us-mobile-media-audience-copy.jpgAccording to the latest release from M:Metrics, US mobile subs are more actively consuming mobile media than their counterparts in the UK, France, Germany, Italy and Denmark. While the male-focused piece, entitled “The Way to A Man’s Heart is Through His Mobile Phone”, was well publicized in the major trade press for its key story that men respond twice as frequently to SMS offers as women do (9% to 4%, respectively), a less emphasized set of data points seem far more interesting to those who have had their fill of the “US as Mobile Laggard” story.

The piece points out that “U.S. mobile users are more active consumers of mobile media, as unlike Europeans they use SMS less frequently for news and information retrieval and are more likely to have data plans, which directly impacts mobile content consumption.” While anecdotally this seems fair enough (it would make sense that the highly web-centric US pop would be less enamored of SMS-based media and search services in favor of the more familiar browser-based approach), what is more striking that the US has achieved a higher percentage of mobile media usage while considerably lagging behind many markets in both 3G and smartphone penetration – both considered fairly-reliable leading indicators of mobile media use.

Does this mean that Americans will considerably out pace Europeans in mobile media usage if and when the US catches up to the rest of the planet in terms of 3G and smartphone penetration? Perhaps… either that, or it could be that we’ve be led astray by erroneous data fed by survey-based research methodology (wouldn’t be the first time). Ultimately, more research is needed before a conclusion can be drawn, but certainly the data is encouraging for the US mobile media market.

emarketer-advertising-report-copy.jpgReport Identifies US Market, Messaging and “Mobile Subsidized by Advertising” as Hottest Areas.

As inevitable as the changing of the seasons comes another mobile advertising report from eMarketer. The report carries the subtitle “After the Growing Pains,” although “A Prelude to Growing Pains” might have been a more apt tagline.

As with earlier eMarketer reports, the work contains an analysis of primary and (mostly) secondary research relating to the global mobile advertising market, along with a smattering of quotes from industry heavyweights and all-stars. While most of the research cited in the piece comes from reputable, independent third party sources, the quality of the data varies from section to section, and becomes somewhat corrupted by several sources containing obvious lack of independence (such as data from Third Screen Media on the “Average Price for a Mobile Marketing Campaign,” or AdMob’s report on “Worldwide Mobile Advertising Impressions”). While interesting and no doubt impressive on an anecdotal level, such data unfortunately cannot be viewed as objective research.

Market size. Fascinatingly, eMarketer deems the US as the most dynamic region for mobile web advertising due to “its position as the largest interactive economy.” While we have no data that directly contradicts this conclusion, it would seem likely that other global regions where mobile data services are far more utilized (Asia-Pac, Europe and Latin America), would be more attractive from an mobile advertising standpoint.

emarketer-1.jpgThe report identifies 2012 as the year that Asia-Pac will usurp the US in total mobile marketing spending “largely due to the huge middle classes in China and India who use mobile as their primary interactive screen.” Indeed, the middle class in BRIC nations is “expected to double between 2006 and 2009, and [is projected to] reach a total of one billion people in 2015. That will match or even exceed the total combined population of the US, Western Europe and Japan.”

The report breaks down mobile advertising budgets into three areas: messaging, mobile display and search (other areas of mobile advertising, such as in-game or video, are deemed to small to be measurable). The search category also counts dollars spent on sponsored directory assistance, which explains why search budgets eclipsed mobile display dollars in 2007 $83 MM to $52 MM, respectively. Overall, global mobile advertising spending is projected to rise to $19,149 MM in 2012, from $2,695 MM in 2007. eMarketer has Messaging-related campaigns dominating mobile budgets through 2012, although declining from 95% of all mobile ad spending in 2007 to a projected 74% of budgets in 2012.

Mobile Advertising by Region. While lagging behind most of the word in terms of mobile penetration, eMarketer purports that the US is currently the largest mobile advertising market, with total 2007 spending estimated at $878 MM (projected to $6,525 MM by 2012). Mobile ad buying is said to be driven by digital ad buying shops here in the US.

emarket-usa-budgets.jpgemarket-w-europe.jpgemarket-asia-pac-spends.jpgThe report cites Western Europe as (currently) the second largest mobile advertising market ($1,074 MM in 2007 to $5,550 in 2012). Asia-pac, currently at $700 MM, is projected to move into second place in 2012 (with mobile adverting spends in the region expected to rise to $6,877 MM by the time the next year of the dragon rolls around).

