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'Please call me' when the war is over

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tyson's picture

Please call me when the war is over. For now, it's all unfolding with gathering pace and though we're not quite caught in the crossfire, it’s a battle to keep an eye on.

It began with the introduction of a service which would enjoy a meteoric rise in popularity. But its origins are now disputed. It is, of course, the "Please Call Me" message service.

Nkosana Makate has taken Vodacom to court over what he claims is a service he invented in 2000 but was not financially compensated for it.

Vodacom had struck a mobile marketing goldmine with the service and the likes of MTN quickly followed suit.

Even Cell C’s foray into the local market was characterised by offering up to 10 Please Call Me’s a day.

People took it up and it became quite the service for operators. All the while, Makate claims, Phillip Gleisser didn’t act on a verbal agreement between the two.

 

Mobile marketing
While the service began with decent intentions of allowing subscribers to communicate a brief message without cost, operators soon realised what commercial opportunity lay beneath their noble intentions.

A 2012 repory by Trend Dissect speaks of mobile as “always on, always on the consumer” so this presents an entirely different level of potential audience reach.

A supreme way of reaching as many eyeballs as possible. A marketer’s dream. Soon enough, mobile operators began including product promotions at the tail end of the very short “Please Call Me”.

Next thing you knew, there was information about Vodacom’s innovative services as the end of the message. This sector is essentially still revenue-driven and operators had come across a means to capitalise on a new service.

So, whether it was Makate or anyone else in Vodacom who initiated it, the idea remains one of the most fruitful decisions in the SA telecoms landscape.

For the underdog
The past few days have seen reports emerge about top legal experts combining to support Makate’s civil claim with a financial backing of up to R5million.

Quite the endorsement.

But, according to the report in the Mail & Guardian, one of those legal minds is Pretoria attorney Chris Schoeman and their support of Makate’s case is premised on the potential they see in its success.

Win the case, and they could just get a cut in the damages awarded to the plaintiff.

Looking at the goldmine the service turned out to be, Schoeman’s new Sterlling-Rand company is set for a healthy little sum, should their case be successful.

Either way, the Please Call Me service is about to retrace its history as the law seeks some answers.

Should Makate triumph, we could be talking about a very handsome financial reward. For now, it’s war in the courtroom.