A study from Harris Interactive found that 90% of respondents said they were "not at all interested" in receiving ads on mobile phones, while more than three-quarters (78%) said a cash incentive would get them to change their minds. When given other options short of cold, hard currency, many consumers said they were interested in receiving everything from free entertainment, such as games or ringtones, to discount coupons.
Trade-offs for ads
While consumers often say they don't want to receive ads on the mobile phone, "people are usually willing for a trade-off," said Judith Ricker, president, marketing communications research practice, Harris Interactive.
Ms. Ricker and Joseph Porus, VP-technology research practice, described the study as a conservative look at the potential for marketing on the mobile phone because it surveyed adults 18 and older -- considering that youth are more open to doing things on mobile phones than adults. "There's more fire here than smoke," said Mr. Porus.
The authors found only 9% of the respondents were interested in receiving mobile-phone ads. The group most interested in getting those ads tended to be younger, in their 30s, and of lower incomes, ranging from $15,000 to $24,999. None of higher-income demo surveyed, making between $125,000 and $149,990, were interested -- but when incentives were added to sweeten the deal, that number rose to 13%.
The Harris Interactive researchers' advice to marketers: Messaging needs a relevant, clear value proposition, and a way for mobile phone users to control their profiles, as well as the ability to opt-out.
Unimpressed by responses
Jon Jackson, CEO Mobile Posse, which is testing a mobile-web-advertising platform that places ads on the opening screen of a flip phone, said he was unimpressed by consumers' seeming unwillingness to accept mobile phone ads. "If you ask, no consumer ever will say 'I need more advertising in my life,'" said Mr. Jackson. Just in case, his service, which is being tested by an independent carrier in the Midwest, will offer consumers $10 off a monthly fee to download the ad software as well as free content and mobile offers.
The Harris survey is only the latest as publishers, marketers and others are trying to gauge mobile phone advertising opportunities. Another study, from the Online Publishers Association and conducted with TNS Media and Entertainment, found strong interest in the mobile web, particularly in the U.S. The mobile phone as an ad platform "certainly is going to be valuable," said Pan Horan, president, OPA. "The challenge is to really try to figure out the business model," she said. And, she added, to engage consumers in a way that is beneficial and does not "invade consumer's privacy ... offend or irritate."