Emerging Social Media: Mobile Advertising


The emerging trend in the interactive media in the recent years has revolutionized the advertising industry since it offers platform for active participation by the target audience, hence the interactivity. In the traditional information theory, interactive media would be described as a two-way communication media, where a well crafted information package is delivered with an intention of attracting the attention of the recipient to respond either consciously or unconsciously (Flew 2009, p. 634). Li & Leckenby (2000, p.13) defines it as “paid and unpaid presentation and promotion of products, services and ideas by an identified sponsor through mediated means involving mutual action between consumers and producers.

Even though interactive advertising can take a big range of approaches in terms of channel of interaction that may encompass computer internet advertisement through various social networking sites, mobile phone has presented a new wave of interactive media advertisement, considering its wide availability and continuous contact with owner who happens to be the target market. Mobile phones present a channel for advertising, with far greater reach as compared to internet, and get more technological support through its close interlink with online or internet marketing (Flew 2009, p.521). It is noted that currently, most mobile advertising mainly targets mobile phone holders, who were estimated at 4 billion as at 2008 against the global computer ownership at approximately one billion only. According to Flew, ration of mobile phone holders to that of TV set holders stands at 2: 1, to internet users at 3:1 and computer holders at 5: 1. 75% of mobile phone holders in Spain receive advertisements in through their phones, France had 62% while Japan had 54%; it is predictable that the advertisers will continuously and increasingly jostle for this fast-growing mobile market (p. 412). Research has supported the trend by revealing that mobile phones have become so popular that they help people to interactively get to communicate; the users are able to send and receive pictures from their mobile phones through the use of Bluetooth as well download pictures (Ojala & MobiLenin 2005, p.199; Fulford 2004, p.4). However, the initial promise that was earlier portrayed by mobile marketing has since not given much. This is due to the fact that by the end of 2008, the global expenditure stood at only $1 billion (0.4%) of global advertising revenues (Flew 2009, p. 421). The paper discuses the progress in technology that would easily support the mobile advertisement, strengths and drawbacks, and what should be done to realize its full potential.

Content Advertising

Mobile phones provide an opportunity to provide its holders with some of its contents through games, videos, ring tones promotions and many more mobile services (Li & Leckenby 2004). They are always based on the subscription option by the mobile holders, who receive the process for subscription through SMS services. The sale of ring tones has grown in the past years exponentially with many entertainment televisions and radio stations, magazines and newspapers full of advertisements on ring tones sales offers.

While Short Message Services (SMS) dominate the mobile advertising, with annual revenue of 90% of the total mobile revenue, some markets have adopted the top of page Web Banner or the bottom of page banner Mobile Web Poster (Fulford 2004, p.7). Other common forms of mobile advertising entails multi-media Messaging services advertising, mobile games and videos marketing, full screen interstices, and audio advertisement (Bekkers & Smits 1998, pp.45-47).

Background History of Mobile Advertising

The operator logos became the first form of advertising that had an aspect of customization. They had some form of image (monochrome) logos of the mobile company operator (Roehm & Haugtvedt 1999, p. 27).

The mobile phone operators later introduced better ring tones like the polyphonic and audio ring tones thus the mobile phone holders got the best way of customizing their phones (Bekkers & Smits 1998, p.66). Different websites that hosts popular songs followed, offering their services for free. The advertisements through theses new channels started appearing but at a slow start. After noticing the potentiality in the advertisement, many mobile providers started the services of advertising to some companies their services; for example, Jamster became popularized due their latest ringtones they offered at a premium rate to their clients. Jamster became popular with their Crazy Frog ring tone and Sweety the Chick characters that saw their products burned in some countries for targeting the underage groups, forcing them to restrict some of the advertisements at night (Ojala & MobiLenin 2005, p. 200).

The latest viral marketing is one of the advertising techniques that have emerged. It gives the users opportunity to choose what they would like to get into their contact lists through a special design (Flew 2009, p.91).

Mobile advertising seen as the new way of resurrecting the advertising industry, emerged as the main theme in the Mobile Entertainment Summit that was held in Spain in 2007 (Flew 2009, p.93). The summit discussed whether the mobile industry would be used to revolutionize and rejuvenate the sinking advertising industry.

The mobile advertising trends

While it is true that mobile phone advertising is a relatively new concept, many investors have actually developed the way in which they present their advertisement in a model of “a person standing near” a mobile phone user when the user speaks in anon-handsfree mode (Ojala J & MobiLenin 2005, p.202). It presents a new approach, separate from the conventional approach of “one person per presentation”, giving the advertiser an opportunity to reach multiple groups of similar demographic origin (p.203). Presenting the persons other than the user is likely to provide the advertisers and companies with the opportunities to increase their market share in low- income but highly populated areas, and at the same time offer a line of extension for ad-supported services (Flew 2009, p.54).

