That’s Entertainment: Wireless Advertising Is Getting to Be Fun

Let’s take a break from trying to understand the wireless industry — a somewhat thankless task, after all — and just have some fun looking at some of the cool applications.

I think we all agree that wireless advertising will be most effective when it’s put in the context of something really useful or really fun. A review of two excellent wireless resources (Wireless NewsFactor and WirelessAdWatch) gave me a sense of some of the creative applications that are coming down the pike that will change how people use their phones and personal digital assistants (PDAs) in the future.

As a huge “Lord of the Rings” fan, I was intrigued to hear about a three-year-long wireless campaign to promote the upcoming releases of the trilogy. New Line Cinema has teamed up with Riot Entertainment, a Finnish wireless entertainment provider, to allow mobile device users around the world to battle goblins and wizards through a range of interactive games — from simple short messaging service (SMS) ones to state-of-the art third-generation (3G) multiplayer experiences.

Given the cult-like status of the J.R.R. Tolkien books and the strong Internet interest in the movie, New Line is predicting that the wireless campaign will prove popular as well. After all, who knows what wireless will look like in three years?

Another Riot Entertainment application worth noting is the deal with Helen Fielding, author of the popular book “Bridget Jones’s Diary,” to turn Bridget into a mobile creature. Like the “Lord of the Rings” deal, this is a long gig — two years — and will target women in their 20s and 30s for content that includes daily diary entries, personality tests, “ask Bridget” features, and other games and activities.

That this deal is with the author is particularly interesting; it clearly signals her intent to “brand” Bridget beyond the confines of her novels. (And Riot is to be congratulated for its ability to put together long-term, brand-focused deals.)

And now for something completely different but still in the fun category: FunMail, a technology platform company, allows users to type in a standard message and choose a brand name cartoon character. Its engine then turns the message into an animation starring the chosen character and enables the user to send it to a computer, PDA, or Web-enabled phone. The company recently launched this text-to-animation service with a major Japanese portal to begin its entry into the Japanese market.

Hmm… I’m thinking about my typical messages and what they would look like if they were animated. (What would “we’re out of diapers — don’t forget to pick some up on the way home!” look like, for example?) I’ll have to sign up for this service (in Japan, it costs the equivalent of $1.62 per month) to see how that one comes out.

Finally, Capitol Records and Radiohead have teamed up with mobile messaging company Upoc to keep Radiohead fans up to the minute on summer releases, concerts, Webcasts, and any other happenings of interest. In addition to the usual text messages, the program also sends fans voice messages and song clips. Aimed at a techie young audience, the campaign is designed to integrate with an Internet strategy as well. For example, an Internet email about an upcoming appearance can be reinforced on the day of the appearance with a wireless text message.

What do all of these applications have in common (besides the cool factor)? Obviously, they are entertaining. But, more important, they use the medium to extend the brand in a way that makes sense given the product being promoted and the audience they are trying to reach. And because they are all opt-in, the chances for annoying people go way down.

But make no mistake, this is overtly advertising (as in the case of the first three examples) or easily lends itself to advertising (in the case of FunMail). Yup, it’s true. Advertising can be entertaining and effective at the same time. Even on wireless devices.

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