Text Message Marketing: What Your Messages Should and Shouldn’t Contain

By: 3C The Messenger – May 16, 2019

The topic of brand safety is hot among marketers today. CMOs, their organizations, and ad agencies are more diligent than ever to ensure their brand image does not become tarnished through an unintentional negative experience by their customers. As more and more channels are added to the marketing mix, this can become a real challenge to manage.

No more is this true than in mobile. So to help you navigate the complex world of mobile regulations and ensure your mobile messages are in compliance, we thought we’d take a few minutes to explain a text message marketing standard you may not be aware of: the SHAFT audit standard.

Since traditional, carrier-operated text messaging (SMS, MMS, RCS) is a regulated channel, there are certain categories of content that have extra monitoring in place. To help maintain a positive messaging experience for users on their networks, the US mobile carriers in conjunction with the CTIA have put in place regulations and guidelines when it comes to the following categories: Sex, Hate, Alcohol, Firearms, and Tobacco (SHAFT).

According the the CTIA Short Code Monitoring Handbook, to comply with the SHAFT guidelines all content associated with short code text message marketing programs should:

  • Adhere to all applicable federal and state laws
  • Be age-gated appropriately for controlled substances and adult content
  • Exclude elements that a reasonable person could construe as hateful or violent or as intending to incite violence
  • Be sent via compliant opt-in to subscribers who want it
  • Abide by all other CTIA Handbook standards

With the size of the alcohol industry and the rapidly expanding growth of the marijuana industry in legalized states, it’s imperative that brands serving these industries and others to take the steps needed to comply with the SHAFT standard—such as robust age-gates and a compliant opt-in and opt-out process, in particular. For example, simply implementing a step in the beginning of the message flow that electronically verifies the user’s age while also building in a double-opt in and easy opt-out (i.e. Reply “STOP” to stop) process can be enough to satisfy the regulations.

Other than building best practices into campaign functionality (like age-gates and compliant opt-ins/opt-outs), the content of the message itself is equally important for remaining compliant with the SHAFT standard. The CTIA Short Code Monitoring Handbook also states that “Programs associated with carrier brands or operating on the carrier networks should not distribute unapproved or illicit content, including the following:

  • Depictions or endorsements of violence,
  • Inappropriate content,
  • Profanity or hate speech
  • Endorsement of illegal drugs”

Running a text message marketing program that is in violation of the SHAFT audit standards can result in a number of consequences ranging from minor changes to program functionality (such as simply adding a functioning age-gate at the start of the campaign), to more severe disciplinary action such as a complete shut down of the program and all calls to action, as well as disablement of the associated keywords.

Although it takes a bit more oversight, a little common sense, and may be subject to additional carrier review, it’s extremely possible—and very common—for companies within the SHAFT categories to run effective and compliant text message marketing campaigns.

Have more questions about the CTIA standards or other mobile messaging compliance standards?  Contact us here at anytime. We’re here to help.


Back to all posts