Speculations have been rife as to what will the mobile advertisement offer in the future considering the advancement in the technologies almost on a daily basis. The mobile industry is going under significant changes in terms of its more usability due to improvements in technological know-how and new inventions. For example, the Augmented Reality concept is likely to sweep the industry’s success according to some observers (Flew 2009, p.69). Defined as a live direct or indirect view of a real-world environment whose elements are supplemented with or augmented by computer- generated imagery Flew describes as “conventionally in real-time and in meaningful context with environmental elements kind of augmentation” (p.67),. This technology has been in existence since 1990’s but is currently beginning to gain momentum with the mobile industry (Fulford 2004, p.55). A combination of existing mobile technologies like GPS and Augmented Reality is likely to open more opportunities for mobile advertising or marketing. This is because of the impact of “image recognition” that the mobile is able to offer and its potential benefits in terms of marketing strategies (Ojala & MobiLenin 2005, p.206). Rodgers (2001, p.124) says that the process of allowing a potential consumer to take a picture or video of an object using his or her camera phone, then get presented with a hyperlinked data that corresponds to the photo taken would create some personalized approach to marketing.

Mobile technology has shown much potential for more revolutionalised marketing and advertisement industry. The recent development where JCP and Levi’s combined the effort together with Today Show iPhone application for a “click-to-enter” promotion which offers the participants opportunities to win college scholarship worth $50,000 is one important development that would set a precedent in the advertisement industry (Flew 2009, p.88). They have made it unique by making the interested participants enter the sweepstakes through the sending of a keyword to a code they provided. This is a very important development in an attempt to reach more and new demographics, although the two companies, JCPenny and Levi’s are long time industry players, this will hold special opportunities in the interactive advertisement through mobile phones.

“Notescasting” concept is another one of its kind in the new technology to better the mobile marketing and advertising industry. A company by the name TimeStream Software has developed this concept that would see mobile phones embedded with featured links to related videos photos and other interactive text to help the user download information and direct it to the iPod (Flew 2009, p. 93). This is important since at present, the 120 million iPod Classics and Nanos’ users can now be reached through mobile marketing via these gadgets (p. 95). Even though there is already an existing usage of iPhones and iPod as mediums for marketing, iPod Classics and Nanos have remained unutilized despite the potentials they hold of a possibility of 150 million mobile devices which are Notescasting enabled (p.96). Notescasting provides the opportunities for companies willing to advertise their products and services with up to 1000 pages of in-depth content, that are subsequently linked to related videos and photos. The potential customers are able to review the advertised items even without internet access or network signal. This new concept has got an endorsement by such notable brands like Hilton Hotels, Sheraton Hotels and Resorts, DoubleTree, and Starwood Hotels and Resorts (Flew 2008, p. 98).

New approaches by interactive advertisers

As new technologies emerge to ease the advertisement niche markets, many advertising companies adopt some new approaches to advertising and marketing solution. MobileStorm’s unveiling of two new marketing solutions, mobileStorm Go and mobileStorm Pro, are targeted at marketers with the solution to streamline their digital as well as SMS marketing activities in an all-inclusive platform (Thorson 2009, p.99). The mobileStorm Go is a simpler version with practical approach to reaching as many people as possible. mobileStorm Pro on the other hand is a more comprehensive technique in relation to the type of campaign a company is willing to adopt and the availability of support (Thorson 2009, p.100).

Low Mobile Phone Rates Possibilities

Magazines and newspapers have used the advertising revenue so successfully to lower the cost of their print papers in order to increase consumerability. Can mobile phones apply this concept considering its surging demand as a channel for interactive advertisement? Companies are known to pay large sums of money for advertisement pages in magazines and are predicted to continue with their expenditure spree in the mobile marketing as long as they are able to reach their target market faster and in a more interactive manner to expose their brand. Emmanuel Allix, the Managing Director of Pudding Media, an advertising company based in Asian Pacific said that he believes the telecommunication companies are bale to use the revenue got from the mobile advertisements to reduce the cost of subscription to their customers (Thorson 2009, p.102). He said “Through simple mobile phone functions like ring tones when someone is calling or when you’re receiving text messages, we can insert ads of businesses. And ours is even non-intrusive, permission-based. It is both opt-in and opt-out” (p.104). Furthermore, a survey conducted by Mobile Entertainment Forum (MEF) on its members in 2006 revealed that 81% of respondents expected successful advertising models to cut prices or fund the consumption of entertainment content on mobile phones, thereby increasing the rate of consumption of the services at o extra cost (Flew 2009, p.301).

Issues Arising

Technologically, it is apparent that mobile phones are facing some of the greatest challenges in relation to life of battery and its lifespan, formats, and safety (Ojala & MobiLenin 2005, p.206). While in a broader perspective mobile devises can be technically subdivided into: portable or handled, laptops, and dashtops (GPS navigation, satellite radio, and WiMAX-enabled dashtop mobile payment platforms) (p.207).

