Emerging TechnologyMobileMy Wireless Wish List

My Wireless Wish List

Cindy's got plenty of complaints about her cell phone. That she doesn't get calls from telemarketers isn't one of them. So is there any way to advertise to her on one of those handheld things? She can think of five types of advertising messages that she would welcome.

I’ve got plenty of complaints about my cell phone. The battery never seems to last as long as it should. (And the owner doesn’t remember to charge it as often as she should.) Virtually every provider locks you into a long-term agreement, making switching tough if you see a better deal. (Never mind that it’s impossible, even if you could switch, to decipher from the fine print what those better deals would really cost.)

But there’s one thing I love about my cell phone. I’ve never received a phone call in the middle of dinner from a telemarketer trying to get me to switch from AT&T to MCI, renew a magazine subscription, refinance my mortgage, buy a timeshare, or sign up for yet another credit card I don’t need. You know what I mean. With all the hoopla about m-commerce, I pray there never comes a day when every third call I get on my cell phone is from someone trying to sell me something.

To be honest, the whole concept of wireless advertising didn’t quite jell for me until about a week ago. I was having lunch with a friend in the industry. I heard the familiar sound of a cell phone ringing, and what should he pull out? Why, the new QCP 6035, a.k.a. the Kyocera Smartphone. It was cool. Very cool. A cell phone and Palm rolled up in one. A 14.4K modem connection for Web surfing. A one-tap feature to make a phone call or send an email. A speakerphone, no less! All packed into a device that fits nicely in the pocket or purse.

A Jupiter Research report that came out not too long ago found that “nearly half [46 percent] of all users said that nothing would make them more willing to receive advertising on their mobile phones or PDAs [personal digital assistants], which is a significant attitudinal barrier for wireless content providers to overcome.”

But this Kyocera got me thinking. What could an advertiser do that would truly be a value-add for me? What could it do that would be more effective on a wireless device than anywhere else?

Here, then, is a list of five truly valuable advertising messages that I would welcome on my wireless device:

  • First, the obvious: stock alerts. If Charles Schwab, E*TRADE, Fidelity, or whoever my broker was sent me notices whenever a certain stock or fund hit a certain price, that would be great. It would be even better if my broker alerted me if a sell would trigger short-term capital gains versus long-term gains. Or if it let me know I’d be missing out on a dividend by selling today instead of tomorrow. Or if it tipped me off a week or so before capital-gains distributions so that I could decide if a fund was worth hanging on to. But you get my drift.
  • Periodic messages from my wireless provider telling me how many of my allotted minutes I’d used up that month. Say you’re on the 1,000-minute plan. Imagine if you got a wireless alert when you hit 500 minutes, 750 minutes, and again at 900 minutes. Or imagine if ’round about the 28th of every month, you got a notice telling you how many minutes you had left and urging you to “call your mother and use them up!” Now that’s proactive customer service. And that’s a message I’d welcome on my wireless device.
  • Local coupons with expiration dates. We’ve all received in the mail those fat Val-U-Paks chock-full of special offers from local retailers. If you’re like me, you sort through them, pull out the three or four you intend to use, tuck them away somewhere, then find them again six months after the expiration date. Imagine if those same coupons were delivered electronically to a wireless device that you virtually always had with you as you ran your errands. You delete those you’re not interested in and keep the rest. Then when you’re calling that car service for an airport pickup, dropping off the dry cleaning, ordering a pizza — voila! You’ve got your coupons handy.
  • Frequent-flyer bonus offers. Like those Val-U-Paks, I get all sorts of offers for double points, triple miles, and other promotions stuffed in my myriad frequent flyer statements. Most of them require you to call and register with a special promotion code to enroll in the program. Alas, somewhere between intention and action, these slips of paper, too, seem to disappear. Imagine if these offers were delivered electronically. If I had one of these newfangled devices like my friend has, I could hit a button and enroll automatically. I could store those promotions of interest on my wireless device. Then when I got stranded in Cleveland or Detroit or Dallas, I’d have them all handy and could take advantage of them when my flight was canceled and I suddenly found myself in need of a bed for the night.
  • Custom-branded applets. OK, let’s say I need to go on a diet and I’m trying to keep track of my calories. Imagine if there were a branded applet Dannon let me download that included calorie counts for popular foods as well as an application in which I can enter what I ate for the day. Or let’s say that I’m training for the marathon and I want to track my workouts. Imagine if Nike offered an applet that lets me track my marathon training progress.

    I’ve heard rumors that if you go into a Banana Republic, they’ll charge your cell phone for you. Now that’s brilliant! How often have I been walking down Broadway, up Fifth, or crosstown when I’ve seen that “Low Battery!” sign flash? Imagine if I could call up a Banana Republic applet that gave me the location of the nearest Banana Republic, plus a few specials and dollars-off coupons. I stop in the store, charge my cell phone, and — hey — maybe buy something while I’m waiting.

    The applet applications are endless. What Miller Brewing Company did with its beer pager (also brilliant) only scratches the surface. Not only are they useful and cool, applets are also viral. Picture folks beaming your applet to other likeminded folks in bars, on buses, on beaches — everywhere!

So that’s the start of my wireless wish list. What’s on yours?

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