Mobile users engaged only with relevant ads or content: Forrester report

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Although 79 percent of consumers find the idea of mobile ads annoying, early campaigns have revealed that consumers will happily engage provided that marketers deliver valuable information or content, claims a new Forrester Research report.

Thirty-five percent of U.S. households that own a mobile phone engage in text messaging, which is creating a viable audience for marketers. However, marketers must take heed, Forrester said. Mobile marketing is about offering value, not interrupting consumers with unmoving and irrelevant ads.

"Mobile marketing is a double-edged sword," said Christine Overby, analyst and co-author of the report at Forrester, Cambridge, MA. "The key message of the study is that consumers are skeptical of the idea of mobile marketing.

"An overwhelming amount of people will say that they don't want to receive marketing messages to their phones, but this is perception versus reality," she said. "When you deliver value and people are engaged, they are very likely to sign up for a mobile promotion."

To avoid the perception of mobile spam, marketers must work with the unique elements of the mobile channel itself and the relevance of the message. Many successful mobile campaigns have begun in other channels.

The report, "Is the U.S. Ready for Mobile Marketing?" also found that there is a growing shift from voice-only mobile to other activities like texting.

For example, Pfizer used mobile couponing for the cholesterol drug Lipitor by advertising in doctors' offices. Patients who saw the Pfizer poster in the office could choose to receive free samples of the drug by texting into the number on the poster.

Also, the Bravo cable television network offered free bonus clips for its "Top Chef" show and business broadcaster CNBC's "Squawk Box" ran a fantasy trading game that involved an online component. All these firms leveraged other channels to get consumers to opt-in for mobile ads.

Expect more investment in the channel in 2007, Forrester said.

"P&G [Procter & Gamble Co.] recently announced that they were investing in mobile," Ms. Overby said. "Marketers are investing more in mobile. Depending on the need, that investment will be in areas like content or publishing."

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