Mobile Ads: Useful or Annoying?
The promise of mobile marketing has been talked about for several years now, yet we still haven't seen the flurry of cellphone ads that have long been predicted--let alone the sophisticated ads consumers see in other countries.
This week, the Federal Trade Commission held a "town hall" meeting to discuss the state of the mobile marketing industry and what, if any, rules need to be in place to guide its development. Several ad agency folks and other industry execs reported what we've been seeing for a while now: mobile marketing is still largely experimental for many large companies and makes up only a small fraction of overall advertising budgets.
For consumers who'd just as soon not receive ads on their cellphones, that's good news. But mobile marketing is starting to get traction in certain demographics, such as college students. Michael Hanley, professor of advertising at Ball State University, has found through his research that four in 10 students have received mobile ads, and 28 percent of college students would accept coupons on their cellphones. (Coupons for restaurants and movie theaters were most desired).
At the same time, the consumption of mobile content is leveled off, so people typically aren't increasing the amount of content they read and watch on their cellphones as much as they have over the past few years, Hanley said. However, the level of annoyance with mobile ads also seems to have subsided, even as the amount of ads out there grows.
One of the biggest hurdles to mobile marketing lies in the fact that not everyone has an unlimited data plan on their phone. That means they pay a fee to send or receive text messages, click on a banner ad to open a mobile Web site. While the iPhone has helped to change that by making the mobile Internet more accessible, having extensive data plans isn't the norm, said Ben Ezrick, senior strategist of digital innovation for Ogilvy Interactive. He pointed to research that showed 85 percent of iPhone users access the Web on the regular basis, compared to 13 percent of the rest of cellphone users.
Some big brands, such as Cover Girl, are using mobile marketing as a piece of larger ad strategies. "It rarely stands alone," said Jean Berberich, head of Proctor & Gamble's mobile marketing practice. Another problem is that it's hard to tell how effective such campaigns are. "It's all about measurements, and there's not a lot of data to pull from," she said. But from the data she does have, Berberich said she can tell that people are eager to interact with mobile ads. Even though it's a smaller audience, those that actively receive mobile ads engage with the brand nearly five times more than they do with online ads.
I'm curious about how some of you feel about receiving mobile ads. Would you be willing to get them? And if you did, would you find them useful? Or just annoying?
May 8, 2008; 2:16 PM ET
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