Last night I got a text message from one of my best friends and it simply said “hey, I need your help. Call me on my Skype number” and it included a phone number. Of course being concerned and wanting to help my good friend, I immediately called the number. What I got was an Indian sounding voice that said if you have called this number your friend who has given you the number is outsourcing the friendship to India.

Now I have to tell you, it was the best laugh I’ve had in days. You see, August is usually the slowest of months for us (I run a marketing firm in the Tampa Bay area)and I’ve been working extra hours in an effort to bring in more clients. I really appreciated it and I wish there was a video camera there to see my expression because it had to of been priceless.

What I didn’t realize until I called the number back a second time, was at the end of this extremely funny message was an advertisement for AT&T and some downloadable games. Now, of course, I resent the message to about eight friends all of which laughed as I did. In fact two of them when seeing my “ I need your help, call me” message actually went ahead and texted me back and said that they would call me in a minute or two showing their concern. So I again had some fun with that message because I was giggling knowing that they were calling and imagining their reaction as I’m sure my friend did when he sent me the original message. In fact my sister, who tends to worry a lot since I got very ill last year, let me know that when she got a text message she invented all sorts of things that might have happened to me, moved as quickly as she possibly could to make the call. Now that, I have to tell you, was fun.

I first want to tell you what’s brilliant about this particular campaign and then I’m going to tell you what’s wrong with it. What’s brilliant about this campaign is the fact that AT&T got me and my friends to call a number that had an advertisement at the end of the message. I’ve had this account with AT&T for 11 years, and I have never forwarded an advertisement anyone ever. In this case, I was more than willing to do so because the joke was that good. Let’s take a look at this: the text was sent from a friend or family member, it asked for help, there was an implied problem and I was needed and let’s face it, we all want to help our friends in need. I’ll take it a step further. Let’s say it really was an appeal for help and I didn’t call, what would that make me? A jerk. So from this viewpoint is promotion was absolutely brilliant. It has and will grow virally because of its nature.

What’s wrong with this promotion? First of all, it’s not targeted. I could care less about games. It’s also very much of the same mentality as the old marketing school techniques. Interrupt them and they will listen. Truth of the matter is that doesn’t work.

I’d be very curious to see the statistics of the program if there ever released. It’s every marketer’s dream to have their message spread virally across the world but if that message doesn’t turn into sales and it’s kind of pointless. I guess I think AT&T is a bit hipper because it did this, but I am already an AT&T customer because I am forced to be so as an iPhone user. Again time will tell if this has any effect whatsoever on the AT&T brand and their sales. I suspect very few people even noticed the ad at the end. I did but that’s just the liability of marketing for living.

What do you think?