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Cell phone ads get closer

We've seen the mass opt-out backlash against telemarketing on wired phones where the Do-Not-Call list restored peace during dinner. It would be naïve of marketers looking to drive advertising to cell phones to think that "but this is different!"

3GSM always brings an interested set of announcements and coverage – this year has not been a disappointment in that regards! Today's NY Times has a good article covering the developments in moving advertising onto the cell phone with a provocative title – "The Ad-Free Cellphone May Soon Be Extinct". The article is a summary of the moves by the cellular carriers trying to control how and when ads are deployed (so they are the ones getting paid) contrasted with the Internet property owners like Yahoo et al beginning to place ads on the mobile formatted versions of their sites.

While we are still a long (long!) way from ads supporting the full cost of the cell phone, it's interesting to see the speculation of ads reducing costs to the consumer. Take this quote for example…

"If you can get something for half-price or for free if there is a bit of advertising, and that can be done in a noninvasive manner, that's compelling," said Chadd Knowlton, general manager of the content access and protection division of Microsoft. "We'll continue to see richer and better mobile advertising across all kinds of content."

The key point here is "noninvasive" especially given the limits on display real estate. At the risk of sounding like a scratched CD, the advertising better be useful to the consumer or there will be backlash. The backlash will start from those consumers who have to pay for their data usage by the kilobyte – the delivery of ads will cost the consumer money.

Perhaps this will drive the carriers to convert all data plans to flat rate or the FCC to restrict advertising to cell phones much as they restrict junk "mail" to fax machines. Let's hope it's better enforced than the fax example!

The key is going to be twofold:

  • User control (permission based advertising)
  • Value to the user



Stu Phillips


I think we're on the same track - obtaining permission or active solicitation from the consumer is going to be key.

I always worry about the involvement of agencies like the FCC - regulation often has unintended consequences that can be worse than the problem that prompted them. Hopefully the arrival of ads will be managed mindfully and avoid the need for the FCC to feel compelled to act!


Greg Harris

One thing we have found on the SMS side of mobile advertising is the need for the consumer to initiate the contact.

The Mobile Marketing Association's code of conduct should be adhered to with all mobile advertising, as it is with SMS marketing.

Your point on involving the FCC is a good one. Pushing ads at someone at their own expense needs to be avoided at all costs.

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Intense Brit, lived in Silicon Valley since 1984. Avid pilot, like digital photography, ham radio and a bunch of other stuff. Official Geek.

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