While growth in the Asian markets is primarily viewed as a function the overall economic growth on the region (this, coupled with the fact that the mobile handset is seen as the primary internet device in Asia), the story in Western Europe is muddied a bit by the largely unknown effects of flat-rate / “unlimited” data plans (currently being rolled out by Vodafone, T-Mobile, Orange and 3UK), as well as the over-sized pre-paid mobile population in Europe as compared to other regions (it is believed by some that pre-paid users are more accepting of mobile advertising). Lack of 3G network capacity is identified as the main reason that messaging is (and will continue to) dominate mobile ad budgets. That said, the US mobile web population is expected to grow from 37.9 MM in 2007 to 91.7 MM in 2012 (unfortunately research in the the measuring mobile web penetration in markets such as Japan, China Australia and the UK is relatively out-of-date, with some sources going as far back as 4Q 2005!).

emarket-sms-response-global.jpgemarket-mobile-attitude.jpgConsumer Attitude. The report cites a September 2007 Neilsen Mobile report examining global exposure and response to SMS-based advertising. Overall, the now well-known study cites relatively high SMS advertising exposure and response numbers, although (predictably) response rates decline in nearly a linear fashion as exposure to SMS advertising increases (on a market-by-market basis). Specifically, the study found that “58 Million US mobile subscribers has been exposed to a mobile ad during a 30-day period. This equates to about 23% of the total US mobile population. Moreover, nearly half (or 28 million) reported that they had responded at least once to a mobile ad. Nielsen Mobile also reported that 32% of those surveyed said they would accept mobile advertising if it somehow lowered their overall mobile bill, while 13% would accept advertising if it improved the selection of mobile content and services.”

Consumer affinity towards the “Advertising Supported Mobile Services” model is somewhat supported in additional research by the Online Publishers Association which examines consumer attitudes toward mobile advertising in the US and UK. While consumers in the UK overwhelmingly prefer a model whereby mobile advertising is subsidizing the cost of mobile services, US consumers simply “like [an] ad when something free is offered.” Generally speaking, it is hardly surprising that consumers (in any market) like stuff for free!

carnival-logo-copy.jpgWelcome to Carnival of the Mobilists #117, the greatest posts on mobility from across the blogosphere – hosted for the first time on mobilestance.com.

With so many excellent posts this week it was difficult to pick a favorite, but after much hand-wringing and great gnashing of teeth, we’ve chosen Matt’s post on gaming over at AllAboutiPhone.net.

Honorable mentions to Open Gardens and Andrew Grill’s blog.

Post of the Week: Matt at AllAboutiPhone.net heaps a healthy dose of contagious entheusiasm in “Awesome and innovative games are coming” – a look ahead at a not-so-distant future that includes “innovative gaming” and “Apple” in the same sentence! Goes to show you that if you live long enough anything can happen…

Over at Tarekesber.com you’ll find a highly comprehensive list of mobile web design and development resources, including specifics on designing for iPhone, Blackberry, Nokia handsets, as well as overall style guidelines for the both WML and XHTML mobile websites.

Speaking of designing and coding for the mobile web, Denis at WapReview reviews Nirav Mehta’s new book, Mobile Web Development. Least Common Denominator Design, Mobile AJAX, “Web Rich” apps and Widgets are among the topics covered.

Bernardo Carvalho over at rawsocket dot org writing a writes an amusing and educational piece on the potential of QR codes. Extra points for the CueCat reference.

Mark publishes a roundup of papers focused on education and mobility over at Ubiquitous Thoughts, along with (the now infamous) clip highlighting safety measures that may one day protect us all from the dangers of WWTM (walking while text messaging).

Judy at the GoldenSwamp uses an instructional video to make an interesting case against banning mobiles in schools. File this under “Another Reason Why Carbonated Beverages and Education Don’t Mix.”

