Kara Swisher

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BillShrink's Pham Speaks About the T-Mobile Deal, the Econalypse and More!

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Last week, BoomTown paid an economically-minded visit to the Redwood City, Calif., offices of BillShrink, a Silicon Valley start-up aimed at helping consumers find cheaper prices on gas, cellphones and plans and credit cards via a Web-based comparison and alert system.

Launched about a year ago and armed with about $9 million in funding from Bessemer Venture Partners and Trinity Ventures, it has aims of moving into a range of other money-saving arenas too.

But today, it got a major boost in its existing business by inking a deal to be part of a huge national advertising campaign by T-Mobile aimed at boosting price awareness among consumers, an apt message for these econalyptic times.

The ads will start tonight in a big way on the finale of “American Idol” and will star Catherine Zeta-Jones, who asks consumers in high-profile television commercials if they want a “mobile makeover.”

Cue BillShrink, even if it does not end up recommending T-Mobile’s service.

It is the first time the mobile carrier has recommended a third-party Web site and one that is independent. T-Mobile must, given it is the No. 4 player and has to beat the bigger players with a curve ball.

While BillShrink does make money from referrals of vendors, BillShrink CEO Peter Pham said the service it delivers to consumers must remain unbiased to render the right comparison results to consumers.

I sat down and talked with Pham, a former Photobucket exec, about all this and also where BillShrink is headed next.

Here’s the video interview:

And here is the T-Mobile commercial:

Finally, here is the press release from T-Mobile about the campaign:

T-Mobile Aims to Help Wireless Customers Save Money by Offering ‘Mobile Makeovers’

BELLEVUE, Wash., May 20, 2009 (BUSINESS WIRE)–T-Mobile USA, Inc. announced today a new campaign dedicated to helping people save money on their wireless service, and unveils a familiar face to inform customers that T-Mobile has “the coverage you need at the price you want.”

T-Mobile is prompting wireless customers to compare the value they are getting with their current wireless provider against other national carriers. People can visit T-Mobile retail stores or http://www.T-Mobile.com for a Mobile Makeover(SM), at no charge, by linking customers to BillShrink, an independent third-party service that provides people with free, unbiased and personalized savings recommendations for everyday bills such as wireless plans, credit cards and gasoline.

“Providing great wireless coverage at a great price is at the heart of what T-Mobile offers,” said Denny Marie Post, chief marketing officer, T-Mobile USA, Inc. “We’re so confident that T-Mobile provides the best overall experience for a majority of Americans, we’re willing to put our value to the test by pointing people to an independent source. And while we may not come out on top each and every time, we believe a majority of people will see T-Mobile offers them the value they want, and the best experience in wireless.”

According to BillShrink, as many as eight out of 10 people unknowingly overpay for their wireless service.* BillShrink analyzes a customer’s wireless usage, along with wireless coverage in a customer’s area and service price, to provide recommendations to help people find the best value options. “Wireless customers need quality cell phone coverage at the best available price so BillShrink helps people easily navigate through millions of wireless plan combinations to provide a personalized recommendation,” said Peter Pham, CEO, BillShrink. “BillShrink shows people how to save money on their everyday bills and still get the best level of service.”

To help drive home the message that millions of Americans could save money on their wireless service, a familiar face and voice, Catherine Zeta-Jones, is again featured in T-Mobile’s television advertising. In the ads, she prompts people to get a Mobile Makeover in order to help determine if they are currently paying too much for their wireless services, and where to find the best value, based on their individual needs.

“As an avid T-Mobile customer, I’m delighted once again to help T-Mobile carry its message to millions of Americans about the great value they deliver,” Zeta-Jones said. “The Mobile Makeover campaign is a smart way to show consumers that they could save some serious money.”

The first television spot featuring Ms. Zeta-Jones will air tonight during the American Idol season finale on FOX. It features a group of Ivy League economists trying to educate homeowners they’re paying too much for their cell phone service, only to have door after door slammed in their face. Finally, a homeowner is pleasantly surprised when he opens the door to see Zeta-Jones standing on his doorstep asking, “Do you have time for a Mobile Makeover?” Zeta-Jones will be featured in two additional Mobile Makeover television spots in the coming weeks.

Online advertising, local radio, out-of-home advertising, retail collateral, and online video opportunities also will carry T-Mobile value and Mobile Makeover messaging.

For more information about Mobile Makeover and T-Mobile’s products and services, please visit a T-Mobile retail store, or go to http://www.T-Mobile.com. More information about BillShrink can be found at http://www.BillShrink.com.

*8 of 10 claim based on January 2009 sample of consumers who used BillShrink.com to analyze their reported usage. BillShrink.com is not operated or controlled, and the information/results provided on this site are not verified, by T-Mobile. See T-Mobile.com for rate plan information.


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— Om Malik on Bloomberg TV, talking about Yahoo, the September issue of Vogue Magazine, and our overdependence on Google