December 26, 2006
Verizon Takes Cautious Step into Mobile Advertising

Today's New York Times features an article by Matt Richtel about the decision by Verizon Wireless to enter the mobile advertising space--albeit cautiously.

The company plans to launch mobile advertising in the new year, through banner advertisements for its mobile Internet content.

Richtel writes, "The development is a substantive and symbolic advance toward the widespread appearance of marketing messages on the smallest of screens. Advertisers have been increasing the amount they spent on mobile marketing, despite lingering questions about the effectiveness of ads on portable phones."

Aside from a couple of typos of the sort you would expect from a blogger like me instead of a Times article ("spent" instead of "spend" in the quotation above, and a strange use of "then" when it should be "than"), it is top-notch reporting on one symptom of a larger trend toward the growth of online content.

As I wrote about earlier this month, mobile content is expected to be a major area of growth over the next few years, and there has to be talk not just about what innovative new types of storytelling must be made in these spaces but also the business model that will drive content into these spaces. Creatives and academics and interested fans might be interested in the narrative potentials of mobile devices, but content and interest in these spaces won't reach the tipping point until the method to draw money from the new media form is completely in place.

Richard Siklos may be right in writing that 2006 was a little premature to be declared to breakout year for mobile content, but one can hardly dispute projections of major growth in mobile content over the next five years, according to Juniper.

Sprint started using mobile advertising in October. Sprint has been a major innovator in pushing mobile media and online mobile content, including its moves in the PPV Video-on-Demand field I wrote about back in September.

I was interested in the unattributed theory, which must be considered common ad agency knowledge according to the way Richtel writes about it, that online advertising "could create a particularly intimate bond with consumers" because mobile devices are "ubiquitous, personal, and messages could theoretically be tailored to individuals based on demographics like age, gender and location."

I don't know how accurate this is, but I believe mobile devices are particularly good platforms for targeted advertising which reaches out to particular consumers. For instance, messaging services from advertisers that consumers willingly choose to sign up for updates for, or other types of tailored advertising seems to make sense on such personalized devices. I don't know, however, if people feel that much closer of a connection with banner ads here as they do on their home computer or laptop.

The article focuses both on Verizon's reticence, as well as other service providers, at entering too forcefully into the mobile market and the drive of advertisers to Web content providers instead of service providers.

The business plan behind mobile content is important, and watching service providers and content providers jockeying for positions is particularly fascinating. One would think that service providers are best positioned in the grand scheme of things to be...well...service providers, and Verizon is smart to try and enter into mobile advertising only in ways that will not anger consumers.