Making a Statement

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Consumers are in control, and if marketers at the Association of National Advertisers annual meeting didn't get the point, it was made for them by Boomerang Mobile Media.

Boomerang, headed by former Initiative Media Chairman Lou Schultz, handed out more than 650 free cellphones to attendees to demonstrate the company's ability to deliver personalized marketing content. Phone numbers consumers opt-in to call link them with voice and text messages (like the greeting from ANA President-CEO Bob Liodice used as an example) that correlate with a marketer's brand message at events where they are most receptive to those messages.

Attendees clamored for the free phones, and showed interest in the new, potentially more measurable, media of the future. But the inherent risk was elucidated by the difficulty many had accessing the information. "It's new, it's different and after my kids explain it to me I'll understand it better," said Joe Kelly, chief marketing officer of Triad Consulting Corp.

Dick Hopple, chairman-CEO of Unicast Communications, expressed reservations about the opt-in approach, offering that "the Internet is littered with companies that in the `90s thought they could get people to opt in and couldn't."

Mr. Schultz likened the skepticism to the debates on cable's viability in the `80s. And certainly marketers are still clearly interested in new approaches. Wachovia Exec VP-Chief Marketing Officer Jim Garrity cited an increased emphasis from his company on emerging media that provide opportunities for customized messaging and better evaluation of returns, among them new cellphone messaging, video games and personal video recorders.

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