Sprint's New Ad Platform to Offer Targeted Ad Buys

Wireless Carrier Says Nonpersonal Information Will Include Gender and Hometown

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A correction has been made in this story. See below for details.
LOS ANGELES (AdAge.com) -- Sprint Nextel, having announced its intention to allow ads on its mobile web pages, is planning to help marketers target their messages to consumers by hometown, sex and other factors.
Sprint's new advertising program allows for targeted ad buys.
Sprint's new advertising program allows for targeted ad buys.

"We have information to better target by sex, address" and other subscriber data that will allow marketers to optimize the channel and reduce the cost of sales, said Paul Reddick, VP-business development/planning and strategy at Sprint. For example, marketers selling sports apparel could feature a customer's hometown team.

Privacy guidelines
He said Sprint would abide by strict privacy guidelines, and not reveal information about specific individuals to marketers or to media companies. Sprint also will control the flow of advertisements, so marketers will get enough ads to "burn in" their messages but won't be allowed to "burn out" subscribers, he said.

In an interview with Advertising Age, Mr. Reddick said ads will start appearing as early as Oct. 1.

Subscribers to web services can access a general mobile web page, where there has been advertising, but it can be a cumbersome process requiring many clicks, and analysts have said the great majority of mobile web traffic sticks to the sites on a carrier's main deck -- the landing page for customers accessing the internet from cellphones.

Click-through rates ranged from 1.5% to 6%, he said, but marketers' offers must be well targeted and provide something of value to the customer, such as a coupon, giveaway, contest entry or access to other promotions.

Sprint Nextel has hired Enpocket, a mobile marketing and advertising firm, to sell ads on its deck. Some media companies, such as the Weather Channel, have established their own sales force to sell ads on their mobile web sites.

Questions about ad models
The announcement raises questions about the ad models in the emerging mobile marketing industry. For example, what is the carrier's share of the mobile ad revenue? And will one carrier allow another carrier's ads on its mobile site? "Models are negotiable," said Mr. Reddick, saying they vary from pay for performance to cost-per-thousand-style impression-based compensation. Carriers take as much as 50% cut in some mobile marketing products, such as premium text messages.

As for the relationship of content providers with the carriers, he said it will be similar to a cable model, where carriers might pay for high-demand content, while owners of low-demand content might have to pay carriers to carry it.

Mr. Reddick made his comments as hundreds of entertainment, mobile and marketing executives gathered for the CTIA wireless conference at the Los Angeles convention center.
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CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story incorrectly reported that Sprint was offering marketers information about its subscribers. Sprint says it is not releasing information about its subscribers to marketers, but is allowing marketers to target ads by groups.
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