And what exactly is this thing we’re calling “Open?” Find out this week on Open Gardens, where you’ll get fully briefed on the “It” subject in mobility just in time to impress the ladies (and gentlemen) at this year’s CTIA Wireless, which kicks off tomorrow in Vegas.

Regular carnival contributor Andrew Grill looks at how mobile social networking meets crowd powered media on the back of his experience at the new Heathrow Terminal 5 on opening day. It is amazing how a simple set of photos taken during a live event can become distributed around the world – thanks to the power of mobile social networking applications.

And over at Smart Mobs be sure to catch up on Roland’s Sunday Smart Trends #208, and see what happens when social networking meets the human genome.

Last but not certainly least, this week Chetan Sharma posts a hugely informative End of Year (EOY) 2007 Global Wireless Data Market Update. Check it out and find out which nation usurped the US as the number two wireless market last year… the answer might just surprise you.

That’s it for this week’s carnival. Thanks for reading! While you’re here check out some other posts here at mobilestance.com.

Be sure to visit Mobile Point View, who will be hosting Carnival of the Mobilists #118 next week. To learn more about the Carnival, or to submit or host, go to Mobili.st.

gartner-mobile-shopping-research-mobilestance-2-copy.jpgMobile Banking Finds Some Success in the US, While Payment Services Face Mounting Concerns.

A new study by Harris Interactive finds a virtual glass half full/empty scenario developing in the US mobile commerce space. Depending on which way you look at it, the domestic m-commerce market is either poised for explosive growth, or is doomed to follow in the footsteps of other “once hot, now not” slow growth areas… such as mobile video or Bluetooth marketing.

First, the “good” news: US consumers are increasingly taking to mobile banking services for activities such as balance inquiries and fund transfers. The survey “finds 16 percent of mobile phone subscribers already use mobile banking services, with 60 percent of these people using the services at least once a week.” Of those not currently engaging in mobile banking services, 35 percent expressed interest in “checking bank account balances and transferring funds via their mobile devices. A third of those surveyed (33 percent) also said they would like to receive text message alerts from their financial institutions.”

However, US consumers draw the line at conducting actual financial transactions via mobile. A mere 19% of those surveyed had any interest in “mobile wallet” services, while only 16% expressed interest in “mobile shopping.” Consumers cited three core reasons behind their lack of interest in the channel:

  1. Security Concerns. 66% claimed “Security / Encryption” was their primary concern, while 63% cited “Exposure to Fraud”, and 61% were concerned they “Might lose device with valuable information.”
  2. Price Sensitivities. 58% of those surveyed identified “Cost” as a reason for their lack of interest in mobile commerce services. 33% were either “very” or “extremely concerned” with how “price per transaction” would affect the overall cost of mobile transactions.
  3. Quality Issues. “Usability”(43%), “Reliability” (37%) and “Speed of Network” (23%) rounded out the top reasons for lack of interest in m-commerce.

Joseph Porus, Vice President, Harris Interactive, remains optimistic on the potential of mobile commerce while also cautioning against taking a consumer’s “expressed interest” in future products too literally. “Payment is where we’re all the applications are headed,” said Porus “[but] there’s also a halo affect with all of these studies when it comes to interest levels. Once a consumer actually sees the [product or service], along with the price, you can usually cut the ‘Interest’ number in half. Still, these numbers are very encouraging.”

You can find some of the raw data here: .pdf link.

gartner-mobile-shopping-research-mobilestance-2-copy.jpgStamford, Ct-based reach firm Gartner, Inc recently published a study exploring consumer attitudes regarding Mobile Shopping services – both in the U.S. and U.K. markets.

The report, entitled “M-Commerce Retail Consumer Shopping Preferences,” surveyed over “2,000 consumers in the U.S. and the U.K. to assess the likelihood that they would undertake a variety of mobile shopping activities, from price checking and product browsing to ordering and paying for a product from a mobile phone.”

