I’m at The Hospital in Covent Garden, where Mobile Interactive Group (MIG) is launching two new businesses. Kilrush is described as a “next-generation mobile Internet business”, while Mobile Interactive Technology (MIT) is, as the name suggests, a technology business. They join MIG’s existing business units, 4th Screen Advertising (mobile advertising), Jigsaw (digital solutions) and New Toy, a “live experiential design” agency.
MIT is the new operating technology business within MIT, which will design, develop and build proprietary applications and technology for the global mobile and digital markets. Core products within MIT include an SMS Gateway connected to all UK and Ireland mobile operators; an MMS Gateway which supports cross-network mobile Shortcodes; plus a Voice Gateway, the MIGPay mobile billing platform, and the MIDAS mobile messaging suite.
Kilrush is a mobile publishing platform, which MIG says has been designed to work with all the component parts of a customer’s digital portfolio, from mobile web publishing to developing applications, widgets and websites. Kilrush also comes with mobile advertising and billing capability as standard.
MIG says the platform is scalable, and has the flexibility to serve both large and small businesses across multiple sectors, including publishing companies, agencies, service providers, operators, broadcasters, and media and entertainment businesses.
MIG has also unveiled ITV as a Kilrush client. Kilrush has secured a 12-month contract with ITV to enable ITV.com’s production team to update the broadcaster’s mobile Internet sites on a daily basis.
Before the launch began, I nabbed MIG CEO Barry Houlihan, to ask about the signicance of the new business launches. He told me:
“We set out to become a communications services group serving all parts of the mobile value chain, and really, this is us finalising the last two parts of that value chain. We looked at a lot of mobile Internet businesses in the past 12 months, with a view to acquisition, but in the end, we didn’t feel that any of them were right for where we felt the mobile Internet and apps are going. A lot of them use legacy, Internet-based tools, designed more for the web than the mobile web, so we have designed our own system that allows creative people to build a mobile Internet site within minutes.”
Kilrush (named after the village in Ireland where Houlihan’s parents live), is available as a managed service, or as a software tool for clients to build their own sites.
“As far as I’m concerned, every web site should have a little sister, and that’s what Kilrush is all about,” said Houlihan.
MIT, Houlihan told me, will pick up the work previously done by MIG, which now becomes the holding company. There are a couple of additions, though. The first is SMS voting.
“We are working with the broadcasters and Ofcom to allow people to interact with their favourite TV programmes via mobile again,” Houlihan told me. “We have been pushing hard for this. We worked with Comic Relief a few weeks ago and helped them to raise £8 million through 5 million mobile intractions, so we are helping the broadcast community to understand people’s huge appetite for mobile.”
MIT will also offer a new Voice Shortcode Gateway, and is also launching an SMS ad insertion platform, which will enable MIT’s SMS gateway customers to insert ads at the bottom of confirmation or other text messages. The company deployed this in its recent campaign supporting the Walkers ‘Do us a Flavour’ promotion. Consumers could vote for free via a Shortcode which was ad-funded by O2 with a free SIM offer. As a result, Houlihan told me, 65% of votes came via mobile, far outnumbering those registered via the web. In addition, he said, early trials of the format have seen a clickthrough rate on these ad-funded messages of 18%.
“We have 2.5 million messages a day on our network, so we have a huge inventory available to us, combined with a cutomer base that is in a recession and wants to retain customers and add value,” said Houlihan.
MIG has certainly come a long, long way since Houlihan and his two co-founders left O2 to form the company in 2004. In the last year alone, turnover grew from £37 million to £65 million, and the company rejected a £25 million offer. The company currently boasts 200 clients and 120 employees, and this year, Houlihan says, is looking to expand internationally, with the focus on Latin America, Africa and the Eastern bloc.
The company dwarfs most other mobile marketing businesses out there, and while big doesn’t always mean better, it’s encouraging, especially in the current climate, to see a company so bullish about the mobile revolution, and so confident about its place at the forefront of that revolution.
Houlihan is still speaking, and has just revealed that MIG will launch a £30 Payforit tariff with Vodafone in the next few weeks, tripling the current £10 maximum.