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The Metropolitan Police Service is to reinforce the message that 999 calls should be made in the event of an emergency - by spamming up to 250,000 Londoners.

Scotland Yard has signed a deal with messaging outfit Buongiorno to state the bleeding obvious to the capital's residents.

Non-urgent calls to emergency service personnel are a problem but serious questions should be raised about whether the Met is getting its message across in the most effective way.

From the press release (below) we learn that email will be the "sole means" to communicate this message. Recipients of the email are encouraged to pass it on to friends and family.

A spokeswoman for Buongiorno said the emails will be targeted at people nf the company's database. Only people who had opted to receive permission-based marketing communication would receive the initial email, she told us.

We put it to her that radio adverts, tube posters or adverts on newspaper sites might be preferable to communicating via bulk email, so avoiding the possibility of copy-cat hoax messages or other risks.

Not a bit of it, she said.

"Email is a very effective way of getting message to a targeted audience," Buongiorno's spokeswoman told us. ®

PRESS RELEASE: Metropolitan Police and Buongiorno tackle '999' time-wasting

The Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) has selected Buongiorno, the leading European provider of interactive mobile services to implement its first online marketing campaign. Buongiorno will target over 250,000 Londoners by email to drive home the message that '999' is for emergency telephone calls only. The initiative was planned and instigated through MediaCom and tackles the two million non-urgent calls currently received each year by the Met on its '999' number.

The integrated campaign operates in two stages. An initial email encourages Londoners to consider several situations and reinforces that none are worthy of a 999 call. Selection of the London borough they live in then provides a pop-up prompt displaying the specific police station in their area and its telephone number. Londoners who want to provide their mobile phone number will be delivered the local police station number via SMS which can then be stored on their mobile for future use. Participants are also given the opportunity to opt-in for further information from the Met Police and encouraged to forward the email to friends and relatives who they believe would also benefit from the service.

Says Nikki Redmond, head of the MPS publicity Branch: "Non-urgent calls to '999' are a serious issue for the MPS - they use valuable resources that should be helping those that really are involved in an emergency. Targeting Londoners via email and SMS offers an alternative way of reaching our audience over our more conventional methods. It provides awareness of the problem and an innovative approach to tackling the issue around misuse of the 999 facility."

Jonathan Smyth of Buongiorno comments: "It is fulfilling to use our marketing and technical capabilities and experience on a project that has the ultimate objective of improving community life. The recognition of the power of new media is also very positive - both the Met and MediaCom understand that delivering a fully integrated marketing campaign is an ideal way of reaching the target audience."

Gema San Miguel, email marketing planner at MediaCom says: "Buongiorno was selected due to the strong relationships that it has built up with its members, who will be more receptive to the Met message as a result. Buongiorno also offers the unique technical capabilities that we required for the campaign - integration of email marketing, SMS, data capture and viral activity. Such is the strength of the medium that email is the sole channel of communication for this vital message."

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