Cell Phone Ads… good or bad?

I saw this great article on MediaPost by Wendy Davis, which refers to a survey of college students asking them about receiving ads on their mobile phones.

The article had some great statistics in it and was relevant to a presentation I’m putting together for a client of mine on reaching the 18+ demographic with their advertising.

The general assumption when looking at data is that it is good to blast younger audiences with “high tech” advertising because they typically are more willing to and capable of receiving high tech ads. In this article, Wendy points out that younger audiences haven’t been happy about being blasted with your ads on their cell phones and on MySpace and everything else (although they seem to mind less as time goes by)…. That is, unless of course it comes with some sort of incentive. More than half (51%) of the 650+ students surveyed said they don’t want ads on their cell phones, but could be persuaded… in exchange for something free.

When I was over in London last month, I was blown away by the number of ads for ring tones. (Most of them on MTV and other channels aimed at this younger demographic). Having the ability to personalize their phone is a really big deal. People could send a text message to a certain number, which billed them and then allowed them to download the ringtone to their computer. I also saw an ad on the tube for mobile videos that cost money.

Without any statistics on how much money these companies are making, I can only assume that the presence of their ads on cable and on the trains means they are having some success… and glean from this that the younger audiences will pay money (or spend their parents’ money) to customize their phones to their personality.

This also seems to be the case in Asia. I recently read (I’ll find the link) that in Korea, for example something like 70% of homes have high-speed internet access at home and that a good portion of the population can be seen watching television on their phones on the way to work… and a good friend returned from Japan and told us about the cell phone shops over there and all of the accessories that everyone has for their phones. She bought a little “Hello Kitty” charm that hangs off her phone and said that everyone, even business men in suits, had similar phone accessories.

For whatever reason, America has been slow to adopt mobile technologies (and accessories) compared to our neighbors to the East and to the West… so perhaps we should be paying attention to how things are advancing in these markets… and focus on developing relevant content or incentives when we invade people’s phones…

I think the trick will be to find out how to fit what you have to say into their way of life and/or give them something that they can then use as a form of expression about who they are… your brand becomes part of their brand…

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