How to take ads wireless

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Despite all the marketing possibilities wireless devices hold, marketers have barely tapped the much-hyped medium. "Wireless is such a new arena," said Chris Doherty, PR director for online ad services provider Inc., Baltimore. "[It] still is not even at the stage of a Wild West shootout yet."

But industry professionals say the gathering of gunslingers is not far away. Projections estimate there could be up to $20 billion in wireless advertising by 2003, Doherty said.

BtoB spoke with several experts about how marketers can best understand and prepare for this emerging market.

Know your hardware

With business professionals toting a mix of devices including mobile phones, PalmPilots and wireless pagers, the spectrum of wireless capability is broad-and marketers need to consider how their target audience will be able to take action.

"Think about their experience," said Kate Everett-Thorp, CEO of digital communications company Lot21 Interactive, San Francisco. "People aren't going to type into a Palm. So if you ask for information where I have to put in my name or put in my e-mail address or type in a URL, it's not going to happen."

Marketers also should remember that wireless devices have small screens that can be easily overloaded. "The word 'browsing' should be banned" for wireless devices, said Ken Dulaney, VP-mobile computing for Gartner Group Inc., Stamford, Conn. As a marketer, "you want to send something short and sweet. Wireless applications need to be designed for one screen, one thumb." His rule: Tell users to take action, let them take that action simply and be done.

There are also the seemingly paradoxical limits of mobility. "Because you've got such a constrained device-and when you're mobile you're in lots of different situations-you have to provide the complete set of options for your user so they can use whatever is relevant to the situation they are in," Dulaney said.

Wireless users may, for example, be on foot one minute and driving a car the next. That means that wireless applications should not only incorporate data, Dulaney said, but they may have to be responsive to voice as well.

Strategies and relationships

Because of wireless marketing's permission-based nature, relationships are important tools to gaining access. "It's pretty complex," Thorp said. "We have created partnerships at many stages. Wireless is interesting because you have hardware, software, content and information portals; and then you have Web sites and services. And you can go to any of those partners to try to get access to the user on the other end."

Lot21, for example, worked with wireless portal AvantGo Inc. on a marketing campaign for client Intraware Inc. this spring. (See case study, Page 27.) And recently partnered with wireless software developer Inc., Knoxville, Tenn., to bring b-to-b advertising to wireless users, such as transportation services provider Landstar System Inc., Jacksonville, Fla., which recently put Internet-enabled phones in its truck fleet.

In that relationship, asks its clients what kind of advertising they'd accept. then finds advertisers, and provides and serves the ads.

Privacy and intrusion

As with many emerging technologies, marketing to wireless devices poses a host of challenges.

Privacy is a main concern. "There's a long history in this country of privacy as it relates to telephones and telephone conversations," Doherty said. "Wireless users aren't listed in information. You buy a wireless phone and you control whom you give that number to."

And marketers will have to share in the burden of maintaining that control. "No one wants to receive telemarketing calls on their cell phone and no one wants their cell phone number sold along with demographics on the list rental market," said Barry Peters, director-Emerging Media Group at Lot21.

Yet even welcomed marketers need to inform without being intrusive, Peters said. "The idea of walking down the street and having your wireless device ring to let you know that you are passing a Starbucks, and there is an offer of 20% off a latte, is potentially right around the corner. But who would want this? Your cell phone ringing every time you pass a merchant is intrusive and annoying. We need to focus on delivering relevant content in a nonintrusive manner." His edict: Let the user dictate content, how often they receive it and when.

And, Doherty said, while wireless is touted as a highly targeted medium, marketers need to hold up their end of the bargain and provide relevant content. "If I'm a trucker with that Internet-enabled phone and I'm getting oil company ads and hotel ads, that's fine," he said. "But if you start flashing me Ann Taylor ads, I might get a little cranky."

Standards and measurement

Then there is perhaps the biggest hurdle to the growth and understanding of wireless marketing: standardization. "There are over 80 different wireless platforms right now in the U.S. and none of them standard," Peters said. "We need to agree on a standard to allow us to reach the masses to make it cost-effective for marketers to utilize this new media."

Likewise, Doherty said the industry needs to adopt a common set of tools to measure results. "ROI is kind of hard to do unless you have all of the different people agreeing on what the methodology is," he said.

To help solve these deficiencies, will host the first meeting of what it has dubbed Wammi-which stands for the Wireless Advertising Marketing and Measurement Initiative-on Oct. 25 in New Orleans.

Wammi will bring together the numerous stakeholders in the wireless advertising arena: carriers, advertisers, ad services providers and marketing agencies. Wammi, Doherty said, will propose that the industry test emerging wireless channels to learn effective ways to reach those channels and hopefully agree upon a way to measure success.

Other groups, such as the Wireless Advertising Association, have begun to promote measurements and standards as well.

The time is now

These wireless industry professionals had one other bit of general advice to marketers: Try it out.

Progressive companies are already working on their wireless strategies, Peters said. "Now is the time to start developing and begin testing the waters to get advanced learning. It is not necessarily the right time for all companies, though those who venture now will be the early winners.

"At minimum, all companies who foresee the wireless medium as a means of communicating with their customers should be actively developing their strategies, knowing full well that these will change rapidly over time as we, as an industry, learn together," he said.

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