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Aussie Taking No-Holds-Barred Approach to Wireless Advertising

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SAN FRANCISCO -- Ask the heads of major wireless-service carriers whether they would allow advertising on their customers’ mobile devices and they balk, saying they haven’t thought it through yet. Or, they say, they might consider something unobtrusive.
Amp'd Mobile chief Peter Adderton is taking a no-holds-barred approach to wireless content.



Not Peter Adderton, founder of Amp’d Mobile, who declares with typical Aussie bluster that “the mobile phone will change the way we do advertising going forward.” He said his research has found seven out of 10 consumers will watch “in a heartbeat” five to 10-second ads on their mobile phones, which he predicts will become “an advertiser’ s delight.”

No advertisers signed yet

While he hasn’t signed any advertisers yet, the plan is for marketers to have a place on Amp’d Mobile’s edgy, content-centric mobile service targeted to 18-to-34-year-olds. Ads for music or movies could eventually take up as much as a quarter to a half the screen on the Kyocera phone Amp’d launches in the next few weeks.

Unlike most devices on the U.S. market today designed primarily for making phone calls Mr. Adderton’s Amp’d Kyocera Wireless device is designed for some of the in-your-face content choices he is considering. They include content from video-game maker THQ, Primedia, Universal Music Group, HurryDate and yes, he’d even consider pornography—albeit well locked down from the prying eyes of children. He also plans to create about 5% of his content in Amp’d’s Southern California studio—content such as live concerts or perhaps a youth-oriented evening news program.

While Amp’d will take advertising, he said the carrier will be pernickety about signing only audience-relevant marketers and even about the ads’ creative. “TV will run anything,” he said. “We won’t. You won’t see Viagra ads,” he said.

The way Mr. Adderton sees it, ads on his mobile device will be incorporated into the user interface and much more integrated into content than 30-second TV spots. He gives a fictitious example of his vision: an Amp’ d Pepsi Channel where the marketer sponsors a live concert series carried on Amp’d and uses the phone for contests, offers free tickets and sells ring tones or music downloads.

Extreme-sports aficionado

Mr. Adderton, 38, is an extreme-sports aficionado who founded two Australian promotional-marketing shops, then founded and later sold Boost Mobile to Nextel Communications. Lesson learned? He didn’t like losing decision-making control to big corporations.

His longtime partner in Boost and Amp’d, Scott Anderson, describes him as having “roguish Australian larrikin and charm.” Paul Lavoie, chairman-chief creative officer of Amp’d’s agency, Taxi, said he has “a clear vision and the power to rally everybody.”

Technically, Amp’d is a mobile virtual network operator, or MVNO, and will provide broadband-like connections for subscribers via Verizon Wireless’ EV-Do high-speed network. Amp’d will sell both pre- and post-paid phones through online distribution as well as big-box merchants.

A teaser launch campaign—including TV—begins this month. Other marketing tactics include seeding the product through extreme athletes, in this case surfer Andy Irons, skateboarder Paul Rodriguez and snowboarder Travis Rice.

Traditional carriers

“Our competitors are the traditional carriers today,” said Mr. Adderton, but if Amp’d achieves success, he expects the multibillion phone market to be flooded with similar niche players nibbling away at share and prime revenue, taking consumers away from the more generally targeted big-name wireless service brands.

In a business where customer acquisition costs can be $300 or more, Mr. Adderton plans to keep them in the family with a user interface the company designed to foster community through blogging and dating. But Mr. Adderton’ s secret weapon in competing with the billion-dollar media budgets of the Verizon Wireless and Cingulars of the world is pornography, which he said will be available on the Amp’d phone through a “vaulted” channel, one which requires user identification and a passcode similar to an automated teller machine’s personal identification number.

He noted consumers already are able to view pornography on sophisticated mobile devices by searching the Web. “If that means digital dream girls, we got it there for you, ” he said. “That’s really our strategy.”