A new multimedia marketing campaign aimed at teens and young adults with mobile phones may be the first of many to come, according to an industry analyst.   "It’s certainly the highest-profile example we’ve seen of how mobile capabilities can be taken advantage of to market, especially to youth," says Jeff Leiper, director of Canadian market strategies at the Yankee Group, of a new mobile multimedia application created for the Dairy Farmers of Canada – the marketing board behind those "More Milk" commercials with rapping farmers and skateboard ramps in barns. Last week, the Dairy Farmers of Canada unveiled Milk Mobiloke, a karaoke-on-the-cellphone application available as a free download on the www.milkhiphop.ca website. Roberta Jessup-Ramsay, marketing director for the group, says as the organization was designing the third in its series of television commercials aimed at teens and young adults, it retained marketing communications consultancy Armstrong Partners Ltd. to develop an interactive component. "They came back with this neat new thing called Mobiloke, which…can turn your cellphone into a karaoke machine – it’ll flash up the lyrics and play the music and you sing along. So we all just thought it was a really neat way of focusing on the song ." Although Leiper points out that the various Idol television franchises have made the most use of convergent devices such as mobile phones to draw in audiences through text-message voting, an approach such as the Dairy Farmers’ is still an unknown commodity. "It’s still a gamble in the minds of many, but the Canadian Idol success of getting people to text-message their votes has demonstrated the potential that’s out there," he says. "I think we’re going to see more of these sorts of campaigns moving forward….It just takes a few before everyone is going to jump on that bandwagon." The Mobiloke application has its genesis as a prop that was developed for an independent ‘mockumentary’ film about karaoke, Reverb: The Movie. The film’s producers, Calgary’s Rifffilms, were interested in featuring a multimedia karaoke application for cellphones in their film, and approached mobile game and ringtone developer SilverBirch Studios Inc. of Toronto to work up a preliminary version. Using Sun Microsystems Inc.’s Java 2 Micro Edition (J2ME) platform, "we developed a working prototype for use as a prop in the movie, and everyone we showed it to, all the cast and crew on the movie and so on…fell in love with it," Ian Halliday, executive VP and COO at SilverBirch, says. After the Rifffilms movie helped spread the word, his firm was approached by Armstrong Partners in their quest for an interactive marketing tool for the Dairy Farmers. Armstrong submitted Mobiloke and eight other potential applications to the Dairy Farmers for approval, and SilverBirch’s offering won. "In the last six months we’ve sort of commercialized it, and completed the development of the application….Milk was really sort of the first branding opportunity for us to launch it," Halliday says. The Milk Mobiloke version of SilverBirch’s product features the backing tracks for all three "More Milk" commercials to date, as well as text lyrics that scroll across the screen in time with the music and indicate when they should be sung. While Halliday says the firm is looking for other branded marketing opportunities for the product, it’s also in the process of rolling out a non-branded commercial product for the mass market, with additional features such as tempo control and customizable backgrounds not found in the branded version. Mobiloke has already been picked up by Swedish-Finnish giant TeliaSonera, the largest wireless network operator in Scandinavia; while the initial commercial release features approximately 1,100 backing tracks for popular songs, "through our licensing initiatives, we have access to well over 100,000 songs," he says. In addition to the Mobiloke application, the milkhiphop.ca site features other free downloadable content such as ringtones and wallpaper. Jessup-Ramsay says these types of initiatives are crucial if established commodities such as dairy products are to continue reaching new generations of consumers. "It’s hard to be cool when you have been around forever," she says. With mobile telephony products and services being increasingly targeted at younger users, Leiper says the Milk Mobiloke campaign should resonate with younger consumers who hold their cellphones in high regard as a personality statement that simultaneously asserts their independence from their parents and other authority figures. "These are people who can’t necessarily vote, don’t necessarily have a lot of choice in where they live, don’t necessarily have a lot of choice in what courses they take at school, they can’t necessarily drive, but they have absolute control over their cellphone," he notes. "It’s a way for them to exercise control, to download the content they want, and in this mobile environment it’s on-demand content. It’s not a shared phone, it’s not a shared Internet connection at home, so it’s very much about independence." At the same time, "the mobile phone is also a way to identify tribal allegiance – it’s a very public device," Leiper says. "A ringtone that rings out in the middle of class is an instant badge about who you are, who you identify with, what your values are and which tribe you belong to, because of course that’s how music works among youth. So the mobile device is perfectly suited to marketing to teens, because it fits both of those needs." And while some teenagers – and their parents – might shudder at the thought of yet more marketing being aimed their way, Leiper says that a novel approach coupled with the ‘wow’ factor of the current generation of mobile phones can be very effective in overcoming those reservations. "When people have control over how they’re marketed to, and the products that are being marketed to them are things that they’re actually interested in, they’re not hostile to that," he says. "I think that a rich, cleverly thought-out marketing plan like what the Dairy Farmers are doing here is ideally suited to market to people in a way that they have control over, that they want, and that adds value as well. At the end of the day, it’s entertainment content – it just happens to be sponsored."