The Revolution Is Coming…

While online advertising suffers from the lingering effects of “banneritis,” the smart media planners are searching for new ways to help their clients break through competitive clutter.

Rich media helped, and it certainly hasn’t run its developmental course (not by a long shot). However, there’s a comparatively unexplored area of interactive advertising that can break through clutter nearly as effectively. What is it? I’ll give you a hint.

A couple years back, before 3Com gobbled up U.S. Robotics, I spent over $300 on a PalmPilot Professional with 2MB of RAM. Palm computing has come a long way since then. We’re seeing great strides in palmtop computing.

At last week’s Fall Internet World, a company called Handspring was demoing something that looked like a PalmPilot on steroids, with 8MB of RAM for only $249. Color Windows CE devices are currently available in similar-sized units that have 16MB or even 32MB of memory.

Portable MP3 players are shipping with up to 96 MB of memory available in a device smaller than a cassette tape case. Digital cameras either come with floppy drives or with flash memory cards that can be made to hold 32MB of data or more.

At the same time, wireless connectivity is becoming more widespread. Wireless modems have been available for PalmPilots for a while. My new Motorola i1000 Plus digital wireless phone has a web browser in it. (Granted, the web browser is waiting for NEXTEL to get its act together before it can deliver stock quotes on demand, but the technology’s getting there.)

Notice something? All these examples point toward a common notion — that of the power of interactive media moving away from the PC and into other devices. Portable interactive devices are becoming more powerful, and perhaps more importantly, cheaper.

Sure, you’ve heard this before. You’ve likely snickered with your friends over the story about the Internet refrigerator. But this is different. These devices are actually providing huge advantages over analog wireless phones, cameras, portable cassette players and personal organizers. And if they really catch on with people other than so-called early adopters, they’re going to provide interesting opportunities for presenting a client’s message.

While there are plenty of new advertising opportunities wrapped up in all of this, we are all going to have to start doing some serious thinking.

In many cases with these “narrowband” advertising opportunities, we’re dealing with new protocols, new standards and new formats. How will all of this be measured? Can our existing measurement constructs be leveraged to give us an idea of how effective advertising in narrowband environments can be?

Start thinking about it, because advertising on these devices will be commonplace in a very short time. I can already think of several advertising applications:

  • Fender Guitars could develop and brand a downloadable PalmOS application that displays chord charts.

  • Citibank could deliver a wireless application that would allow account holders to query bank balances, locate branch locations and pay bills via a digital wireless phone.
  • Domino’s Pizza could record popular class lectures at select colleges and offer them to students for free download in MP3 format. Of course, the lectures would contain the occasional 15-second spot reminding students that Domino’s is just a phone call away.

If you’re not thinking about the impact that portable interactive devices can have on your future media initiatives, start thinking about it. Almost as importantly, think about how your agency will take a stab at measuring the effectiveness of any potential opportunities and how you can demonstrate success with them.

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