Maybe ad supported food?

I was reading in NY Times about companies that are selling ad supported mobile phones.  My first reaction was scorn, this could only be a way to dupe uninformed marketing managers out of their cash.  For the sake of fairness though, I thought I should have a look before snapping to judgment.  There is a lot of buzz out in the market about the possibilities of mobile advertising, if only because of Google recently announcing a mobile version of adwords, but what would this tell about the possibilities of ad supported mobile phones?

A slightly older article on MarketingVOX shows that at the end of 2006 SMS usage was rising in the US, which is key to the mechanics of getting ads to your customer.  It also says that 26% of mobile phone users would be willing to watch incentive ads, but there is no demographic breakdown of this.

That last stat was generated by Harris Interactive, which had a follow up poll in March looking specifically at mobile advertising acceptance.  This states that “35 percent of adult cell phone users are willing to accept incentive-based advertisements”.  Again though, apart from the term ’adult’ there is no other information about these people.  My concern is still that the market for ad funded phones is in a segment that will watch the ads and not action them, just view it as the cost of the phone.

A very recent study in Europe, showed that people were more likely to action an SMS ad than a web ad.  This is positive but comes with 2 caveats.  This is partially due to the low exposure to date, which will change as the density increases (like it did with web ads) and; advertisers were finding it good to target specific demographics.  This defends the medium of mobile advertising, but still not as a way to fund a mobile’s costs.  There are much more targeted ways to reach an audience with SMS then ‘spray and pray’ methods like that.

So I think my initial reaction was correct.  That’s not to say it won’t work, there are a depressingly large number of bad marketers that will see this as a way to get some of the benefits of SMS marketing they have heard about.  They are going to waste their money anyway, at least this way someone will get some free calls out of it.