Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Cellphone Ads Miss the Point

I know I promised to stop writing about mobile phones, but the headline “The Ad-Free Cellphone May Soon Be Extinct” in today’s The New York Times (February 14, 2007, Business Day, page c5) is irresistible. It seems that 60,000 people have assembled in Barcelona, Spain for the industry’s main annual conference and nearly all of them are salivating over the ad revenue they might earn. The article grasped several key attributes that make mobile phones special—detailed information about users, location awareness, built-in payment mechanism, and always being turned on.

But the article, and presumably the industry leaders it was reporting on, still seemed stuck in the conventional model of advertising as messages you push at consumers. Yes there is potential for sponsored content that could reduce consumer costs by getting advertisers to pay some of the freight. Yes those advertisements can be targeted with fantastic precision given the information available about cell phone users.

But a cell phone is not a tiny portable television. It is a two-way communication device that can be linked with computers and other humans. This makes possible applications that are inherently engaging, whether they help people to buy stuff or help them connect with others. I wrote about this in more detail here, here, and in other posts.

Yet the point bears repeating: cell phones, and their smart phone successors, represent the greatest opportunity since the Internet itself to enhance your customers’ experience. It’s not a question of whether this will happen, but which firms will be smart enough to get the benefit.

Will yours be one of them?

No comments: