Monday, November 26, 2007

Clear Channel Outdoor plans large scale cell phone campaign for 2008

As reported by AdAge, Clear Channel Outdoor has set in motion plans to greatly increase the effectiveness of its cell phone based advertisements in 2008.

Clear Channel will make this possible by delivering ads to cell phone users in specifically targeted networks (such as bus stations). According to the article, "Once a phone is in a network, it will be made "discoverable" by vibrating or ringing, giving the user the option to respond. If there is no response after several times, the phone will stop sending alerts."

There's something about it stopping after several times that doesn't quite sound too appealing to me. Honestly, it sounds like a telemarketing company telling consumers that after several phone calls without a positive response they won't be bothered anymore. I think once or twice should definitely be the max. It seems like there is a very thin line between a helpful ad and outright nuisance that Clear Channel could cross here if they aren't careful.

Granted, we live in a world where we live and die by our cell phones, iPods, Blackberrys and whatever else we carry around with us to stay plugged in to the world, so it's not surprising that advertisers are trying to find a way into these devices. Yet those same advertisers need to remember that almost every user of these technologies expects a certain amount of privacy. Too much invasiveness on the part of ads can result in a serious backlash. I might even see a scenario where the wireless companies start to offer two versions of phone/service: regular and "ad-free", with different fee structures for each.

The key to making these ads a welcome diversion instead of an irritating distraction is creativity. How can advertisers successfully integrate themselves with cell phones while not annoying customers? The first step may be offering promotions in the various networks. If an ad is going to pop up, maybe it can include a trivia question that if answered correctly give the consumer a code that can be redeemed for a free song download. But it's really anyone's guess. I hope there's a way to opt-out altogether.

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