Wireless Marketers Try To Preempt Spam Deluge

The Mobile Marketing Association (MMA) has released a six-point industry code of conduct for North American wireless marketing campaigns, hoping to stop a spam epidemic before it starts.

The global wireless marketing trade group said it developed the code to protect a fledgling medium that is extremely vulnerable to abuse. The code stipulates that advertisers must allow people to opt in to each mobile marketing program separately. It also says every message sent must provide an easy opt-out mechanism, and consumers should be offered something of value in each wireless communication they receive.

The code gives a green light to companies hoping to collect demographic data for mobile campaigns, since “mobile messaging campaigns are most effective when appropriately targeted,” the authors of the code wrote.

A second step the MMA is considering is the creation of a mobile campaign certification process to help advertisers and brands design campaigns that meet the code of conduct.

“The code of conduct is a tremendous first step toward aligning the industry behind an aggressive yet universal set of principles for mobile marketing that protects the consumer and the industry simultaneously,” said Cristy Swink of Cingular Wireless, a member of the MMA’s Privacy Advisory Committee (PAC), which developed the code.

The PAC also includes Carat Interactive, Procter & Gamble, PocketChoice, The Weather Channel and VeriSign. It was ratified by a majority of MMA board members.

U.S. and Asian mobile subscribers are more susceptible to mobile spam than are their counterparts in Europe, where senders pay a per-message fee. This “sender pays” model creates a significant cost for the marketer, but also greatly reduces the likelihood of a spam epidemic to match that perpetuated via the email medium.

Asian markets are still the only ones to have encountered mobile spam on a large scale. Faced with a growing wireless email epidemic in Japan, DoCoMo last month implemented severe restrictions on the volume of mobile email a given i-mode handset can send in a day. Some experts in the U.S. fear a mobile spam epidemic here is inevitable.

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