Adult, Firearms, Tobacco and Sweepstakes Marketing Now Approved Via SMS

In July of 2016, the Cellular Telecommunications Industry Association (CTIA) implemented a change that would limit the way several industries utilize standard rate messaging services (SMS). The CTIA represents the large and rapidly growing U.S. wireless communication industry as a whole. Their mission is to advocate for legislative and regulatory policies, convene the industry, and promote their members within the field. The change that was put in place was a restriction on marketing of sex, hate, alcohol, firearms, or tobacco (SHAFT). Any call-to-action (CTA) that includes or promotes SHAFT related content was required to be removed immediately and risked the short code being shut down by the carriers. However, nearly two years later on July 6, 2018, CTIA amended their Common Short Code Monitoring Handbook. This amendment, effective immediately, overrides the previous restrictions and now allows adult and regulated businesses to exploit standard rate messaging service marketing once again.

The newly re-established ability to SMS market in adult, firearms, tobacco and additional industries is not boundless. Any U.S. short code campaigns that you want to incorporate this kind of content in now requires that an “age gate” be put in place. This will require recipients to enter their age or birth date to verify that they are of age to view the content. This verification can be placed on your website before content is displayed or through response via text message to unlock the website. It is also highly suggested that carriers approve your campaign before it is launched to avoid possible violation of their policy.

In addition to the “age gate” requirement, there are a few other restrictions on what content can be distributed. Unapproved content includes depiction or endorsement of violence, inappropriate content, profanity or hate speech, and endorsement of illegal drugs. Inappropriate content, while the S in SHAFT stands for sex, includes pornography. Clubs and related businesses may now market, however, full nudity is still prohibited through this channel. Additionally, excess profanity, especially the “seven dirty words to never say on television” will result in the removal of your CTA. Federal law prevails over state law in the case of SMS marketing. For example, even though several states have legalized marijuana you may not market marijuana through a short run code.

The amendment of the Common Short Code Monitoring Handbook has created great possibilities for businesses in the SHAFT related industries. The ability to market adult, firearm, tobacco, alcohol, and sweepstakes content by way of standard rate messaging services is sure to create a large increase in traffic for any business. To learn more about how to launch a SMS marketing campaign with an “age gate” and carrier approval please contact William Watson from Anchor Mobil at

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