Why this veteran media exec is betting on a rebranded messaging player

Kim Williams shares his reasons for backing this new-look multimedia messaging services provider

Veteran media executive, Kim Williams, is no stranger to new or unproven ideas. Fifteen years ago, he was involved in bringing video onto mobile phones in his role as chief executive at Foxtel – an idea which garnered its share of detractors.

“People were really very aggressive about it back then, and now people would look silly to have that position,” Williams tells CMO.

Today, he is working to change the way people use their mobile devices once as chairman of the recently rebranded mobile messaging company, Tall Bob. Tall Bob is the new name for the mobile analytics company, VidCorp. The rebrand follows on from its acquisition of premium MMS gateway company, ThirdScreen, in 2021.

As a technology, MMS has been in existence since 2002. But despite its multimedia capabilities, it has continued to play second fiddle to SMS messaging. However, with Australians demanding more from their mobile devices, and multimedia and interactive media formats such as TikTok exploding in popularity, Williams believes it is only a matter of time before MMS has its moment in the spotlight.

“I think MMS is the way of the future in terms of direct-to-consumer and business-to-business communications,” Williams says. “SMS will very rapidly be replaced by multimedia messaging. The whole process of creativity that goes into direct messaging and the capacity to do it affordably and really spontaneously is tremendously exciting.

“As people develop their capability in these arenas, it will be second place within the next 12 to 18 months and take marketing and communications generally into entirely fresh arenas.”

Whether Williams has picked another winner remains to be seen and may also depend on whether the recent rebrand has the desired effect.

According to Tall Bob marketing manager, Rachael Hooper, the rebrand was made necessary by the realisation that the VidCorp name no longer represented what the company was trying to be.

“We knew that we wanted to be seen as that mobile engagement leader within the Australian marketplace,” Hooper says. “But with a name like VidCorp, it didn’t match the brief. It was right for what the business was when it started 10 years ago, but it no longer matched.”

Hooper says the choice of Tall Bob was intended to be playful and represents the company’s desire to ‘stand head and shoulders’ above its competition. Giving the company a person’s name was done to represent the hyper-personal nature of mobile messaging.

“A brand like this needs to be playful, because what we are talking to is, in many cases, one-to-many or one-to-one messaging, and no one likes to receive a very dull, clearly un-personalised message,” Hooper says. “So as a brand, we will be a very personal brand.”

Hooper and her colleagues are counting on the continued growth of SMS to propel the business forward, while the team works to raise awareness regarding the potential of MMS.

“MMS has been around for a very long time, but it has always been touted as quite an expensive format,” Hooper says. “Formats like email and TikTok and Facebook Reels are going quite mass and are still not cutting through as a format and a channel that is almost impossible to ignore.”

The key advantage she sees with MMS is that it does not require opening an app to interact with a message.

“With an MMS you have that in the palm of your hand,” Hooper says. “As we start seeing an increase in people recognising it is easier to access those solutions, and we start seeing costs coming down, and also being able to attribute analytics against those messages, that is when we are going to see a rapid increase, because it is taking those great experiences that those channels offer to the palm of their hand.

“The last two years has changed everything in the way we approach the digital landscape and the mobile phone in particular. I also think the forced element of everyone going on to video and Zoom will make everyone much more accepting to these multimedia formats and more prepared to go into creating their own multimedia formats too.”

Kim WilliamsCredit: Tall Bob
Kim Williams

As for Williams, his interest in Tall Bob extends back to 2014 when he met founder and CEO, Ryan Berman, and was asked to be a mentor in the early stages of the business. He remained involved as an investor, and subsequently took on role of chairman. It has been the rapid growth he has witnessed in messaging media which has maintained his enthusiasm for the business and the overall industry.

“I launched a television service on mobile phones some 14 or 15 years ago, which was seen as pretty radical at the time, but now it really looks rather wan in comparison to what you can do with a smart phone today,” Williams says. “The volume of message growth has been really, really quite dramatic since that time, and all of the analytics attached to it have developed very well too.

“All roads lead to mobility and connectivity in all things. And the smart phone is obviously the centre of all entertainment and communications going forward, and absolutely the key tool for marketers.”

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