Study by Wireless Ad Firm Shows Users Like WAP Ads

Wireless ad technology firm SkyGo released the first results of its mobile advertising pilot program, which seems to suggest that wireless marketing will work, a result that surprises no one.

Redwood City, Calif.-based SkyGo, of course, has a vested interest in promoting wireless advertising. But what the study’s participating advertisers — including Visa, Procter & Gamble, and ESPN.com — really wanted to know was how users would react to various forms of wireless ads, and whether they would find them invasive, or confusing, for instance.

SkyGo is testing several different types of wireless marketing, including branded games and surveys; time-sensitive, targeted sales alerts, coupons or incentives; ads that contain links to audio samples or recorded information; and click-to-call and click-to-buy banner ad calls to action.

According to some preliminary findings from the program, with began in September in Boulder, Colo. and will continue through the end of January, a sizable amount of participating consumers derived at least some value from these types of wireless marketing.

According to the study, some 60 percent of participants found wireless advertisements “valuable,” and 27 percent of these users said that they actually would consider switching wireless service providers to receive ads in the future.

“Consumers have told us that if we deliver marketing messages that are targeted, compelling, convenient and interactive, they will pay attention,” said SkyGo co-founder and chief executive officer Daren Tsui.

SkyGo also said that more than 90 percent of the study’s participants found it easy to view and navigate the ads delivered to them, and 65 percent have used the phone to browse the wireless Web, visiting weather, sports, travel and finance sites.

While these preliminary results are sure to please wireless advertising firms, some questions remain about the study’s methodology. Advertising.com is also sponsoring a similar, 10- to 12-month-long trial, which it calls the Wireless Advertising Marketing and Measurement Initiative. Advertising.com has not disclosed advertisers or the numbers of consumers participating in WAMMI, a nationwide program, but said its results would be more useful to marketers than SkyGo’s trials.

In its trial, SkyGo distributed WAP-enabled phones to some 1,000 users, whereas WAMMI aims to test all wireless Internet devices and send ads to devices that users currently own. Participants also agreed to receive a minimum of three daily WAP alerts on the phones. (According to SkyGo, participants are not required to view the ads nor utilize the phones’ Web features at all.)

But Advertising.com spokespeople have said the free phones could potentially skew results, because their users might be more likely to accept messages and ads. In response, SkyGo representatives, while not elaborating on their methodology, have said that it accounted for those concerns.

However, SkyGo admits that its own findings suggest that the consumers participating in its program behave differently than most WAP users.

“65 percent of our participants are proactively browsing the Internet with their phones, and we believe this to be significantly more activity than is currently exhibited by the domestic WAP phone user population,” Tsui said.

But SkyGo doesn’t think that this fact invalidates the test. Quite the contrary, actually.

“By presenting consumers with a compelling proposition — including incentives — to try the Internet capabilities of their phones, we believe our ads may stimulate them to ‘log on’ to the wireless Web,” Tsui said.

Whether the presence of WAP advertising actually increases users’ desire to use the wireless Web — especially when those users are paying for the service themselves — clearly remains to be seen. But if that’s true, then wireless marketers like SkyGo have a powerful proposition indeed for advertisers.

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