It Takes a Village to Grow the Mobile Space

My family and friends will tell you that I sometimes get up in arms over the little things, usually things over which I have no control — like the people who insist on parading their kids around the casino floor in strollers at midnight. It’s something hardwired in me that probably requires therapy, but I have no problem telling you that I got really fired up last week over something I found to be really one-sided.

I read the article “FTC on Watch Over Wireless Ripoffs” in “Ad Age” and soon found myself cursing at no one in particular. In the article a Federal Trade Commission (FTC) member announced, “We believe in self-regulation, but we are going to police the wireless space.” To be fair, this quote was included with comments specific to the FTC’s intention to more closely monitor mobile content providers in efforts to ensure that consumers aren’t subject to deceptive or unfair mobile content offers.

However, the FTC’s stance comes in tandem with an announcement by the Center for Digital Democracy and the U.S. Public Interest Research Group. The groups are seeking an addendum of sorts (specific to privacy) to their 2006 petition to the FTC regarding the regulation of online Web services. The groups’ concern revolves around location-based services and elements akin to online behavioral targeting.

I got more fired up as I reread all the articles related to the FTC “watch,” this time in one sitting, with the music turned off and my office door closed. Good thing, because the second time around I came across an analogy that really got the curse words flying.

One article quoted a lawyer who had previously worked as a staff attorney for the FTC. He discussed “Minority Report” paranoia, in reference to the movie in which ads in a mall were specifically tailored to the Tom Cruise character as he walked by. The lawyer called this type of marketing a potential “boon” to marketers and in the same sentence states that advocacy groups find it intrusive.

Let me just say for the record that none of us with integrity, true passion, and a strong desire to see mobile marketing succeed would ever think this type of marketing would be a “boon” to anyone, certainly not to the clients who pay us good money to be thought leaders in the mobile strategy and application development space.

I sat back for a minute and pretended I was my mom. I didn’t inherit her calm demeanor, so every once in a while I try to emulate her by thinking through an issue as she would. For some reason the old proverb “It takes a village to raise a child” came to mind. This sounds exactly like something she would say, so I went with it for a few minutes and discovered that I was fired up because each of the articles, in my mind, had failed to represent the opinions of all those in the village.

While the mobile marketing ecosystem is still nascent and developing, there has been significant work by organizations like the Mobile Marketing Association (MMA) to set marketing best practices and ad standards. (Full disclosure: I’m a long-standing MMA member who sits on both the mobile search and the consumer best practices committee, and a subcommittee within.) I strongly encourage my clients and sister-agency partners to check out the MMA Web site, and I routinely share documents with standard and policy updates. I do this because within the MMA is representation from all facets of the ecosystem. It’s truly the only organization that I’m aware of with support and membership from agencies, brands, aggregators (pure-play and content/application developers), and carriers/operators. The group as a whole has also done a significant amount of outreach to other industry organizations, such as the FTC.

While I may not be able to do anything about children being up at hours in places I deem inappropriate, I can encourage you to go to the MMA’s site. Check out the latest consumer best practices or ad standards published by cross-representative committees. Remember, you too have a voice and can help raise the child that is mobile marketing.