The Future Of Advertising On Cell Phones

By: Danny Wirken

Conventional Advertising

Most people often ignore advertising and are actually even irritated by it. This is because people find that the ads, which can be found anywhere and everywhere at anytime, were more often than not irrelevant for them. Furthermore the impact of the ad campaigns when launched is very difficult to assess. There is also a big possibility that with most people's negative attitude towards ads, much of the campaign efforts go to waste. Because of this business owners usually have second thoughts about investing on serious campaign ads.

Advertising in the Internet

With the advent of the Internet, new advertising models have come out that appear to be more effective when it comes to reaching the advertisers' audience. Targeted advertising became very popular and is still popular. Contextual advertising took targeted advertising to the next level and made ads even more relevant for people. These targeted ads, also called smart ads, have allowed advertisers to not only reach a more receptive audience but also to cut their advertising costs. Advertisers scrambled to place ads on the Internet and the Internet advertising industry boomed to reach $9.6 billion in revenue in 2004. The advertising industry has finally realized the power of the Internet as a medium for advertising.

Smart Ads in Cell Phones

However, for forward thinking marketers there are even better ways and an even better medium in which smart ads can be implemented. To them the ultimate medium for smart ads would be a device that would enable advertisers to target specific individuals and send or show them their supposedly relevant ads anytime of the day at anyplace. The device that fits this criterion is the mobile phone or cell phones.

Cell phones are the ideal smart ad machine for marketers because: 1) a large percent of the world's population owns cell phones, 2) cell phone owners use their cell phone all the time and their phone is rarely far from their side, and 3) owners usually read their messages before deleting them and would rarely ignore a text message. Because of these facts advertisers who wish consumers to see their ad even for a brief period will find that they have a large base of cell phone users who will spend a few moments actually reading their ad before deleting them. In other traditional media like the television or in magazines users often just change the channel or turn the page as soon as ads come out without paying any attention to the ad.

Cell Phone Spam

The field of advertising in cell phones is indeed very lucrative for advertisers but they need to think of creative ways to deliver their ads via the cell phone or their ads will eventually turn into spam. In Europe and Japan mobile spanning is already banned by their law. However in United States and other parts of the world mobile spammers in the guise of informative messages are beginning to annoy users. Take the case of the Acacia National Mortgage Corporation as an example. Due to lowered interest rates they sent an advertising text message to 90,000 cell phones. However, the unsolicited message from them prompted Rodney Joffe, who was interrupted during a "Riverdance" performance at Arizona State Unversity, to file a lawsuit against them, which in turn initiated a new bill in California that bans "wireless spam". According to Joffe, an Internet marketing expert, he is "determined not to let cell phone spam rise to the level of e-mail spam before doing something about it". Governments and the wireless industry do worry about cell phone spam too and are taking initiatives to start banning them. However in them mean time companies are still free to send text messages to cell phone users and they still do. It is also very probable that even after laws has been passed banning companies from sending unsolicited text messages on a large scale mobile spamming will still continue. As Jerry Youhanaie, the president of Acacia Corp. said, "This is the wave of the future, and if you don't like it, you need to move to a different universe".

PR in Cell Phones

Other businesses have, however, found more creative ways to advertise their products and brands. The music industry is a sector that benefits much from cell phones. With the new and more technologically advanced phones capable of playing music aside from videos, more and more people find themselves downloading ring tones and Vcasts (videocasts). However since the choice of ring tones and Vcasts to download are controlled by the telecoms they are able to give extra publicity to certain artists or labels. For example Verizon has used its status to promote the music of its partner labels like EMI and Universal. This type if advertising as a whole is effective since it is the cell phone users that opt to pay for the service and actually seek the products.

Cell Phone Downloads

However there are also problems with the download industry. Some businesses take advantage of peoples' interest in one ring tone or wall paper or whatever feature to send them a string of other unsolicited features. This is usually done by sending a text message to users in the guise of advertisements. The advertisements appear to offer free ring tones as samplers if they reply to the text message or to a given number. However, after the first free download what happens is that the user is periodically and continuously other ring tones, which are not only unsolicited but are not free of charge as well. The free sampler actually acts as a "subscription confirmation". This is strategy is used by businesses not only for ring tones but for wall papers, games, and other add-on services like jokes, weather updates, news alerts, and horoscopes.

Despite this problem with rather unscrupulous businesses, not all downloads are scams and add-on services are gaining popularity. Advertisers want to ride with the wave naturally and are looking for creative ways to insert brief ads along with the services. Despite the fact that most users dislike the idea of having ads along with the services in their cell phones a recent survey revealed that 90% of advertisers are already trying to find ways in which they can place ads in cell phones. It seems that ads in cell phones are a sure thing. The question is whether advertisers will be able to find ways to ensure that the ads will be as relevant as the contextual ads in the Internet and as non-intrusive as well.

Cell Phones
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