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Marketers try wireless ads

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B-to-b advertisers are beginning on a very limited basis to try wireless advertising, which is starting to take off in the consumer marketplace.

In the past few months, new wireless advertising and marketing efforts have been announced for the b-to-c marketplace, including an expanded text-messaging promotion for the Fox TV show "American Idol" and mobile hot spots on point-of-purchase displays launched by Kameleon Mobile Technologies.

The "American Idol" promotion, powered by Mobliss, uses short message service (SMS) technology over the Cingular Wireless network to bring voting, trivia and program news to more than 49 million wireless subscribers in the U.S.

The new Kameleon mobile ad service, called "Blue Spots," allows advertisers to reach mobile users through the use of Bluetooth-enabled devices that are attached to billboards, shelf displays and other retail locations. The "Blue Spots" send out radio signals that allow mobile users to download ads, product information and relevant messaging from their phones, PDAs and other mobile devices.

Fedex promotes awareness on PDAs

"While 99% of the applications are b-to-c, there is some b-to-b advertising that is being started on platforms including Vindigo and AvantGo," said Peter Fuller, executive director of the Mobile Marketing Association.

Vindigo is a mobile media company that delivers news and advertising to consumers and business users through partnerships with wireless carriers. AvantGo is a mobile Internet service that delivers content to PDAs, smart phones and other mobile devices.

One b-to-b marketer that has run limited mobile advertising is FedEx, which in July 2004 launched an ad campaign on Vindigo to promote the launch of FedEx Kinko's copy and printing centers.

The awareness campaign included a static logo, a page with the nearest FedEx Kinko's location information and messages to business executives who had opted in to receive FedEx messages on their PDAs.

The text messages were brief and informational, such as: "The new look of fedexkinkos.com makes it even easier to find the tools and information you need."

"The ads were designed for busy, on-the-go executives to let them know they can save time and money by using FedEx Kinko's," said Steve Pacheco, director of advertising at FedEx. Digitas, Boston, developed the campaign. "With one click, they could download the nearest FedEx Kinko's information," Pacheco said.

However, mobile advertising does have limitations, he added.

"You lose some of the ability for sight, sound and motion, and it is a bit flat," he said.

FedEx is now in talks with other wireless carriers, including Cingular Wireless, about further advertising promotions.

Relevant rather than intrusive

Ross Dobson, senior VP-marketing at Digitas, said one of the keys to success in mobile advertising is delivering information that is relevant to and desired by users.

"It is very different when you're interrupting someone with a vibrating PDA in a meeting, versus pushing them something while they're sitting at their desk," Dobson said. "It has to be highly relevant and solution-focused, so the information is welcomed by the user instead of being seen as intrusive."

In an effort to develop best practices and standards for the mobile marketing industry, the Mobile Marketing Association in February created a best practices committee and a metrics committee.

The best practices committee will establish guidelines and recommendations for effective execution of mobile marketing campaigns via SMS, wireless Web and PDA. The metrics committee will recommend ROI measurement guidelines for advertisers, brands and carriers using mobile marketing.

"We will try to measure the success of a [mobile] program based on brand attributes and likely intent to use that product or service," said Irene Waldman, director of marketing services at Visa USA and co-chairwoman of the metrics committee, which hopes to release an initial research proposal by summer.

Visa is currently exploring mobile marketing as a business opportunity, although it does not yet have any specific mobile applications, Waldman said.

"This technology will evolve, just as the Internet has," she said. "As more consumers begin to use the applications, there will be more applications that arise that are more relevant for the business market."

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