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Hot Topics In The Mobile Computing Industry

Wireless Advertising 

There is no doubt that advertising industry is extremely excited about the prospect of reaching high-income earners anywhere and everywhere in order to promote the products and services of its sponsors. As soon as the word got out of market research companies like ARC, Strategy Analytics, Gartner and Forrester that there will be billion plus cellular phones in the hands of consumers soon, they have been thinking aloud as to how wonderful it would be to send promotional message to these phones. Wireless internet makes this technically feasible. MobileInfo thinks that there are more perils and dangers in wishful thinking of the wireless advertising executives than the potential benefits to consumers and businesses. We make following observations on this important application of wireless networks and web-enabled handsets.. 

  1. In our view, in the first phase of evolution of our industry, primary use of cellular phones was for critical communication with business and personal contacts. Now, cellular mode of communication has become more pervasive and has gone beyond purely critical and urgent mode. It is a matter of convenience and routine communication. In future, we expect this to move us further into the area of personal pleasure and entertainment.

  2. From consumer and business professionals' perspective, cellular communication should be personal and private with full control left between the caller and called party with the network only providing an infrastructure to conduct this communication. We can not use the analogy of fixed wireline networks where telemarketing personnel use an essentially-free service to promote their products and services. When people are mobile and away from their fixed place of work or residence, they are less prepared to receive unsolicited calls - much less advertising messages. By well-established notions of our society and business conduct, use of wireless advertising would be intrusion into personal and business privacy unless the recipient has agreed to receive this message. 

  3. Having stated the above principle, we believe that is quite reasonable for the industry to give an option to consumers to opt-in for receiving (on push-basis) advertising messages in certain specified circumstances. The key principle here is that the control (if, when and how) is entirely and completely in the hands of the consumer. Full compliance of this principle will avoid wireless spamming.

  4. We would like to cite the experience of ZagMe, a sponsor of wireless advertising in UK who, in our opinion, has understood consumers' requirements very well. ZagMe has found a way to reach young shoppers by exploiting the popularity of text messaging. More than 80,000 people, the majority of them in the 18 34 age range, have signed up to receive discount coupons and special promotions on their cell phones from two shopping malls outside London. The service is free to customers who sign up on its Web site or send a text-message on their cell phones. Customers choose which stores they want to receive coupons from and later notify the service whenever they visit either one of the malls. Messages are only sent while someone is actually in the mall. Since ZagMe started beaming out the promotions late last year using a two-way alerting technology, 75 stores have signed on to beam discount coupons to participants. Slightly more popular with female shoppers, customers are spending anywhere between $15 and $75 each time they redeem a coupon. Response rates on offers have been as high as 20 percent, according to the company. (News story courtesy Mobilocity)

    MobileInfo.Com, along with serious consultancies like Mobilocity, urges advertisers to institute opt-in at four levels firstly when they give their permission to receive advertising messages (presumably there is incentive - financial or informational), secondly to choose which sponsors they want to hear from, and thirdly they indicate their availability to receive messages when they enter a participating mall or trade show . Finally, the consumers should have the option to turn-off advertising when they do not want to be disturbed (like the "Do not disturb" sign on the hotel door knob. The result would be mobile coupons can be provided more as services and less as intrusive and irritating advertisements.

  5. While we think that wireless advertising has a legitimate business need to explore wireless medium for advertising, the enthusiasm of wireless network operators, wireless advertising industry associations like WAA must be tampered by the requirements of personal privacy, regulated opt-in procedures and  control mechanism instituted by third parties. 

  6. While we would like to think that the industry should be self-regulated and self-governing, there should be an over-riding legislation in each country.  

  7. Since the Internet spans the entire globe, appropriate forums including those within the United Nations should come up with internationally-acceptable guidelines.

  8. Early cadre of vendors involved in wireless advertising should show leadership, business responsibility and consumer sensitivity by developing best-practice implementations that show three different requirements for positive opt-in i.e. confirm if they want to receive advertising messages, indicate when they want to receive the messages and a mechanism to block messages when they do not want to be disturbed. With modern software technology, this can be easily accomplished.

  9. WAA, as an association of wireless advertising interests in our industry is a good and worthwhile start. However, it appears to us (we stand to be corrected by WAA, if we are wrong) that it still does not have enough representation of all the players in enough numbers. We do hope that they will take steps to achieve that status.

  10. We must have representation of our final set of customers - the consumers and business enterprises in one form or another. If we do not do so, hue and cry from the public and businesses will force the legislators' hands to come up with restrictive legislation. If that happens, wireless advertising will suffer more and it will never take off.


Many of the issues have been outlined above. Here are some more:

  • Policies and guidelines recommended by WAA but also by sponsoring advertiser

  • Technical Standards - size of the advertising message and graphics e.g. for SMS, size of message to be limited to 100 characters (WAA guideline). Similarly graphic size limitation to 215x46 pixels with  two lines of text

  • Who is going to pay for wireless advertising messages and how to ensure that this is conveyed to the consumer

  • Rules for inserting advertising message during a user session. 

  • Interface with Telematics

  • Interface with 911 (emergency for public safety) location information

Early Applications Suitable for Wireless Advertising 

  • Dining and Restaurant Reservation

  • Theatre Ticket Reservation

  • Hotels and Motels in connection with Telematics

Market Size Reports

Wireless Advertising Vendors

  • AvantGo - Among the largest mobile advertising portals
  • Advertising.Com - on-line promotions including wireless advertising
  • Doubleclick 
  • Infiniq - Do mobile surveys using handheld devices
  • GlobalDining - offer location-specific mobile restaurant directory and reservation network

  • Skygo - Wireless Maketing Solutions Provider

  • Sonata.com - Sonata provides interactive mobile solutions that connect corporations and customers to the relevant data, content and advertising over voice or any web enabled device.

  • Telephia

  • TeleSpatial - enables brick and mortar retailers to extend their customer relationship management (CRM) systems to wireless.

  • Vindigo enables companies to deliver compelling, comprehensive location-based information and services to consumers, corporate customers, and employees.
  • Windwire Inc. - Mobile Advertiser Services bringing agencies and advertisers together.
  • Wireless Opinion - Allows you to do opinion research by wireless and handheld devices

Industry Associations

  • WAA - Wireless Advertising Association has provided guidelines for its members. The guidelines are respected by members on "honour" system.

More Resources

  • Do a keyword search on our site with "wireless advertising" as keywords.

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