The safety issues and the battery life are likely to push these mobile equipments to the limit of their operations and success. The satellite-based GPS navigation as well as satellite radio is also likely to hit a snag due to their part time usage combined with technological red tape that exists. In other words, people have realized the need for multiple source of satisfaction and therefore want more value for what they purchase, thus pushing the GPS navigation to the periphery since it only offers GPS navigation and satellite radios (Thorson 2009, p.113). The trend is likely to even go further as the consumers wants an all-in-one devise that provide GPS navigation, satellite radio, MP3 player, mobile internet, mobile TV, vehicle black box, driving safety monitors, video games and smartphones (p.114)

The other challenge is the restrictions to mobile marketing in some advertising hotspots like major sporting events and other premier events. For example, in 2003, NASCAR prohibited all the new mobile companies from carrying out any advertising activity in their events, particularly those who were not in the sport at the time (Neil 2004, p.2). It required that mobile phone companies who participated could stay with their present teams, but once the contract with team was broken, they were not allowed to advertise in the NASCAR events, an event that was attributed to the new ten year contract with the Nextel Communications (p.3).

The other notable deals that were signed are between the Formula One’s McLaren and Vodafone (Li & Leckenby 2004, p.62). The contract was to see Vodafone sponsor the formula team. Ferrari also signed a deal with Telecom Italia’s Alice brand of services that gives the company the whole advertising rights barring Marlboro (p.64).

Concern about Privacy

Privacy has become one of single most worries to the mobile advertising companies as well as the marketers. Legal experts have raised this issue severally in different forums. Furthermore, the many researches have intimated that the kind of irritation caused by some unsolicited advertisements may lower the brand name of a company. It is noted that any advertisements requires customization of the content of the ad so as to reach the relevant customers. However, this has not been the case, especially when a mobile phone holder receives irrelevant and unsolicited short message advertisements (Mackenzie 2000, p.6). To have proper target of the audience, the behavioral habits of the target group should be known, such as personal data behaviors, user profiling, and data mining (Neil 2004, p.9). Privacy legal experts warn that if these techniques are not applied, it may result into privacy infringement (p.11).

It is noted that some mobile carriers have resorted to offering cheaper rate or freebie plans in exchange for SMS or other mobile ads (Li & Leckenby 2004, p.68). However Mackenzie (2000, p12) says, “Mobile TV and mobile search may override this privacy concern, as soon as they are implemented on a full-blown basis. In a naive way to override privacy concern, however, User’s prior consent needs to be obtained through membership to join or User account to set up”. It is a tricky affair since the mobile TV as well as mobile search may surpass the level of getting users’ consent in prior through membership application or user account since users have the freedom of choosing a mobile TV channels or even mobile search services as she or he wishes (Rodgers, 2001, p.6).


Mobile phone has proved to be the most “ubiquitous two-way personal communication device” and a tremendous improvement potential (Rodgers, 2001, p.6). Its actual capacity has been seriously hampered by the tendency to try to jam “round peg” personal computers online campaigns into “square hole” mobile screens, processors, operating systems as well as lower connection speeds (Flew T, 2009, 231).

In order to realize the full potential of the mobile advertisement, the industry players must acknowledge its strengths and limitations alike. For example, the demand to download large amount of files using mobile gadgets may not portray any good idea as it could cost much more that when download is done using the PC (Flew 2009, 251). At the same time, if it offers nothing to the always demanding consumer, it will be shunned and relegated to the basic use of making phone calls and SMS.

It is upon the advertisers to work more strategically and harder to create a campaign strategy that targets the mobile holders and not try to access the whole market, and more importantly work within its limitations with some integration with other broadcasting approaches and online techniques.

A well crafted advertisement campaign will be successful through the driving of traffic, enhancement of the mobile experience (Thorson 2009, p.115). This would be so if the carriers are incorporated in the whole process, even in the revenue sharing (p.117). Customization is very necessary here, since the current barrier is lack of customization of the contents that are being delivered to the customers.

The handset manufacturers are also required to work more on their effort to better their products. The present trend of screen resolution profusion, CPUs, Operating systems demand that advertisers spend more of their time in an attempt to translate the cellular than they take to produce advertisement (Thorson 2009, p.55). That is it becomes complicated that many advertisers cannot effectively use it within the limited time they have, and therefore focus much on the interpretation. The handset manufacturers should make every procedure as simple as possible that one can get access to an ad with a click of the button.

If well organized, campaigns that are based on mobile’s “lowest common denominator, text messaging, can be highly effective even at present” (Thorson 2009, p117). Campaign messages through mobiles should therefore not be made complicated. A simple language can deliver a more message than a more complicated message.


Mobile advertising holds brighter prospects if handled with professionalism rather than the desire to reach multitude of the people. Due to the fact that there is a lot of cultural diversity, marketing theories demands proper market segmentation in the process of developing advertising strategy. Form this analysis, it is apparent that mobile advertising boast quite a number of advantages over the traditional advertising modes like TV, radio, and print media. The devices are personal, and offer two-way communication in addition to the fact that the mobile network providers know exactly where the subscriber is at a particular time, attributes that other mainstream media do not enjoy. Despite all the promises it had portrayed, its potential remains unfulfilled, with most of the experiments falling along the way due to legal, viability, and inadequate structure. It is therefore necessary to establish a proper legal procedure that would not infringe on the subscribers rights, considering the personal nature of advertising message delivery (Thorson 2009, p.186).

But in 2009, the need and the potential for mobile as an advertising medium are likely to be stronger than ever, and some of the most powerful advertising campaigns are likely to be via mobile media (Thorson 2009, p. 188).

List of References

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