Chip Shots by Chip Griffin

Cell Phone Advertising About to Take Off?

New York Times reports today on the future of cell phone advertising.  It notes that a number of companies and carriers are exploring how best to do advertising in this medium where the providers already know a fair bit about their customers.  The article is generally thin on details, but it certainly provokes my thinking.

Of course, advertising on the cell phone has already begun.  I know that I have received SMS ads from my carrier about their own products and services, but apparently Yahoo is in the game too and plans to make it a bigger, more coordinated market.

Yahoo, for instance, began displaying ads Sunday on sites accessible to subscribers with advanced cellphones in 19 countries. Mobile phone users with data as well as voice subscriptions would see the ads when going to Yahoo’s home Web page on their phones. They could then click on an ad to dial a company directly or to get more information and special offers.

Of course, this sort of advertising isn’t without serious challenges.  The industry typically fails to play nice with each other with carriers doing their best to erect closed systems with proprietary hardware and serious software and third party service restrictions.  And then there is the third rail of innovation these days: privacy.

People in the industry say they know that the personalized nature of cellphones is a double-edged sword: it is what makes the medium appealing to advertisers, but many people consider the medium too personal to be invaded by outside interests.

Overcoming these concerns will be important, but I believe attainable.  People will resist initially, but eventually cell phone advertising will become an accepted fact.  When advertising first started showing up in move theaters, people complained about being subjected to ads after paying for their seat.  But now we accept it.  Sports teams and leagues were criticized for naming stadiums or bowl games for advertisers, but eventually that too became second nature.

Tamar Weinberg thinks these developments are good for Yahoo and provides an opportunity for that company in its ongoing competition with Google.  Although I don’t know a lot of the details on Yahoo’s initial foray here, I would agree it seems promising. 

Expect to hear a lot more about cell phone advertising over the course of this year.

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