The Case for Mobile Advertising

By Guy Kewney  |  Posted 2004-09-07 Print this article Print

You won't find Web advertising on mobile devices, at least not yet. But it's coming.

The Investing Business with Knowledge broadcast convention, broadcasts biggest convention in Europe, is coming up. And wireless Web is on the menu. But where are IBCs advertisements for it? Heres my take: Nobodys making the commercials. Theres no money in it. But that will change in the next year. Wireless data will make it possible.
I had a fascinating insight into what could happen when chatting with the Tiger Telematics marketing people. Tiger is an offshoot of Gizmondo. And who, you ask, is Gizmondo? Ill tell you, because the last thing you will want to do is click on, which will almost certainly drive you nuts. (Yes, another self-indulgent Flash site, with sound yet. Sheesh.) Gizmondo makes a device that quite possibly will become a pocket version of the X-box, with wireless data. They are going to ship this device before the end of the year, and it will look uncannily like a cross between an X-box and a Nokia N-gage. But the interesting thing, says Gizmondo marketing boss Peter Lilley, is the way theyre funding it—advertising, video clips, up to 30 seconds at a time. Users will buy them (he says) for a fraction of the cost of the device—if, and only if, they agree to receive three video clips a day. Click here to read about the Wi-Fi Alliances efforts to speed development of wireless audio and video applications. Most of these, Lilley thinks, will be film trailers, linked to a click-through option to buy tickets from your local theater. "Were only asking three questions of subscribers: gender, age and location," he says. The technology details of how a 30-second film trailer is compressed into 200KB of sponsored wireless download are fascinating enough. But what I found really interesting was the insight it gave into what isnt there: good video adverts for local outlets. The art of making film has come a long way from the 1950s when youd sit in a movie theater and watch the local restaurant put up a generic advert showing sophisticated people looking down their noses at obsequious waiters. Next it would cut to a shaky handheld shot of a hand-lettered card saying: "Eat At Joes!" with a phone number. Its come a long way, but youd never guess it if you talked to advertising agencies. And no wonder. They are set up to charge around $50,000 to create a spell-binding video commercial for TV. What local Web advertisers want is something that costs (absolute maximum) $3,000. And what local advertising wants, it will get. These days, I myself can do an advert with nothing more than a $40 Webcam. Sit down. Smile at the camera. Talk. Show the contact details. Feed a hyperlink. Start up Windows Movie Maker. Cut the dud bits out. Use freeware utilities to convert to Real Player or Windows Media Player or QuickTime and post it on your home-grown Web site. True, the resolution on a Webcam is pretty pathetic, and the frame rate isnt special, either. But on a GPRS phone, youd never know. Oh, of course, Ill accept orders for short video commercials. E-mail me the details, and Ill charge just $2,000 for the video. Well, no, Ill tell you what: Because I like your face, $1,500. Introductory offer. No, no checks; I prefer cash. Read Guy Kewneys other recent columns about trends in mobile and wireless technology. Check out eWEEK.coms Mobile & Wireless Center at for the latest news, reviews and analysis.

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