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Mobile marketing at the Democratic National Convention

August 28, 2008 |  5:08 pm

Convention_3The Democratic National Convention is more than just hand-shaking, sign-waving and unity-making.

It's also fertile ground for companies looking to hawk their latest products and services. And this year in Denver, it's all about the phone. (That's quite fitting, of course, considering the mobile method Barack Obama's campaign employed in announcing the running mate choice of Joe Biden last week).

As Alana Semuels points out on the LATimes.com Technology blog, hordes of advertisers are pushing phone-related products at the convention. There's the service that allows you to text questions and get answers from real people (ChaCha) and the ones that allow you to watch TV shows (FLO TV platform) and listen to the radio (Foneshow) on your phone.

Why would telecommunications companies direct their marketing push toward Democratic delegates?

"Political conventions are the hotbed of people with passionate opinions," Erik Schwartz, chief executive of Foneshow, told Semuels. In other words: people with passionate opinions like to be well-connected to other people with passionate opinions.

And there's more reasoning behind the advertising: It works.

"We've had a huge uptick in the number of people calling and texting about the convention," Susan Marshall, ChaCha's vice president of marketing, told Semuels. She said that during Hillary Clinton's speech on Tuesday, the site received three times as many questions as usual, including one asking how many pairs of pants Clinton owns.

We at Top of the Ticket, ever susceptible to marketing, decided to ask ChaCha a question of our own. We texted this query to the service:

Q: "Dear ChaCha, who do you think would be a better president -- John McCain or Barack Obama?"

Less than a minute later, our phone buzzed with this response:

A: "I'd like to see Barack Obama as President -- I think the US could use a black President. Thanks for texting ChaCha!"

Sure, the answer you get from a service like ChaCha depends on the employee who is fielding it. A different employee might have said John McCain. But we can't help but this that responses like this might be one reason why ChaCha's traffic has spiked during the convention.

-- Kate Linthicum

Photo: Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times

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