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Monday, March 5, 2007 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Ads to pop up soon on your cellphone

Seattle Times technology reporter

Coming soon to a cellphone near you: advertisements.

Widespread mobile advertising will still take years to develop, but for now wireless carriers and marketers are looking at several ways to incorporate brands on the mobile phone.

Here are some of those methods:

Web banners: They're similar to those online, but there are a few differences.

For one thing, a subscriber can click on a phone banner to call the advertiser. In addition, because the phone is connected to a monthly bill, there's a built-in payment system, making it easy to click to buy.

To facilitate banner placement, companies such as AdMob in San Mateo, Calif., and Third Screen Media in Boston are holding auctions for ad space on mobile Web pages.

Other features: The advertiser can pick a region and carrier that the ad will run on. It can then tailor the ad to the individual's phone manufacturer. For instance, a banner could read: "Share pix on your Razr."

On its Web site, AdMob counts the number of ads that have been viewed through its network since it was founded in 2006 — on Friday afternoon, the number stood at 1,373,118,286.

Mobile campaigns: SNAPin is developing software to help the carriers teach subscribers how to use the increasing number of features on cellphones.

For instance, when they snap a picture, a pop-up message could ask whether they'd like to learn how to send it to a friend. Sending a photo could then result in an additional charge on the users' bill. Subscribers could also receive a promotion for a free photo print from a Web site.

Bellevue-based SNAPin said it found in a survey that a majority didn't consider a message an ad if it was relevant to what they were doing.

Mobile search: This is an evolving area that builds off the business Google, Yahoo! and MSN have created online by offering sponsored results based on search terms.

In addition to the online giants, several smaller companies are also looking at the opportunity, including area companies such as Medio Systems and InfoSpace, as well as JumpTap of Cambridge, Mass.

Mobile search would work similarly to online, but in addition, a person's location could be taken into account.

Subscribers could enter their location, or it could be pulled from the phone's GPS technology or from the location of the nearest cellphone towers.

Text messaging: Brands and entertainment companies now use text messaging for ads or to interact with TV shows.

Subscribers of AT&T, formerly Cingular Wireless, for instance, can vote by text messages for their favorite contestants on Fox's "American Idol."

Also magazine ads have been known to provide "short codes," which encourage people to send a message to a number for a new ringtone, or other piece of content.

Interactive Voice Response: Also known as IVR, this advertises on phones through voice interaction, said Laura Marriott, the executive director of the Mobile Marketing Association.

For instance, you could receive free content or data after listening to an advertisement. It's frequently used with free directory assistance.

Quick Response Codes: Popular in Asia, QR Codes are similar to bar codes in that you can retrieve information by scanning a symbol, said Jeremy Lockhorn, director of emerging media at aQuantive.

In Japan, consumers find QR codes on posters, stationery and business cards and use them to quickly transfer personal or company data between PCs and mobile devices.

A game or activity could be downloaded as part of an ad.

Near Field Communication: Similar to QR codes, this technology allows mobile phones to interact with other devices.

For now, the most likely scenario is that the mobile phone would act as a wallet in which subscribers pay for an item with just the swipe of the phone.

This could also interact with outdoor ads, Lockhorn said. In that scenario, a person could swipe his phone over an ad for a new movie. In return, he would be able to watch a trailer and receive offers for more interactive features.

Tricia Duryee: 206-464-3283 or tduryee@seattletimes.com

Copyright © The Seattle Times Company

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