Advertising.com Unveils Wireless Initiatives

Online ad firm Advertising.com Thursday said it plans to launch an ad-supported wireless community messaging service, and a pilot program to measure the efficacy of various forms of wireless marketing.

Similarly to an email discussion list, Advertising.com’s new MobileCrier service allows consumers to create “communities” of users with shared interests. Users can distribute wireless messages to the group, as with services like Upoc and Quios. In addition, MobileCrier will allow businesses to distribute announcements or promotions to opt-in recipients.

The main value of the system to marketers is that MobileCrier users agree to receive short ads appended to messages and third-party advertisements. Upoc and Quios both have similar stipulations in their user agreements.

“A majority of people purchasing wireless technology today don’t understand the potential that already exists for communicating in new ways, such as text messaging,” said John Ferber, chief Internet officer and co-founder of Baltimore-based Advertising.com.

“We developed MobileCrier to let people harness this exciting feature of their wireless device and improve their ability to communicate with large groups, as well as to receive information that may be of particular interest to them.”

The firm’s second announced initiative is geared toward helping marketers measure mobile advertising effectiveness.

Advertising.com says a new pilot program, called the Wireless Advertising Marketing and Measurement Initiative, will gauge effectiveness of wireless promotional messaging, WAP Web ads, geographically targeted advertising and other emerging forms of mobile marketing.

The company said WAMMI will provide insight to the industry into how to develop, package and deliver wireless advertising, and that once concluded, the results will be released to the public.

Advertising.com did not disclose advertisers participating in the program.

“Currently, there’s a great deal of hype but no foundation of information and insight to bring all of the players in wireless advertising together on common ground,” says Advertising.com president and chief operating officer Peter Daboll.

“The convergence of wireless, the Internet and ad serving technologies has created a rare opportunity for marketers to leverage the most effective form of media available: personal communication.”

The study will begin next week in conjunction with a wireless conference being hosted by the company in New Orleans.

Daboll said the nine- to twelve-month program will be the “the most extensive testing to date.”

Mobile marketing infrastructure company SkyGo currently is undertaking a similar study in Boulder, Colorado. In that initiative, SkyGo distributed WAP-enabled phones and will examine the effectiveness of various types of ads from study participants including Visa USA, Catalina Marketing and eCoupons.

There are some differences between the Advertising.com and SkyGo tests. For one, said spokespeople, WAMMI aims to test all wireless Internet devices, as opposed to just phones.

Advertising.com spokesman Chris Doherty said that programs conducted similarly to SkyGo’s could potentially skew results.

“Its just critical that the test is not based on free telephones, because we want to measure consumer acceptance of wireless advertising,” said. “If a consumer is given a free phone and free airtime, yeah, they’re going to accept messages. “The data that carriers and advertisers get out of [such a test] will be worthless,” he said.

But SkyGo representatives said their program addressed those concerns.

“We are definitely positioning the offer in those terms, but there is more to it than that,” said SkyGo marketing communications director Christine Flavio. “We are asking [participants] to fill out online surveys in which they are thoroughly evaluating their response to those ads. We are not letting it go at just receiving the ads.”

“While it might be argued that it could skew the results, we have very carefully worked out the program — so that we can get objective feedback. And quite frankly, the audience we’ve selected in Boulder are very critical thinkers. They’re not going to sit back and just receive these ads, just because they get a free phone. I really think we’ve given it careful thought in a way that will give us careful results, so we’re not worried about that.”

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