Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Ready for the Mobile Ad Revolution? in Many Ways, It's Already Here

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Ready for the Mobile Ad Revolution? in Many Ways, It's Already Here

Article excerpt

THE NEXT REVOLUTION IN ADVERTISING IS BUZZING IN your pocket or purse. Are you ready?

Far surpassing the powers of print, broadcast, and the Web, a host of new technologies is converging on the opportunity to use smartphones to intercept --and influence--the consumer as she walks past a store, wheels through a supermarket, or reaches toward a product on the shelf.

The technologies include not only the increasingly ubiquitous GPS-equipped smartphone, but also window stickers that broadcast messages, interactive bar codes that instantly link to a website, and increasingly sophisticated databases that track individual activities so they can precisely target products or deals to the consumer.

(GPS, of course, refers to global positioning systems that pinpoint the location of the user, and--after she moves a few feet--the direction in which she is traveling and whether she is walking, on a bicycle, or in a moving vehicle.)

The mobile ad ecosystem admittedly is a work in progress. As the still-evolving infrastructure matures and coheres, however, more advertising is bound to migrate to mobile, because the intimate, personalized, and immediate quality of the plat-form makes it, by far, the most targetable and effective of all media.

The better the mobile ad infrastructure gets, the less advertisers are likely to spend on traditional media. So, publishers need to pay close attention to this futuristic marketing frontier, where a number of major competitors already are well ahead of them.

The mobile ad ecosystem starts, of course, with the high-tech Swiss army knife known as the smartphone. About a third of the 240 million mobile handsets in the United States are smartphones, and analysts believe the number will grow sharply in the next few years as cell phone contracts roll over, and carriers compete for new customers by deeply discounting upgraded devices.

At the moment, most mobile advertising consists of little more than banners that, when clicked, link to the sponsor's site or mobile app. While immediate and interactive, the ads are not particularly targeted to the location or interests of the individuals. But that is about to change, big time.

Not the least of the change agents is Google, which at the first of the year began plastering seemingly low-tech stickers in the windows of dozens of businesses in Portland, Ore. But the stickers, which say the business has been "Recommended by Google" and are delivered in a package telling merchants how to advertise on the search engine, are anything but retro. They actually contain low-power radio transmitters that broadcast messages to owners of phones that happen to be equipped with the Android 2. …

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