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Don't Kill the (Wireless) Messenger

  |  December 24, 2002   |  Comments

Our everyday work and home lives are being transformed by wireless. Is it time to get serious about wireless marketing?

I've been implementing wireless campaigns for a few years now, and, as an advertiser, I'm hooked. I've been using wireless devices personally for a bit longer, and I've finally gotten hooked on the consumer applications of wireless.

I can now get email and use IM over my phone. No, it isn't pretty; the text still looks like, well... text. Sometimes it's hard to read. And attachments, forget about it. I think we have a long way to go in the wireless messaging world.

But think back. Do you remember your first cell phone? If you were an early adopter, chances are your phone was about the same size as your laptop is today. Not only was the device expensive, it also was tough to learn how to use and often failed technologically. It sure was cool, though.

I see wireless messaging as being at a similar stage of development right now. Of course, the cool factor rocks. However, wireless messaging, too, is somewhat clunky and often expensive.

I remember not so long ago, schlepping my laptop all over the place. As an online media person, this actually made my life easier. I could leave the office and log on to our company network while traveling to and from meetings or working offsite at a client's. After a while, as technology got a jump-start, this way of working slowly became passé. Sure, I still need my laptop from time to time... but day to day, I have instant access without wires. In my profession, the ability to have instant access to information and communication is critical.

As a consumer, I love wireless, but as a media planner, I always need to pay close attention to the lowest common denominator -- with regard to Internet connection speed, software penetration, and tech savvy. Simply put, it's OK to use all the bells and whistles, but always have an alternate. For example, if you are advertising toward early adopters, the group will most likely have the latest devices. Do not, however, rely solely on wireless to get the message across. Banners, buttons, text links, rich media, and offline media are also necessary in most cases. Besides, users are quirky.

I was not surprised when I heard In-Stat/MDR recently reported wireless messaging growth would soon outpace that of the wireless Internet. Before I highlight some of the report's key findings, however, it's important to understand some abbreviations:

  • SMS: short message service

  • EMS: enhanced message service

  • MMS: multi-message service
According to an In-Stat/MDR press release, the study found:
  • The wireless Internet market will grow from 74 million wireless Internet subscribers at the end of 2001 to more than 320 million subscribers by the end of 2006.

  • Japan is the obvious early leader in the wireless Internet market.

  • The Korean market is now coming on strong in the wireless Internet space, largely fueled by CDMA technologies, and the U.S. is not performing as badly as some might expect.

  • Europe is falling behind the rest of the world in terms of wireless data adoption.

Joe Laszlo, a wireless analyst for Jupiter Research (a unit of ClickZ's parent corporation), said, "The U.S. mobile market will continue to be fragmented in its early development stages." He continued, "In terms of helping someone, be they Disney or a small games startup, to figure out what does this mean -- in terms of where the opportunities really lie and what people might actually be willing to pay for on these mobile devices -- I think these are questions no forum is going to be able to solve for the next couple of years, at least."

I agree with Laszlo. However, let's kick-start this, shall we? Do you use wireless messaging? If so, is it because your company provides you with the technology (and pays for it)? Do you think there is an advertising opportunity in this market? Write me, and I'll post results in a couple weeks.

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Seana Mulcahy

Seana Mulcahy is vice president, director of interactive media at Mullen (an IPG company). She's been creating online brands since before the first banner was sold. Her expertise includes online and traditional media planning and buying, e-mail marketing, viral marketing, click-stream analysis, customer tracking, promotions, search engine optimization and launching brands online. Prior to Mullen, Seana was vice president of media services at Carat Interactive. She's built online media services divisions for three companies and has worked with clients spanning financial, telecom, high-tech, healthcare and retail. Not surprisingly, she has taught, lectured and written about the industry for numerous trade associations and publications.

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