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December 27, 2006

Verizon Wireless Mobile Advertising Gaffe

Vzwlogo_1 Seth Godin points us to a New York Times article about Verizon's plan to push mobile advertising on its subscribers. The reason given by John Harrobin, VP of marketing and digital media for Verizon Wireless, is that, "We know we can make significant dollars in mobile Web advertising in 2007." Harrobin caveats his statement (retreats, perhaps?) by saying, "[W]e want to take it carefully and methodically, and enable the right experience."

Mobile advertising can go one of two ways: It can either supplement consumer or supplement the carrier. I'm sad to say it looks as if the initial pursuits will supplement carrier, irrespective of what the consumer wants.

Don't get me wrong, I'm a rabid capitalist, and I advocate fair prices concordant with what the marketplace will bear. Price controls supply, and vice versa. Companies need to make money in order to survive, which Verizon certainly has every right to do. However, even if Verizon uses the dollars it is chasing to improve service or bring down the cost of owning a cell phone, unless it is specifically and openly tied to this endeavor (and unless Verizon allows users to opt out for an additional fee), I'm afraid the lack of choice will only cause further animosity and distrust towards advertisers in general.

This is unexplored territory, and I'm glad people (including Google CEO Eric Schmidt) are thinking about it, but if we've not learned that people want to be in control of how and when they're exposed to advertising, then we've not learned a thing since the emergence of new media, and all that talk about "You" being the person of the year and responding best to understated advertising was nothing more than lip service that advertisers and marketers implicitly understand but lack the courage and foresight to follow. - Cam Beck

Full Disclosure: I am a Verizon Wireless customer, but only for as long as practical.

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