Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Iowa Teen Wins Text-Messaging Championship

By Kimberly Chou
Article Source: Wall Street Journal

After the tears (and there were tears), texts and frantic thumb work, Kate Moore, 15 years old, came from behind to win the best-of-three finals round of LG’s U.S. National Texting Championships Tuesday.

Ms. Moore, from Des Moines, Iowa, beat Morgan Dynda, 14 years old, for the $50,000 prize by being first to text an error-free modified chorus from “Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah.”

Ms. Dynda was in New York for a second straight year to compete for the texting title, which began as a promotional campaign for LG’s cellphones three years ago.

“I’m just, like, completely stunned right now,” Ms. Moore said. “You’d never think a girl from Iowa would win something this big in New York.” Minutes earlier, she had joked about buying Coach purses and “a pony” if she won.

Over two days in a TV studio made up to look like an arena, the competition whittled 21 finalists down to the two teenagers. Over five rounds, contestants texted phrases on LG-distributed phones — no iPhones or other handsets allowed — while jumping obstacles on a treadmill, enduring heckling and while blindfolded, the latter inspired by a Harris Interactive study in which 42% of teens said they could text with their eyes shut.

The text trials were tense, even without the emcee repeatedly noting the tension. Family members and the finalists eliminated earlier in the day yelled and whooped for their favorites, and the winners from 2007 and 2008 went head-to-head to warm up the crowd, like homecoming queens returning to pass on the crown (and compete for a 50-inch LG plasma TV).

LG representatives said that more than 250,000 people competed this year, with online competitions testing speed and accuracy, “text-ins” during MTV programs, and live qualifying events in cities around the country.

“It’s gone from an event with nice PR legs to a program with real continuity,” said Tres McCullough, co-founder of ad firm Fathom Communications, which worked with LG on the event.

Next up? Global competition. Ehtisham Rabbani, LG’s vice president of product strategy and marketing, said the company is planning for a “mobile world cup” in the fall, with winners from the U.S., Korea, Brazil and other countries participating.

U.S. winner Ms. Moore got teary on the brink of elimination — Ms. Dynda won the first round and finished first in the second round, though a mistake on her part kept Ms. Moore’s hopes alive. At the end of the finals, as the confetti guns exploded and Ms. Moore’s phone vibrated to confirm her win, tears came full force — from her, her mother in the audience and apparently her dad back home (whom Mom called, not texted, with the news).


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