RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK — “Comedy Central,” the cable TV channel is the latest high profile client to choose Avesair for additional marketing impact.

Comedian Dave Chappelle launches a new show tonight – “Chappell’s Show” — and Avesair was hired to help promote the show with a wireless, mobile marketing campaign in the 10 days leading up to the event.

“It’s important to note that this is a ‘live’ campaign versus a trial,” said Don Pinker, director of business development for Avesair. “In fact, advertisers who have run campaigns with Avesair include AMEX, Mercedes, CitiBank, FTD, Qwest, Champ Sports and Comedy Central. In the past, Avesair ran campaigns for SBC Telecom, the Carolina Hurricanes, Volvo, Ford Focus, Sephora and many other national brands.”

Pinker pointed out that the Mercedes, Citibank, FTD, Qwest and Comedy Central campaigns are all “currently running.”

The Comedy Central campaign is part of a national, multi-channel market and is running on Avesair’s available wireless inventory. Additionally, Pinker stressed, “The campaign targeted a group of 100,000 (two-way pager) subscribers who had opted in to receive news and information on the world of rap, hip hop and urban culture. This is the precise target audience for this particular campaign.”

Avesair worked with Media Contacts, the interactive marketing team for Media Planning Group, which represents Comedy Central, on the “Spread the Word!” campaign.

In a statement about the program, John Davis, the account manager for Media Contacts, said Avesair “allows us to reach our audience effectively throughout the execution of this campaign, and their mobile marketing expertise and impressive customer service has certainly helped us in customizing a campaign to fit the needs of our client.”

More deals in store

While Pinker wouldn’t talk about how much Avesair was paid by Comedy Central, he stressed money is changing hands. “All of our efforts are revenue generating. That said, we do not disclose the financial terms of any particular (deal),” he said, “but pricing is based on a Cost Per Thousand (CPM) model. Mobile CPMs range from $30 to $75 a thousand depending on targeting criteria and other factors.”

Avesair has reported good response to its campaigns. For example, in a recent promotion run with Champs Sports for a new store in New York City, Avesair reported a 4 percent response rate. Contrast that figure with click-through rates for Internet banner ads that average around 1 percent.

Pinker and Sean Harrison, Avesair’s vice president of corporate development and marketing, said the deal is a sign of more to come in 2003. Pinker predicted “explosive growth.”

Added Harrison: “We have many deals in the works. Unfortunately, we can only publicly discuss closed deals. That said, autos, financial services and retailers all continue to leverage the medium and explore ways to expand their wireless presence.” This year, he said, “look for brands to utilize SMS as a way to communicate with their customers.”

Growing market

SMS (short messaging service) or “texting” is becoming more popular as the number of consumers buying Internet-capable cellular phones and hand-held computers continues to increase. Studies conducted by Nokia and Chaners In-Stat Group last year said most people would be open to the idea of ads on their phones or hand-helds if they were “incented” or rewarded through such things as coupons and discounts.

A 2001 Jupiter study forecast that wireless advertising would hit $1.4 billion this year, up from an estimated $860 million in 2002. A story touted by Avesair on its web site says worldwide revenues for all forms of wireless messaging will hit $23.6 billion by 2006.

The number of people accessing the Internet not using wires also continues to increase. The Computer Industry Almanac forecasts 193 million users in the United States by 2004, up from 149 million in 2001. The number should hit 235 million by 2007.

Granted, not all these people are using phones or hand-held devices. But a Gartner Dataquest survey forecast 127 million “wireless data” users by 2005. And other studies have documented that billions of SMS messages are being sent every month.

Is Avesair catching a wave? Could be.

Rick Smith is managing editor of Local Tech Wire.