflaged in a way that looks ‘serious’.

And this is what could happen to text messages if the latest idea to monetize the customers of telephone operators becomes popular: operators want to put advertising in SMS.

The ad that was embedded in an SMS

This is what has already happened in Australia and perhaps it would not have become popular if the person who had lived it had not been a developer with a certain klout on the network and had not told about it on social media. As ADSL Zone collects, Chris Lacy, developer of popular applications, received, in an authentication SMS, an advertisement (his Android text messaging app had even identified it as spam).

At the end of the message and after being identified as “SMS ad”, a small text ad with a link was included. Behind the link and the text message is the telecommunications operator that provides the service. Google has already made it clear to the US media and via tweets from some of its workers that they are not adding advertising to the text messages they send to their users with confirmation codes.

The SMS are not encrypted and therefore the operator can access and potentially modify them. In fact, as pointed out in 9to5Google, the type of ad launched and the brand that is connected to it (a VPN service in a message with a Google security code), makes it quite clear that a targeting exercise has been done to the time to choose what to advertise and to whom.

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