Thursday, January 3, 2008

Ad Targeting and Wireless Phone Privacy

A mobile phone is an important tool of communication and is considered by many as a necessity in this day and age. However, most of us do not realize that our cell phones are also valuable for marketers.

A cellphone contains a wealth of information about the owner that are important for advertisers. It can give them an idea of your location as well as your preference for games or music. In fact, limited targeting based on users' age, gender, ZIP code and other characteristics is being done today. However, advertisers and marketers must first deal with privacy policies before they can gain more access to mobile phone users' personal information.

Major mobile phone carriers want to protect their customers' privacy because annoyed subscribers might defect to rivals if they did a sloppy job. of course, there is also the danger of contracts disputes or lawsuits that may come after any violation of privacy.

However, marketers may be able to target ads to a potential customer's location and actions through mobile phones. After all, the carriers can also benefit from the lucrative mobile phone advertisement business. Some researches also project that U.S. spending in mobile ads will grow more to nearly $4.8 billion in the next three or four years.

Furthermore, both technology companies and privacy advocates have also been making speculations about the availability of phones' location information to commercial services and advertisers. The Federal Communications Commission ruled in 1996 that wireless carriers must help 911 dispatchers identify a caller's location may pave a way for this development.

Many advertisers have also experimented with mobile ads in anticipation of a possible opening in this niche. it makes perfect business sense to take advantage of location information with the success of GPS devices and location services like maps and child tracking.

However, privacy red flags will be flown due to mobile phones' highly personal nature. Some marketing associations have started to develop guidelines on how to deal with the issue of consumer privacy. For instance, finding an ethical and legal way of getting a customer's permission and periodically reminding them of any tracking.

I think that all the sides of this mobile advertising equation will eventually come to a common ground. There will be problems and the possibility of disputes over privacy violations are inevitable but the potential of mobile advertising is just too hard to pass up. Cell phone carrier's, customers and advertisers will eventually reach an agreement and mobile advertising will flourish.

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