And here we go again with innovation about interruptive ads
Yes, the mobile phone is a wonderful new channel attracting the interest of advertisers. And yes, it is personal, it is interactive, it has the ability for direct call-to-action. With 2 billion mobile phones by end of next month worldwide, it is the most prevalent media as well. In almost every way it is superior to any other existing media that a advertiser could choose. Yet those getting into mAd (Mobile Advertising) are in a hurry to destroy the media. Prime example: Bluetooth enabled proximity-based (aka Location-Based) advertising.
Today's Wall Street Journal Europe has a big story about this new proximity/location-based Bluetooth advertising being introduced at Heathrow airport here in London. I just landed in Heathrow a few hours ago from a trip in Asia and ruined my morning by reading this story in the newspaper. Luckily my Bluetooth is permanently turned off on all of my wireless devices, that at least I was not a recepient of this latest form of intrusion.
Here is how the advertising works. There are Bluetooth sensors in the airport at given locations, such as the Virgin lounge. They can detect any modern mobile phone that has its Bluetooth short-range wireless feature turned on, at a range of about 50 meters (150 feet). If you walk by, have your Bluetooth on (on your mobile phone, PDA, laptop, etc), you get pushed one of these ads. It appears on your phone as if you had been sent a message. You click on the link and get the full message. One of the first ads is a short videoclip about the latest car from Range Rover.
Now the ads are free to the recepient. And the attraction of "why do this via Bluetooth" rather than as MMS etc messages via a moblie operator's network, is that the airtime on Bluetooth does not cost, at least in terms of a fee to the mobile operators like Vodafone, Orange, (Virgin Mobile) etc. The WSJE article reports that a recent mAd campaign generated a 15% response rate.
Here is what is wrong about this idea. First, this is the SAME intrusive interruptive annoying advertising that we all are trying hard to avoid today. It is the identical "free and annoying" ad strategy as putting banner ads on the internet, and follows on the idea of interrupting movies etc on TV with advertising. The public does NOT want this. The evidence is very plain. Dont' be fooled that an early campaign has generated a 15 percent response rate - that is the novelty factor, and many of the recepients were unaware that those messages were ads. Most people are willing to accept ads but only if the advertising is pre-approved on very specific personal topics. I personally will accept car ads but not on any "luxury" brand, definitely not Range Rover. I would only accept car ads if they come from Audi (or Aston Martin ha-ha), not even closer rivals such as BMW or Mercedes or Jaguar.
Secondly this is NOT the philosophy of "permission-based" but rather a perversion of that. They push links to your phone without your permission, and then ask if you want the full ad. I don't want ANYTHING pushed at my phone without my express prior approval.
More dangerously, this is a means that will soon shut itself down. There are already mobile phone viruses that disguise themselves as Bluetooth messages. How soon does one of these figure itself out to pretend to be a car advertisement at the airport and start to infect dozens, if not hundreds of mobile phones about to depart that airport (and spread the virus rapidly around the globe). This is not science fiction, those viruses already exist, and they appear exactly like these ads, with a link asking you to accept a message and store it on your phone.
And about the users. How many mobile phone users are so dumb as to keep their bluetooth turned on. First, it eats up your battery life. So if you're into music or pictures on your phone, you will soon discover that keeping Bluetooth turned off as a default will extend your battery life. Secondly, there are an increasing amount of proximity based pranks that rely on Bluetooth. Annoying little messages that send rude messages etc to any phone nearby that has Bluetooth turned on. Again, if you currently don't have Bluetooth turned off, within the year you will learn to do so, as the annoying messages will proliferate.
Bluetooth enabled, proximity-based mobile advertising is a BAD model. It is easy, it is inexpensive, and that may make it appealing for those in advertising who are lazy, who just want to quickly get into mAd. Yet the real opportunity is in true engagement marketing - understand your target customer. Offer him/her a service or some content that is truly appreciated. Ask for permission before offering it, and do it at a fair and agreed timing/model/location etc. Lets do real interactive engagement marketing, and use the mobile phone for it. That can be wonderful. But of course as in anything in advertising, if you want to do it well, it requires true competence and skill. Its not easy to identify your target markets, get to understand them, and then to generate unique mobile-phone based content (such as advergames etc) to actually bring value to your target users. But yes, this is time-consuming and costs money. Proximity-based spam is cheap and fast. And stupid.
But just when this Generation-C population has managed to steer away from interruptive ads, lets not now pollute the mobile phone as yet another vehicle for interruption. It will only generate upset customers. Bluetooth based proximity advertising? A very bad idea !!