It was probably inevitable that advertising would follow television’s migration to the very small screen. Now, that possibility is becoming a reality, as advertisers target mobile phones.
Prospective cell-phone advertisers are quick to point out that such ads could be targeted to a user’s location, in order to facilitate a search for the nearest pizza joint, say, or perhaps the nearest cell phone store. Federal communications laws, of course, prohibit mobile carriers from transmitting users’ locations without their permission. But carriers hope that they can offer incentives attractive enough to make users forgo that privacy in favor of saving money, getting specially targeted offers, etc.
Subscribe to an ESPN update service on your mobile? You’ll start to see short video clips in and around those sports scores and video highlights that you’re used to. Advertisers that have already signed on include Nike, Visa USA, and Hilton Hotels. Other advertisers making loud noises about following suit include American Express, Pepsi, and Microsoft.
On the other side of the issue are consumer advocacy groups, who hold out hope that the mobiie phone is one of the last refuges from ever-present advertising.
“This is part of the creep of advertising into every nook and cranny of our lives,” said Gary Ruskin, executive director of Commercial Alert, a nonprofit consumer group. “This is advertising right in your face.”
Advertising does exist on mobile phone feeds now, in the form of text requests and logos. Advertisers say that taking their ads to video playback is just a natural progression in an already-present process. Many experts point their way back to the personalization aspect of targeting users’ locations.
A message might say: “Use this card in the store coming up on your left and you’ll get x-percent off,” said Michael Lao, MasterCard’s vice president for global media and new channels. Lao stressed, however, that users would have to sign off on their being tracked before such ads would ever target them and their locations.
Not all mobile phones have video capability in the first place. Users of those phones are not the target of this ad campaign. But the users of the phones that do broadcast video might soon see TV-like ads in places they never thought they would.