Gartner claims that “few of the more-likely shopping activities that consumers will want to do on their mobile phones, such as finding stores and checking prices, will be provided by portals and price comparison engines.” The research firm also released the following “Key Findings” from the study:

  • Checking Prices and Finding Stores both popular mobile usage cases. Both “activities were in the ‘top three activities’ to be done on a mobile phone in both the U.S. and U.K.”
  • Consumers are more open to mobile “comparison shopping” verses actual mobile commerce. Twenty-four (24%) percent of U.S. consumers were “likely” use their mobile handset to “check prices”, versus twelve percent (12%) were likely to “buy on a mobile phone. U.K. consumers posted similar responses (eighteen percent check price, eleven percent buy).”
  • Consumers relatively open to receiving mobile promotional offers. “Openness to receiving promotions on a mobile phone ranked third in the U.S. and fourth in the U.K. Twenty percent (20%) of U.S. and sixteen percent (16%) of U.K. respondents stated that they would ‘be likely to want to receive promotions’ on their mobile phones.”
  • A18-27 represents current “Sweet Spot” for mobile shopping services. U.S. respondents ages 18 to 27 “were, on average, 1.98 times more likely to do mobile shopping activities than… respondents (ages 43 to 61). In the U.K. this trend is even more pronounced, with A18-27 “average 2.63 times more likely to do mobile shopping activities than their boomer counterparts.”

Analysis: For many leading and diverse business categories such as Consumer Package Goods (CPG) and Quick Service Restaurants (QSR), Mobile Shopping services (including related activities such as Mobile Couponing) represents the critical “last mile” in the evolution of Mobile Marketing.

That said, as is typical in research pieces such as the Gartner study, the publicly released research data often portrays too rosy a picture… as to not do so would limit the study’s appeal to its target customers (Venture Funds and well financed start-ups).

On its face, the data suggests that roughly one in four US consumers are “likely to” engage in mobile comparison shopping, and one in eight are “likely to” engage in mobile purchases of hard goods (interestingly enough, both data points are higher in the U.S. than in the U.K.). However, when pressed, Gartner reveals a more challenging scenario for prospective m-Commerce merchants. The research firm reveals that “the mobile phone is too complex for users to feel comfortable using them to buy physical goods”, and that “in addition to complexity, the second-biggest reason not to shop on the phone is fear of having their location tracked,” this according to Moconews.net. Both seem highly plausible – but rather conspicuously, neither of these two highly revealing insights are identified by Gartner as “Key Findings” in their press release announcing the study.

We find ourselves in agreement with Gartner’s recommendation that “M-commerce technology vendors should differentiate themselves by providing multichannel capabilities, such as enabling mobile-phone-generated orders to be picked up in a store or allowing consumers to save mobile-phone-created shopping sessions to be later continued on a Web browser.” While both evolutionary “half-measures” rely on other, legacy commerce channels (such as online or point of sale), both seem a good fit as “transitionary tactics” towards the brass ring that is the “fully fledged” m-Commerce transaction model.

twimm-sm-copy.jpgLast week was punctuated by a steady stream of mobile marketing-related announcements, studies, partnerships and launches – some interesting, some not so much… and none of which truly worthy of a dedicated post.

Nevertheless, taken in aggregate these moves represent an ever-advancing industry, charging forward on the backs of the innovators, the followers, and the “never say hype” over-enthusiastic forecasters.

We give you then, the first of mobilestance.com’s “This Week in Mobile Marketing”

TWIMM: We read the domestic Mobile Marketing trades, studies, announcements and insane market forecasts… so you don’t have to!

