ZDNet News
July 19, 2001

J.R.R. Tolkien's Kingdom Coming to Cell Phones
Ben Charney

Middle-Earth just got a phone number.

The fictional kingdom in J.R.R. Tolkien's "The Lord of the Rings" will be re-created for cell phone users sometime this summer as part of a first-of-its-kind marketing campaign targeting wireless devices in the United States, filmmaker New Line Cinema said Wednesday.

This is not unsolicited spam. Cell phone users first register on a Web site, creating a Tolkien-like character for themselves. Then by dialing in a special number on their phones, they can interact with other characters, receive news updates and, in the future, actually do battle in virtual games, according to New Line Cinema.

The same type of "branded content" campaigns on wireless gadgets have become popular in Europe. Companies like Pepsico, Coca-Cola, Nike, liquor maker Finlandia, Intel and Sun Microsystems have all launched advertising campaigns thinly disguised as wireless interactive games, like Pepsi's "Pepsi Foot" fantasy soccer game.

But there's barely a stir in the United States, up until the New Line Cinema announcement. Some analysts say it's because phones have to be capable of sending short messages to each other to participate in these kinds of marketing campaigns. Billions of cell phone callers in Europe trade these 160-character missives every month. The same type of service is just being introduced in the United States.

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