Barry Peters, Lot 21's Director of Emerging Media, created his first wireless ad campaign back in April 2000 when the media hype around wireless was just barely beginning. Since then he's become such a well-known expert that the FTC asked him to speak at a workshop on the topic last December.
Q: You've done successful wireless campaigns aimed at high tech biz execs. Do you think wireless ads will work for general consumer products?
Peters: I'm not sure we're ready to sell Tupperware (R) on a wireless platform right now. The stuff we're talking about with clients is more intranet sort of stuff -- getting information out to sales reps as opposed to selling. They are a pretty good audience for wireless devices. For example, Oracle might need to use wireless to get pricing changes on their breadth and depth of products out to the field force.
This is not an application that's targeted to the average consumer. Anything larger than an 18 digit name or number is not that appealing to read on a WAP enabled phone. So short bits of information, like company telephone listings, are all we can really find as an application for now.
Q: There must be some ways marketers can use wireless ads to reach consumers or the hype wouldn't be so strong these days!
Peters: There are some effective WAP sites out there -- sports scores, weather updates....
There's also a difference between the PDA space vs the wireless phone space. I read news regularly off AvantGo on my PDA during my half-hour train commute just to see what advertisers are doing.
The next level of discussion with WAP sites is who's going to use these things. If you're mobile, you're most likely driving, and you can't use a mobile phone on a plane. You can use them as a passenger on a train or walking around but that audience is not quite there yet. And the small screen is a nightmare anyway.
If you take this through voice, it's a huge application.
One of my developers loves WAP phones and screens. He challenged me the other day to find the show time of Charlie's Angels at a local theater online vs. WAP. He beat me by about 13 seconds. The irony was if either of us had called 888-Film, we would have gotten the information about 30 seconds faster.
Q: What about the retail applications we've heard about -- stores or stuff at the grocery store that make your phone ring when you're nearby?
Peters: There's a lot of interest in the classic story of how Starbucks could use WAP ads to promote say a 20% off sale by making your phone ring as you go past one.
It's a very annoying privacy violation. You don't want your phone ringing every time you go past a Starbucks! Instead Starbucks should invest in a thing called signage outside the store.
The better application would be to put Starbucks locations in GPS. But don't beep at me or vibrate at me.
The other irony is if I go to Starbucks' site and opt-in, they would be foolish to give me a 20% off coupon. I'm raising my hand saying, 'Hey I'm a Starbucks fan!' Don't try and lose money with me because I've said I'm a big spender with you guys.
Q: Ok, so what will work in wireless advertising?
Peters: I think the type of wireless advertising that's going to be prevalent is more of a customer retention tool as opposed to a customer acquisition tool. You'll have access to your flight schedule or your dry cleaners. Companies can build an auxiliary communication schedule to allow continued communication.
If I'm a United Airlines customer and I buy my flights online, they're not going to ring my phone and try to push a flight to Boston to me because they've got excess inventory. These big brands -- the Uniteds and the Nikes -- are going to take wireless ads very cautiously. They know if they screw up, they are screwing up the brand that they spent lots of money to build.
Q: We've all heard wireless ads are a big hit in parts of Europe and Asia. Why wouldn't that happen in North America?
Peters: What's happening over in Holland and Japan is completely different than what could happen here. The vast majority of citizens on those two continents don't have land line Internet access. 60% of the US does; in Japan only 10-15% do.
The other reason is there's a monopoly, for better or for worse, over there. They have standards they are all using. In the US we have 30-40 different standards. So the fact that it's taking off overseas is correct, but that doesn't necessarily mean you can translate it over here as easily as you might think.
Another thing to consider is the fact that the users of those devices in Asian countries are teenagers gaming and playing around. There's a tremendous market for giving away free or even subsidizing your cell phone bill by receiving ads overseas. Even in the US markets that's a realistic scenario. But for you and me, if I get a cell phone to make calls and I'm getting it free it doesn't work, because I'm using it as a solution to be more productive. So slamming ads on it won't work. Also, my company is paying the bill and I don't ever see it.
Q: So what's your take on reality vs. hype for the WAP ad marketplace?
Peters: The hype is getting a little toned-down what with market conditions recently. You look at Kelsey and Ovum, they are projecting $16-17 billion in wireless ads by the year 2005. Forrester released numbers at $800 million. So there's a huge disconnect. Wide disparity. I'll take a stand in the group that's definitely between $800 million and $16 billion.
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