  • Mobile Search. Nielsen Mobile (formerly Telephia) announced that “46 Million [US] Mobile Data Users Used Mobile Search Functions in Q3 2007.” But before you get all excited, keep in mind that “The most popular form of mobile search among data users in Q3 2007 was 411 (18.1 million users), followed closely by SMS (text-message) -based searching, which was used by 14.1 million data users during the same period.” Yep… the “big news” is that folks are mostly using mobile search to look up local phone numbers – not exactly a headline generating statistic. Still, “while local listings were the leading search objective in terms of users, (27.1 million data users searched for local listings in Q3 2007), 14.8 million said they searched for information such as sports scores, news or weather, while nearly a quarter (11.3 million) said they searched for mobile content.” Good news for SMS Ad Networks such as 4INFO . Notably absent from the announcement was any mention of WAP-based search offerings such as those by Google, Yahoo, Jumptap and the like – other than a brief mention that “61% of 411 search users are female, while 60% of WAP (or mobile web) search users are male.”
  • Meanwhile in related news, Nokia’s head of search Jussi Pekka Partanen simultaneously hyped local search while taking shots at Google, as reported moconews.net. At the the Visiongain mobile search conference in London last week the handset giant contended that mobile search will be more context-focused than the existing page rank-driven engines currently dominating the desktop search market. Nokia’s current “Nokia Search” product seems more evolutionary than revolutionary, combining web search with local (meaning: on the device) content search.
  • The Mobile Web. 40% of web publishers have launched mobile sites, with another 25% planing to do so in the next year, this according to Jupiter Research in a report entitled “Mobile web sites: Designing for mobility.” The number is somewhat misleading, insomuch as “this number… likely reflects mobile versions that consist of frames and offer a kludgy user interface,” or so says Mediapost. The report states that only 3% of the above mobile sites are “mobile advertising enabled” – in that they have the ability to optimize ad delivery based on whether the user is viewing the page via a mobile device (versus a PC). Mediapost also notes that up to 1/3 of these pages enable mobile commerce of some sort, such as “instant transactions and the ability to drive shoppers into nearby stores” – a fairly vague definition of mobile commerce to be sure.
  • Notable Mobile Website launches included a dedicated mobile version of FIM’s Photobucket (m.photobucket.com), Discovery Mobile’s new mobile portal (discoverymobile.com, which houses the all of Discovery Communications’ mobile sites, such as Discovery Channel Mobile, Animal Planet Mobile, and TLC Mobile), and USA.gov Mobile (http://mobile.usa.gov – which seems to be a fairly straightforward RSS fed Gov’t info formatted for mobile).
  • Mobile Content. The NBA announced that they are partnering with Turner to handle all of its mobile-related content offerings, this according to Fierce Mobile Content. Fierce reported that “the cable network will assume operational control of the league’s digital efforts, including its mobile and broadband businesses. The partnership, effective for the 2008-09 NBA season and continuing through the 2015-16 campaign, also calls for TBS to take over programming, marketing and technical operations of NBA TV, the league’s 24-hour digital television network, and host and operate the NBA.com Network, which includes the NBA.com, WNBA.com and NBADLeague.com websites. In addition, TBS will operate NBA League Pass, the league’s out-of-market game package. TBS, Inc. and the NBA will jointly sell advertising for all of the league’s digital assets.”
  • QR Codes. In a rare break from our “US Bias,” mobilestance.com continues to cover The Sun’s “Babe-Infused” QR Code efforts (UK). This week the Sun announced the results of its experiment with the promising mobile marketing technology. According to the Sun, the “new mobile content service has achieved early success with around 11,000 users registered so far.” Buoyed by these numbers, the tabloid plans on publishing “another pull-out (supplement in The Sun) to further inform people on how to use QR codes.”
  • Research-Driven Market Hype. The results of two “hypefull” Mobile Marketing studies were announced last week. The first was on Monday from ABI Research, who announced that “mobile marketing is expected to grow to over $24 billion worldwide in 2013, jumping from just $1.8 billion in 2007,” this according to the research firm’s study/product entitled “Mobile Marketing and Advertising” (retail price: $4500). The second came from Advertiser Perceptions, who reported on Wednesday that “26% [of advertisers] said they were currently using mobile, 20% said they planned to use it in the next six months, and 54% said they are not currently using mobile,” as reported by Ad Age. These numbers were based on surveys of “2,000 brand marketers and agencies” as part of their “Wave Eight” study that seems to cover both “hot” hand held media channels, such mobile video and search -as well as “not so hot” channels such as podcasting.
  • Miscellaneous News. The FCC launched a probe to “determine whether mobile phone text messages and short codes are covered by non-discrimination provisions of the telecom act,” this according to RCR Wireless News. The FCC move comes in wake of Verizon’s recent high-profile decision to block text messages from NARAL Pro-Choice America – a decision it quickly reversed under pressure from from a successful grass-roots campaign the organization launched against the carrier. Finally, Steve Jobs announced an underwhelming firmware update to the iPhone at last week’s Macworld 2008. Among the updates included features that now allowing users to send group SMS messages (something I can do on my two year old RAZR) and the non-GPS-based “Blue Location BEacon” feature in Google Maps (something I’ve been able to do on my Blackberry since Google launched the service late last year). Baby steps, to be sure. Forget a 3G version… I’m still waiting for such standard “features” as Cut and Paste!

