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Text Message (SMS) Advertising – Better get used to it

By | August 15, 2006 2:43 pm

Well, the next wave of saturation-style commercial activity over the airwaves – that I’ve long been predicting -is now showing signs of actually arriving. (Every writer likes to say I told you so, and he needs to be indulged now and again, just to keep him forming professional judgments.)

Cellphone users in the United States are now getting used to seeing advertisements popping up on their screens (text message (SMS) advertising). And I can report that mobile phone advertising is on the verge of a massive explosion, with campaigns now in the works on a scale that previous technological constraints made unattractive or unreliable.

Recently mobile network operators have begun to revel in much faster networks, and handset manufacturers are providing bigger screens, even on smaller, slim-line phones and with fuller color, too.

The biggest element in changing our the audiences  receptiveness to such an an advertising medium is the increase in text messaging. Around 30 percent of the 217 million mobile phone users who are currently registered use their instruments to send SMS messages, according to veteran, Boston-based market researchers and consultants, the Yankee Group. Also softening up the market is the growth in wireless web-surfing, and the ubiquitous availability of video.

Advertisers, of course, are bowled over by the demographics which offer a predominantly much younger audience. TV shows aimed at the 18-25 year-olds are making a point of urging their viewers to send text messages as a way to express preferences, say by voting for their favorite character or responding to a poll question.

When cellphone-users access sports results, advertisers have been quick to place their banner ads alongside the scores, and if a phone-user subscribes to a video news-clip service, a pre-roll video ad is the perfect way to reach them with a commercial message

Maybe the biggest attraction for advertisers is the fact that unlike television sets in even the most eager viewers homes young peoples ever-essential cellphones (and many now don’t even bother to have a land line) are virtually NEVER OFF, and they’re always at hand. How attractive is that for a communicator, of any kind?

The Yankee Groups survey says about 42 percent of cellphone subscribers are open to receiving mobile advertising if it’s relevant to them. Madison Avenue, we know, will delight in such stats and aggressively exploit them.

Since the Federal Communications Commission is auctioning off more of the radio spectrum to corporations who are eager to get into wireless technology, the much greater network capacity that will result is bound to lead to a faster wireless web. More information will be transmitted, more quickly, to more mobile devices that in turn will be developed to store more data. You can expect me to come back online in the not-too-distant future, to say once again I told you so.

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