Certifying a Mobile (SMS) Marketing Campaign/Program

Certifying a Mobile (SMS) Marketing Campaign/Program

In the United States, wireless carriers require that all mobile marketing messaging and content delivery programs, that is nearly all mobile marketing programs, must be certified by them, individually, before the program is commercially launched.  This is the case for both standard rate and premium rate messaging programs (i.e. programs where a consumer charged a tariff, e.g. $0.99, for participation in the program above the wireless carrier standard rate messaging and data services fees) and all other types of programs.

WARNING: you may choose to run a program without certification; however, when doing so you must be aware of the fact that you run the risk of having your short code disabled by one ore more wireless carriers.   Wireless carriers conduct routine audits of all programs.  If during a routine audit they determine that your program(s) have not been certified on your short code or if a certified program has been materially changed since the original certification, then they may disable your short code or the short code of your application provider.  Moreover, if you’re running a premium program you more than likely will not get paid.

How you get certified

Getting your mobile marketing campaign certified is an eight (8) to twelve (12) week process (it may be a bit shorter for per-certified campaign amendments and it may be longer for more complicated programs or if a wireless carrier, connection or application provider gets backed up).  The following details the key steps it takes to get a program certified:

Step 1: Leasing a common short code

If you’re program will have any text or MMS messaging elements then you must have a short code.  You can you lease a short code from the use short code administration or you can make a request to your mobile marketing application provider to borrow access to theirs.  See Understand the Common Short Code for more details on how short codes work.

Step 2:  Submitting an application to the wireless carriers

You must submit an application to the wireless carriers to have your mobile marketing campaign certified.  If you have a direct, commercial, relationship with a connection aggregator then you’ll submit your campaign application to them and management the process directly yourself.  If you’re working with a mobile marketing application provider or marketing agency they will take care of completing the application process and provide oversight of the certification process for you.  However, you will be expected to help with providing the following information, which is needed to complete the application for the certification:

  1. Contact information of all parties involved (e.g. the brand/campaign sponsor, agency, and/or the application provider)
  2. Short Code details (i.e. will the program be run on a new code or an existing code)
  3. Type of campaign (e.g. text alert, poll/vote, quiz, coupon, text2screen/poll2screen, content, etc.)
  4. Description of campaign
  5. List of carriers you’d like the program to run on
  6. Estimated messaging volume (both for mobile originated and mobile terminated messaging –see understand short code reference above for details).   You’ll also be expected to provide peek volume spike estimates. For example, you if you’re going to run polling during a live event or television broadcasts and you expect to have bursts of traffic at specific times you must provide details
  7. Campaign duration, start/end date (or if it will be perpetual)
  8. Geography, will your campaign be national, regional, international
  9. Do you intend to deliver content (e.g. ringtones, wallpapers, videos, games)
  10. Will the programs be standard rate and/or premium rate.
  11. A complete description of all campaign user flows, i.e. you must detail all possible interactions that someone may have with your program; moreover, you must ensure that your program is compliant with the Mobile Marketing Association Consumer Best Practices.  See User Flow figure
  12. Details on all call-to-actions and a complete overview of how the program will be promoted, including a detailed media plan, e.g. print, TV, radio, Internet, mobile Internet, point-of-sale, etc. (including example creative)
  13. Any and all terms and conditions associated with the program, especially for sweepstakes and contests
  14. Access to a live, completely working, implementation of the campaign so that each carrier may test the campaign during the certification process against both industry and their own guidelines.

Completing the application and the setting up of the campaign for certification testing can take quite some time and effort.  You want to make sure you do a thorough job however; otherwise, your application maybe rejected in Step 3 and you may need to start over.

Step 3. Certification and testing

In Step 3 the each wireless carrier thoroughly test your program against the application and will work with the application provider and connection aggregator to ensure that the program is complete and adheres to all regulations and guidelines.  As noted above, any discrepancies found will require that you modify your program and resubmit your application.

Step 4. Launch of your program

In step 4 you’ve received certification for your program and you can now launch it.

Step 5. Monitoring and maintenance

In step 5 you’ll want to monitor and maintain program.

Step 6. Auditing

Periodically individual wireless carrier may audit your program and/or your short code.  If during their audit they discover any discrepancies with our program in regards to your original application or new regulations that may have arisen in the meantime, the wireless carrier, via the connection aggregator and your application provider, will inform you of these discrepancies and provide you a date as to when they must be addressed by.  If you do not fix the discrepancies by the specified date you run the risk of having your program shut off.

Resources for help

The certification process can appears to be, and in some cases, can be quite daunting.  However, keep in mind that best in class mobile marketers will also see the process as an opportunity in that the process provides a framework to help them think through all the necessary and key elements to ensure campaign success (at least in terms that the campaign will work—it is up to you to make sure the program will be of any interest to your garget market) before the program launches.  Moreover, by the time their program launches marketers can be assured that the program has been thoroughly tested.

To lean more about the mobile marketing certification process you can contact the Mobile Marketing Association, the U.S. Short Codes Administration, your mobile marketing application provider (like iLoop Mobile), or a connection aggregator.   Keep in mind, your mobile marketing application provider will have been through this process many times, in which case they’ll have a number of templates you’ll be able to draw upon so that you’re not starting from a blank slate.  Be sure to leverage the experience and expertise of your mobile marketing application provider, don’t be shy; they’re there to help you.

Managing Partner at | Website

Michael Becker is an intentionally recognized identity & personal information management solutions strategic advisor, speaker, entrepreneur, and academic. He advises companies on personal information economy business strategy, product development, business development, and sales & marketing strategies. He also represents them at leading trade groups, including the Mobile Ecosystem Forum. Michael is an advisor to Assurant, Predii, Privowny, and Phoji. He is the co-author of Mobile Marketing for Dummies and a number of other books and articles related to mobile marketing, identity, and personal information management. He is on the faculty of marketing of the Association of National Advertisers and National University. A serial entrepreneur, Michael founded Identity Praxis, co-founded mCordis and The Connected Marketer Institute, was a founding member of the Mobile Marketing Association (MMA), and was on the MMA board of directors for ten years and was MMA’s North American Managing Director for three years. In 2004, Michael co-founded iLoop Mobile, a leading messaging solutions provider. In 2014, Michael was awarded the 2014 Marketing EDGE Edward Mayer Education Leadership Award for his commitment to marketing education.

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