del52.jpgDeloitte is sharing some “interesting” numbers from their new “The State of Media Democracy” survey. Billed as a “‘reality check’ on how American consumers between 13 and 75 years of age are using media and technology today – and what they want in the future,” the study reserves a special section for mobile entitled “Cell Phones as Entertainment” as it breaks down consumption of user-generated, traditional and mobile media across four key generations: Millennials (13 – 24), Gen X (25-41), Baby Boomers (25-41) and Matures (61-75).

Some highlights from the piece:

  • “Cell Phones are Surging as Entertainment Devices.” (Yes I said “Hype” for a reason). 36% of US mobile users surveyed stated that they use their mobile phone for “entertainment” (up from 24% in just six months). The Millennials reported the highest activity in this area, with 62% reporting mobile entertainment usage (up from 46% in six months), with Gen X second at 47% usage (up from 29% in six months). It’s not entirely clear how Deloitte is defining “entertainment” (they don’t define this in their release), but surely cannot be referring to video services, or even downloadable music – as these numbers are seriously at odds with nearly most (if not all) major research data covering this market. Perhaps “Entertainment” is referring to gaming, video, music, and “entertainment-related” mobile web usage. Question: If I’m talking on my mobile and my friend tells me a joke, does that count as “Cell Phone Entertainment?”
  • Both Millennials and Gen X’ers display nearly identically activity in mobile internet usage, at 45% and 46%, respectively. Again, these numbers seem very high when viewed against similar studies and other industry data from “mobile specialist” research firms like M:Metrics and Nielsen Mobile (Telephia)
  • Mobile “picture taking” on the rise. 63% of mobile users reported using a mobile phones for photo capture; 80% of Millenials and 75% of Gen X. These numbers seem somewhat elevated but in general seem realistic and corroborated by similar studies and marketplace observations.

Overall, I must say that I am extremely skeptical of Deloitte’s latest findings, an opinion shared by others in the US mobile marketing space. Both Carlo Longino of mocoNews and Steve Smith of MediaPost cast similar doubt on the validity of some of the numbers reported in the survey, primarily concerning the dubious claims concerning US mobile video penetration (20%? – is that a typo?!). Ultimately, the fact that the Deloitte survey promotes data consistently and significantly above earlier findings would suggest a overenthusiastic (to use a nice word) research bias, and whether intentional or not – unfortunately puts all of its findings into doubt.

The IAB (UK), in conjunction with the MMA, has published a fairly informative guide to mobile advertising in the British Isles, inclusive of a background information, marketplace learnings, case studies, and a survey of 41 agencies, advertisers and publishers on the subject of “if the internet advertising industry is ready to step into mobile.”

The section on background and marketplace learnings covers most of the basics but overall is fairly standard fare. The report points out the similarities and differences between traditional internet advertising and its mobile cousin, noting that the differences are mainly tactical (less screen real estate for advertising and smaller file sizes for mobile) before dropping a few choice nuggets of info on the reader:

  • Pricing. “The majority of on-portal ads sell for a £10 – £20 [CPM, ROS]… or 5p – 25p [CPC].”
  • Campaign Performance. “Click through rates range from 0.5% (off-portal site) up to 4% (on portal), considerably higher (sometimes 15 times) than the equivalent for traditional internet sites.”
  • Inventory. “The total UK inventory of page impressions is estimated at one billion page impressions per month (October 2007) but is growing at 9% month-on-month and is expected to reach over five billion by the end of 2008.”

