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Regulation finds its way to wireless advertising

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Industrywide standards and guidelines for wireless advertising are at last on the way--albeit from seemingly competing groups.

Last week, two separate organizations launched efforts to define standards and best practices for delivering ads to cellular phones and handheld devices.

A new organization, the Wireless Advertising Industry Association, was launched with participation from founding company ad vendor AdForce Inc. and charter members such as FusionOne, Media Metrix, Motorola and Nokia.

Meanwhile, the Interactive Advertising Bureau created a wireless task force headed by DoubleClick and Phase2Media.

The two groups appear to have similar goals: to develop guidelines and best practices for wireless advertising, especially in the areas of creative and measurement.

WAIA, with its technology vendor members, also will focus on technical issues such as protocol standards.

"There's a pretty broad set of companies, and a broad set of technologies, that are going to have to be coordinated and come to play to make this a viable communications medium for commerce and advertising," said Chuck Berger, CEO of AdForce.

Berger said his group will focus exclusively on wireless advertising issues, and hopes to work with other industry groups, including the IAB and wireless groups such as adXML.org and the Wireless Access Protocol Forum.

The new IAB task force is also opening its membership to any interested company, according to IAB Chairman Rich LeFurgy.

Determining specs

Creative guidelines are necessary to help advertisers determine the correct ad specs for devices with different screen sizes, resolution, graphics and sound capabilities.

Measurement guidelines must be standardized, but also move beyond standard impression and click-through measures to something more befitting the unique characteristics of wireless advertising.

"This is a new medium, and we intend to take advantage of the convergence of advertising and mobile e-commerce," said Bob O'Hare, Motorola's director of wireless e-commerce and advertising solutions. "We need to develop new standards around these new innovations. Not only can we measure a view or click-through in the future, but users should be able to go right from a [wireless] ad into a site and make a transaction."

WAIA said its first best practices guidelines would be on the topic of privacy, a key area since wireless advertising and marketing can be particularly intrusive, WAIA members said.

Done inappropriately, wireless advertising could be the ultimate in spam. Done right, with the proper opt-in agreements from users, it could complement wireless content.

Those issues are especially important in the business-to-business world, where targeted marketing messages could provide great value, while unwanted ads could be viewed as particularly onerous.

But privacy issues will be difficult. "For those people who do not want to opt in, how are we going to protect their privacy?" O'Hare said. "There won't be simple answers, but there will be various layers of privacy based on what users want."

Vendors plan framework

Separately, the big three wireless vendors--Ericsson, Motorola and Nokia--agreed to jointly create a common framework for conducting e-commerce over wireless networks and devices.

The companies said they would create a standard for wireless payment transactions. The new standard would replace the proprietary deals wireless vendors have made with various banks and credit card companies worldwide.

In addition, there is no standard way today to ensure a phone call or an e-commerce transaction is actually initiated by a phone's owner, the companies noted. So-called digital signatures and authorization technology would resolve such problems.

The three companies said they would issue technical details about the initiative by the end of May and aim to formulate a security framework by this summer.

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