Ads come to cell phone screens

By Marc Larocque

There are things people accept in American culture: Reality television, fast food, cell phones and advertising. Now, advertisements can be sent directly to your cell phone.

One-third of students are already receiving ads on their cell phones, according to a study conducted by Michael Hanley, an advertising professor in Ball State University’s journalism department. This represents an increase of 9 percent from a previous study. The study, which was conducted online and surveyed 669 college students, also found one-third of students with phones are “aggravated” by cell phone ads.

“I think if advertising was done through text messaging it would kind of be a pain. Text messaging is something I use to talk to my friends,” said freshman international business major Ashley Rurode. “It’s an invasion of privacy. It would be a little awkward.”

Kristen Callari, a freshman cultural anthropology major, was more forceful in her objection.

“I’d be very, very annoyed. They have the commercials in the cabs now, and that really pisses me off. Even if it came on my phone I wouldn’t sit there and watch it,” Callari said.

Despite these objections from students, those who work in the industry said cell phone advertising is inevitable.

Jeff Janer, a spokesman for marketing technology company Third Screen Media, said most major cell phone companies are taking steps toward the technology, and none want to be outdone by the others.

“All cell phone carriers are petrified that the other will make a move on this before them,” Janer said. “This is too big of a revenue opportunity to ignore. Panelists are saying that this is a $1 billion market in the U.S. alone. The cell phone companies will all do this together at once.”

Janer also said in order to ease the transitions, cell phone companies will probably let customers choose the ads they want to view at first. He said advertising could allow providers to offer services like Web browsing or text messages at no extra cost, using ad revenue to make up the difference.

“The most important thing for them [cell phone services] is to not lose their subscribers,” Janer said. “These companies won’t be changing in a way that their consumer base is not OK with.”

Sprint is already offering some advertising to its consumers, although it is both limited and optional.

“We do have content through Burger King that the customers are able to view if they want to,” said Mark Elliot, a communications manager for Sprint. “Burger King has been the first and only available literally almost for two weeks.”

Elliot said future advertisements will not be pervasive, and that Sprint will do its best to prevent unwanted messages.

“The customer will have the opportunity to view what they want. A network security set up in our office has numerous safeguards against spam,” Elliot said. “Sprint also offers a service which allows access to live broadcasts such as ABC News and the Discovery Channel that features live television advertisements.”

While advertisers traditionally don’t pay consumers to view an ad, more advertisers may consider doing so on cell phones if they find loyal customers who make it worth their while. However, most students said they wouldn’t pay attention to ads if they received them.

The Ball State University study found 40 percent of students would accept an ad if they received 25 cents or less in return, while 60 percent said it would take $1 or more per ad. Freshman Sarah Downie said only if she were paid would she be willing to look at ads on her cell phone.

“I just feel like it would be irritating to have advertisements on my phone because you can see them everywhere else,” said Downie, a human services major. “If I wasn’t being paid by them it would just be an annoyance.”

For freshman international business major Avrelien Thompson, these ads are already a reality.

“It would bother me. It actually already happens as clubs and companies text me. I just delete them,” Thompson said. “We mentioned it in our business class. I can definitely see it as the wave of the future.”

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