Ad Trip

Looks Good From Here

Location, location, location. That catchy real estate slogan will soon apply to mobile marketing. The FCC is requiring that wireless-enhanced 911 (E911) services be fully implemented by December 2002, which means calls from mobile phones will be traceable to within 50 feet of the caller. The jury's still out on whether independent companies will be able to take advantage of this technology, but the possibilities would be limitless.

"For brick-and-mortar retail establishments, this holds enormous promise as [we'll be able] to target ads geographically," says Albert. Advertising will move from the realm of blanket national and regional campaigns right down to your street corner. Customers could sign up to get a list of your fresh seafood specials whenever they're in the neighborhood of your restaurant.

Case in point: E. Richard Polk, 49, has been running Pedestrian Shopsin Boulder, Colorado, for more than 30 years. For him, comfortable shoes and wireless ads are a good fit with enough room in the toes to grow into. Recently, Pedestrian Shops participated in a four-month Comstat, Kelsey Group and SkyGo study in Boulder that involved 1,000 WAP-phone-equipped users and some national and local businesses.

For $500, SkyGo worked with Polk to tailor and deliver an opt-in wireless campaign. Pedestrian Shops already offered coupons on its Web site, so the move to wireless was a natural one.

"I just thought it was pretty darn exciting," says Polk. "[Customers] would just press a button on their cell phone, and it would be in their e-mail when they got home that night."

Pedestrian Shops got more than 25 coupons back from participants who opted in to receive messages about shoes. Both Polk and Kelsey Group analyst Ozanich were pleasantly surprised by the success, but they insist the Boulder experiment is just the beginning. Says Polk, "We participated in an intriguing test that was successful, but we don't know what the business model is going to be or what it will cost. I think the technology is going to go way beyond selling soup or shoes."

It may be as late as 2005 before your average corner store will be using wireless ads, but you can bet it'll happen. "I don't think this technology will ever put newsprint or any type of advertising out of business, but I'm pretty confident it will be part of the mix," Polk says. Expect it to become more popular as more WAP phones reach the market and ad agencies sort out the privacy and protocol concerns.

In the meantime, entrepreneurs should keep tabs on the technology. Says Albert, "I'd encourage any business to experiment and not wait for all this to get figured out, because anyone that gets early learning is going to have a jump on their competitors."


FusionOne: Creator of an engine that synchs data across many platforms, including cell phones and PDAs
Planethopper: Delivers deals to opt-in wireless and wireline users
Profilium: Provides wireless advertising, promotion and direct-marketing services
Skygo: Provides services, including consulting and wireless advertising
Windwire: Offers wireless advertising and marketing services and is forming an extensive wireless ad network


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This article was originally published in the August 2001 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Ad Trip.

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