Carriers Plan to be Kind With Cell Phone Advertising

Wireless carriers including Sprint and Verizon and a slew of enthusiastic advertisers are poised to boost their efforts to market to mobile phone users this spring, prompting many to contemplate the annoyance factor of what could result in more ringing, banner ads on handsets and targeted text messages.

However, industry observers agree that with so much invested in their existing and long-term wireless customers, carriers are not interested in disenfranchising their users with distracting, annoying advertising that is irrelevant.

Instead, wireless customers can expect more games, activities and prizes around their favorite television programs, Web sites, sports teams and other interests. More importantly, it is likely that they will have to opt in via clear, up-front sign-ups that ensure the information and advertising they receive is what they want, analysts said.

“They will minimize the annoyance because they don’t want to jeopardize a long-term relationship with a valued customer over a few bucks,” Ovum vice president of wireless telecoms Roger Entner told TechNewsWorld. “The carriers are on the side of the consumer because the cell phone is a US$110 billion industry.”

Value to Carriers

Entner highlighted the value of more targeted advertising for the mobile carriers, ad agencies, wireless infrastructure and inventory companies that will be involved in the delivery and use of mobile phone marketing.

He reiterated the advertising — whether a cross-media promotion with a television show, or local information based on the customer’s whereabouts — will be something consumers ask for, and something they can use.

“Advertising that is relevant to you is absolutely valuable, and advertising that is not relevant to you is absolutely annoying.”

Information as Advertising

Gartner research director Michael King said user surveys indicate mobile phone customers will accept advertising, but only if it offers them something, and does not seem like advertising.

“It all points to the fact that consumers are OK receiving advertising on cell phones if they opt in and if they view it not as advertising, but as information,” King told TechNewsWorld.

He added such cell phone marketing could take the form of games, discounts or other added bonuses.

Although consumers are willing to receive some type of advertising given it has value, it will take at least two years or so for mobile phone advertising to gain momentum, according to King.

“No one has figured out the magic combination yet,” he said. “There’s going to be a lot of experimentation.”

Sound of Spam

King indicated the ecosystem for cell phone advertising remains undefined, but Ovum’s Entner said the main pieces are in place.

Saying that mobile phone advertising is unlikely to cause the kind of delay and annoyance that dial-up Internet ads once did, he predicted that the mobile phone marketing industry will take another lesson from the Web.

“Everyone has been a victim of Internet spam, and nobody wants to see that happen with wireless,” he said.

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