Emerging TechnologyMobileMobile Advertising: What’s In It for the Consumer?

Mobile Advertising: What's In It for the Consumer?

Mobile may just be taking off, but already targeting and other sophisticated techniques benefit consumers and advertisers alike.

With the launch of some of the latest mobile advertising campaigns, there’s been much talk in regard to the value and impact advertisements will have on all players in the mobile marketing space. What’s not been discussed recently is how mobile advertising may impact the consumer. As the head of the leading trade association for mobile marketing, I’ve been approached by many consumers who simply want to understand, “what it means for me.”

They ask questions such as, “Will my phone start to receive as much spam as my e-mail account?” Consumers want to know what they can expect when mobile advertising begins in earnest. This column, through interviews with two mobile advertising experts, outlines opportunities and realities around the consumer experience.

First, there’s a belief that mobile advertising has only just begun. While I agree we’re in the early days, rudimentary advertising on mobile devices has been in play for a few years. USA Today began offering mobile advertising when WAP 1.0 started a few years back. Granted, these were very basic, plain-text sites, but it was mobile advertising, nonetheless.

What’s gotten us to where we are today? Improved data networks, richer media enabled handsets and more content. Matt Jones, mobile products director at USATODAY.com (and one of the leaders in the mobile advertising space), tells me these increased capabilities allow content providers to provide more compelling services into the hands of the consumer. USATODAY.com’s mobile version is fully ad-supported, and the content provider is one of the leading companies embracing the mobile channel.

So let’s discuss what mobile advertising means for consumers. Perhaps the most significant benefit will come through consumer access to richer content and media. Content is expensive to generate and offer to consumers, and advertising provides a means to offer richer content at more reasonable cost. John Styers, general manager of mobile advertising at Sprint, explains that given the increasing costs to generate content, carriers are developing new methods to subsidize or recover costs on the more expensive content. Mobile advertising may also provide consumers with access to content they previously were unaware of. Lots of new content providers will want to pay to be featured on the carrier deck (again, lots of opportunity for consumers in terms of broader access to rich media). According to Jones, “Mobile advertising allows us to have a viable business,” by adding more content, features and richness to their site – ultimately, improving the experience and opportunities for the consumer.

Sprint launched targeted mobile advertising this week. The company will deliver advertisements via the mobile web to the consumer which are highly relevant by using demographic information (age, gender, past spending behavior, etc). Sprint will ensure the information used for targeting is in no way shared with the advertiser. Styers promises “consumer privacy is assured at all times.”

Let’s walk through how Sprint may deliver its mobile Web banner advertising in a manner that’s minimally intrusive to the consumer and the screen space. From a mobile Web page, the consumer will see a banner at the top of the page. The banner is scaled to not dominate the screen. Once the consumer elects to click on the banner, they’re taken to the bottom of the page where the full ad and more information outline details of the offer (a mobile poster so to speak). At this point, the consumer can choose to engage with the ad or continue their mobile Web experience. The consumer is in control of their interaction. There’s no “push.”

Remember, we’re still in the early days of mobile advertising. We’re taking a measured, exploratory approach to ensure the right experience for all players in the value chain: consumer, carrier and brand. At this stage, all customers are actively engaged in providing feedback on the long-term acceptability of the ad services. This ongoing consumer feedback is vital to ensuring the most positive experience.

Check out a couple of mobile sites to understand the experience. Marketers have recognized the power of the mobile channel and have developed full-blown mobile capabilites to take advantage of the opportunities. Examples are wap.bk.com, wap.usatoday.com (or simply usatoday.com when accessed from a mobile handset), or textmessaging.usatoday.com (USA Today’s consumer text messaging site). If you’re a Sprint subscriber with mobile Web capability on your device, I encourage you to try it and experience targeted mobile advertising.

Let me know what you think!

We’re hosting the Mobile Marketing Forum in Istanbul, Turkey on October 10, 2006. My next column will feature learnings on how mobile marketing has been deployed in Turkey and the broader EMEA region.

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