The industry survey positioned near the end of the report reveals little of note, other than (as expected) opinions range wildly depending on one’s occupation (i.e. agency, publisher or advertiser, etc).

eMarketer, in a somewhat misleading article entitled “Few Answer Mobile Marketing Call,” is reporting what most of us in the industry feel on a daily basis. Despite all the hype, all the bullish forecasts, trumped up press releases… case studies and industry events, mobile marketing is still has a long way to go as a marketing and advertising channel.

I say “somewhat misleading” because, as although the article cites MMA data that revealed only five percent of Americans reported engaging in a mobile marketing activity in 2007 (up from two percent in 2006), the response rate of such campaigns was as astronomical twelve percent. This compares well with response rates of other direct channels, such as telemarketing (7.2 – 5.6%), direct mail (2.3 – 1.2%) and email (.85 – %).

What was that again about “Few Answering the Call” of mobile campaigns?

Also highlighted in the report was the rapid growth of picture messaging in the US, due in no small part to the intercarrier MMS agreements hammered out by all major US carriers in the latter half of 2005 and early 2006. Similarly, SMS messaging didn’t really take off in the US until intercarrier text messaging was made possible in 2003. The final piece of the MMS Marketing puzzle remains the (lack of) availability of intercarrier SMS Short Codes. Currently the call to action for most MMS campaigns in the US remains an akward email point of entry – awkward because most non-smartphone users have difficulty multi-tapping out the “@” sign. In a statement accompanying the MMA study, Gene Keenan, Vice President of Mobile at Isobar and former traveling chef to the Grateful Dead, indicated he is also bullish on photo messaging-related marketing campaigns 2008, stating that he “expect[s] to see some very innovative campaigns this coming year using picture phoning.”

According to Mobile Marketer, a daily mobile marketing industry newsletter that started appearing in my inbox yesterday and that claims to be “the news leader in mobile marketing, media and commerce,” there was a 22 percent increase “in the number of consumers who received SMS text ads in the United States”, (3Q Year of Year) garnering “an 11 percent response rate.”Mobile Marketer cites M:Metrics as a source, although I found no mention of the third quarter data among its public releases.

Giving Mobile Marketer the benefit of the doubt (which may be a bit of a stretch considering the publication’s first issue featured a self-serving column written by an email services firm that felt more like a sales pitch than an “opinion” piece), I have some difficulty with the overall concept of “SMS Advertising.”SMS is by definition a “pull” marketing channel, meaning that all SMS engagements are user-initiated. If, after the initial engagement, the user receives a marketing message contained within a response message, I would hardly classify that as “advertising.” By most accounts an “Advertising” message would involve some sort of “public broadcast” to a large group of people. If I had to classify this type of marketing, it would probably fall somewhere between Direct Response, Sponsorship or even CRM (if there’s ongoing messaging activity to a list of mobile “opt-ins”).

Why split hairs? Well, for one thing, its important for the Mobile Marketing industry as a whole to get behind a set of standards and terms that are easily understood by the overall marketing community at large. By incorrectly calling this type of activity “advertising,” clients are getting misaligned perceptions about the medium and its uses, incorrectly thinking that they can “blast out a SMS message to the public,” advertising-style.

Interestingly enough, there are some genuine SMS Advertising campaigns going on in the US market. Who, you ask, would have the nerve to ignore MMA best practices and blast out SMS messages without first getting permission to do so? That would be the only group with no fear of the carriers coming in and shutting them down… The carriers themselves! That’s right, “operators are the main source of SMS ads,” states Mark Burk of M:Metrics.

I think we can all agree that unsolicited SMS ads are not the future of mobile marketing. That said, if we are to speak of “Mobile Advertising,” lets be careful of what exactly we are talking about. There are many legimate forms of mobile advertising, from mobile web banners, to mobile video spots, and even in-game ad units. All are legitimate advertising channels because the user has accepted these mediums as ad-supported, and while consumers certainly don’t welcome (most) ads with open arms, they put up with them so long as they don’t dominate the experience.

The same cannot truly be said for mobile messaging.