AT&T Clears Way for Mobile Search Ads on Older Phones

AT&T Interactive has completed development of a WAP application that will open up ad opportunities for search listings seen by non-smartphone users at Yellowpages.com.

Speaking at the Mobile Ad Summit yesterday in New York, Matt Crowley, CMO, AT&T Interactive, briefly mentioned the new app during a larger discussion on how to target mobile consumers. Later that day, Crowley said the app, dubbed “YPmobile,” establishes dedicated top-of-page sponsored search inventory where it will deliver relevant promos for AT&T Interactive’s pay-per-call advertising clients, as well as its Yellowpages.com advertisers who pay to be featured.

“The reason we feel really good about it is because it’s highly relevant. It’s local search,” Crowley said. “If someone’s looking for pizza, it will serve a pizza advertiser that’s local first — which is 100 percent relevant.”

AT&T, which has separate apps for smartphones like iPhone and Google Android, had only been offering organic search results for queries on older cell phones. “We had our WAP app just kind of sitting around,” Crowley said. “And obviously, the volume there is still huge. We actually applied a lot of the learnings from developing our [smartphone] apps and brought that to the WAP experience as much as we could.”

Although the growth of smartphones and the app market to support them were big topics at the event, AT&T’s item underscored the fact that reaching consumers on older, “legacy” cell phones remains a formidable challenge for the interactive marketing community.

The obstacles to standardizing experiences between older and newer phones is not the only challenge for developers of mobile apps. Even within the smartphone category, it remains difficult to build experiences for multiple devices.

According to panelist Konny Zsigo, CEO of WirelessDeveloper Agency, “You’re dealing with your iPhones over here and your Androids over here. You have to change your approach constantly.”

Zsigo said the lack of standardized data reporting in the industry may currently be the biggest headache of all. “Every one of these networks has their own system, and it’s manual. You click on some Web site and wait and wait for [the data] to load. And you get all of these different files and types from all these different networks,” he said.

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