Chapell & Associates

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Marketers Interested in Small Screen

NY Times - January 16, 2006
Forget the 30-second spot on a 50-inch high-definition TV. How about a three-second message on the tiniest of screens? Television-style advertising is coming to a mobile phone near you...Marketers said they were particularly excited about the prospect of eventually using cellphones, many of which are equipped with global positioning systems, to send ads to consumers based on their location. With that information, marketers could, in theory, send pitches from retailers to cellphone users who might be in the vicinity of a store.

The Chapell View
In online advertising, we often pitch the idea that relevant advertising is a valuable exchange for the consumer - in exchange for a little information, marketers can provide information and offers that consumers will like or are even personalized.

In a broad sense, perhaps, Mobile Marketing is the hyperactive version of this trade-off. On the one hand, getting advertisements for businesses near a cell phone user is actually quite valuable. If someone is using a mobile browser to find a pan-Asian restaurant and receives an ad for one in their neighborhood - then the advertisement serves to provide them with exactly what they were looking for. On the other hand, consumers might not be too happy to know that an advertiser "knows" where they are standing at a given moment - and that it happens to be three blocks from a hardware store that is having a sale.

So I want to applaud the incipient mobile marketing industry - and the Mobile Marketing Association - for focusing on opt-in for ad serving. If consumers click on a banner ad, or send a text message as part of a promotion they are far less likely to object to the resulting advertising - either on the grounds that it's overwhelming, or too intrusive. Once the consumer has informed an advertiser that s/he wants more information or is interested in a service, there's no mysticism when an ad shows up. Think about it: I put out the information that I want a place to eat and get an ad for a restaurant. This makes sense. I don't take any action and get information on a store I'm standing in front of - that's a little scary.

New technologies can sometimes lead marketers to push just a little too far (there's a reason why consumers don't like pop-ups). It's important that mobile marketing avoid this scenario, and focusing on opt-in is a good place to start. However, it's not entirely clear to me that opt-in practices are universally adopted. After all, if cell phones companies are starting the sell phone numbers (and I've gotten at least a few telemarketing calls on mine) there are those who are going to see these numbers as a place to send ads. And "opt-in" can be sometimes a little broadly defined. If someone votes for American Idol, does this count as an opt-in for future advertising? Things could still end up going either direction...
posted by Isaac on Wednesday, January 18, 2006

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